The Los Angeles Auto Show's Press and Trade Days again provided illuminating snapshots of automotive products, marketing, and business strategy from nearly 20 vehicle manufacturers during fast-moving press conferences.
This year, the editors of Bobit Business Media's automotive and truck fleet publications — Automotive Fleet, Government Fleet, Work Truck, Auto Rental News, Business Fleet, and Green Fleet — identified several thematic through lines from the announcements. Given that Los Angeles is more of a car show, we'll be interested to see which trucks arrive in Detroit in January.
The 2015 themes included a renewed focus on luxury models, experiments in disruptive technology such as hydrogen power and virtual reality-enhanced driving, sportier exterior and interior designs with more emotional appeal, and the rising popularity of electrified powertrains over diesel and other alternative fuel types.
Luxury vehicles seemed to be around every corner in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Jaguar Land Rover announced three 2017-MY vehicles, including the XE entry luxury sedan, F-PACE compact SUV, and convertible Land Rover Evoque. Mercedes-Benz brought four new vehicles, including its 2016 GLS SUV (replacing the GL), AMG63 C-Class coupe, AMGS63 Cabriolet, and SL roadster. Mercedes-Benz is revamping its entire luxury SUV lineup with new nomenclature, and plans to introduce 30 new models by 2020, including plenty of plug-in hybrids.
Cadillac brought its full-size 2016 CT6, a vehicle that should find a place among executives and livery fleets. BMW brought its full-size 2016 750i, a next-gen model with a slew of technology upgrades including a gesture-based command system. BMW's 3-Series updates include the new 340i that replaces the 335i.
Several brands, notably Buick and Lincoln, brought new models that offered sporty designs inside and out. Buick's sleeker LaCrosse for 2017 incorporated frontal design ideas from the Avenir concept car, and Lincoln's face-lifted MKZ incorporated elements from the Continental concept and LED headlights. Alfa Romeo added a second vehicle to its lineup, the 2017 Guilia sports sedan.
Mazda, Nissan, and Kia specifically discussed the sportier design of their new vehicles at their launches.
To honor its 60th anniversary, Fiat will re-introduce its roadster, the 124 Spider for the 2017 model year. The 124 Spider embodies the classic appeal of the original Spider, according to Olivier Francois, head of Fiat.
Lincoln emphasized luxury, but, in the same breath, focused on the new MKZ’s technology, including adaptive cruise control with stop-start technology. And as with the other automakers, the MKZ emphasized a sporty line. Nissan, too, focused on the sportiness of its redesigned Sentra and the safety and telematics technology that is either coming standard or as an option.
Automakers are adding plenty of technology to create more convenience for drivers. Audi Connect works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone integration.
Volvo revealed its autonomous Concept 26 that's designed to return lost commuting time to the driver. While the car is in autonomous mode, the driver can create with a large touchscreen on the dash or recline the seat in the relax mode.
Toyota’s distracted driving simulator uses the Oculus Rift virtual reality system. The driver gets behind the wheel of a stationary Corolla, and the VR system provides the lights and sounds of a busy street and two distracting drivers who constantly tell you to change the radio station, look at their phone, and pass them the water bottle. The user controls steering, gas, and brake, and must watch for red lights and construction crews.
The system isn't perfect, but could serve as a good educational tool not just for teen drivers, as this was aimed for, but also potentially fleet drivers. Larger fleets might be able to provide their drivers this kind of training as part of a driver distraction program in the future.
Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles have become more common, and the show features three, including the newest entry, Honda's Clarity Fuel Cell. Honda's Clarity Fuel Cell was a right-hand-drive Japanese-spec model with a range of more than 300 miles, up from the outgoing FCX Clarity's range of 240 miles. The sedan will go on sale in the U.S. during the fall of 2016.
The Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Tucson fuel-cell vehicles returned from a year ago. Toyota's Mirai display offered educational information about how hydrogen works as a fuel and emphasized its safety.
During their pressers, Volkswagen and Audi apologized for the diesel emissions scandal and hinted at the company's shift toward electrification in future models. Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America, said he expects electrified powertrains to account for 25% of Audi sales in the U.S. in 2025.
Editors note: Paul Clinton, Thi Dao, Amy Hercher, Kat Sandoval, and Chris Wolski contributed to this article.