The North American International Auto show opens next week, and while fuel-efficient powertrains will be evident everywhere, there's no doubt that even in the age of high mileage numbers and growing environmental concerns, design sells cars. Expect new offerings in the popular crossover genre from Kia and Hyundai, as well as the much-anticipated Prius wagon.
BMW will be displaying the second-generation 2012 650i convertible (sporting new sheet metal) and a full compliment of enticing luxury options. Look for the 650i on showroom floors in the spring along with the 2012 1-series, also to be on display after a minor refresh.
Chevrolet will be showcasing the 2012 Sonic subcompact, which is the replacement model for the Aveo. It will come as both a hatchback and a sedan and will fall in place with the Cruze and a rumored minicar as the full complement of small cars from General Motors.
The general trend in subcompact design is an effort to dispel lingering images of cramped, featureless little boxes from the Seventies. The new generation of subcompacts compete nicely in the tech and amenities department, with automakers working hard to ensure that "subcompact" and "compromise" are not seen as synonyms.
Ford will offer up its alternative to the time-worn seven-passenger minivan, the C-Max. Sharing a platform with the Focus, the C-Max has sliding right and left rear doors and will come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Also look for a concept that will reveal the direction Ford plans for the next-generation Escape crossover.
And, of course, there will be high-priced eye candy like the 918 Porsche concept, a racing version of the 918 Spyder that popped up in Geneva last year. Expected to have a plug-in hybrid powertrain with three electric motors, its safe to say the 918 will not be your average hybrid in either looks or price tag.