Spring has arrived in New York City although many think that Mother Nature has not received the memo since we have had snowstorms and below average temperatures days into the Vernal Equinox. But one sure sign of spring in New York is the arrival of the New York International Auto Show.
Held at the Javits Convention Center, it is one of the premier shows for automobile companies to show their latest models and future technologies with their concept cars. Timed just before the summer driving season, they exhibit their shiny models to tempt the car buyer in being the first in their neighborhood to drive that status symbol on four wheels.
There are cars for every taste, from basic comfort and affordability to exotic high-speed roadsters with price tags reaching the stratosphere.
Just about every car company has a model in their offerings that is a hybrid or has improved gas mileage than their past year’s models. But you can tell which companies are really committed to the environment while at the same time offering a product that is fun to drive.
We have seen hybrid or electric cars for a few years now that do the job in improving their carbon footprint, the automobile industry has finally gotten the message. But now they are starting to recognize that not only does a car have to have good mileage, either by using petroleum or alternative means of power, but now they have to be fun to drive, they have to look good. The boxy silhouette and low horsepower is not getting the car enthusiast’s attention. Cars have more and more gadgetry and most car buyers do not want to sacrifice not having the latest toys for low mpgs, they want them both.
It seems that among the American car companies, Ford has lead the way in their commitment to the environment with five electric car choices and 16 EcoBoost vehicles while at the same time offering attractive and fun cars to drive. As an example, their Fusion hybrid model that has a 47 mpg statistic was chosen the 2013 Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. Even their higher end Lincoln division has a hybrid version.
The Japanese automobile industry was one of the first to recognize the synergy of the combustible engine to the health of the environment and now Korea has also joined the cause. And their commitment is still strong with various models to choose from, be them hybrid, electric or low mileage from Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and Honda to name a few. Even the higher end Lexus has a luxurious hybrid model.
A few years ago Honda introduced the Fit, a small car with excellent gas mileage. This year they have upped the ante by introducing an electric version, the Fit EV that has a combined 118 mpg (132 city, 105 highway). Other models, the Accord, Cr-2, Insight and Civic have all hybrid versions and are very attractive cars to be seen in.
In Europe, where car enthusiasts have had to live with much high fuel costs longer than we have in the U.S., mpgs are important but so is style. Volvo, known for its safety, has the V60 a plug in hybrid that is one of three finalists for the 2013 World Green car.
Germany, a country recognized as a leader in environmental issues and Germans love their cars, was the most impressive of the automobile industries at the show with there big 3 companies, Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes (Daimler), offering the public new models that were green cars with style, elegance and fun to drive.
Volkswagen, an iconic car company. offered very comfortable and attractive looking cars with the Passat, Jetta, and Beetle. The Jetta can be obtained in a hybrid version and also diesel that incorporates a new clean burning technology while giving excellent miles per gallon.
BMW, a more higher end automobile as far as initial cost, is recognized as the most sustainable automobile company for the past 5 years in a row by Dow Jones. The new models they were showing were a 320d with a diesel engine and an Active Hybrid 3 a hybrid car in the range of $50,000. Here is where you start to blend a green car with fun to drive, albeit at a cost.
Finally, Mercedes Benz. Here is where the blending really takes shape. Start with the SmartCar, a car that already had great mileage, that is why it was born, but now they have manufactured an electric version with 122 mpg city and 93 mpg highway at around $25,000. Granted, not much room, but a great way to tool around the city, be it NY, LA or places in-between.
Among various other models, Mercedes was enthusiastically introducing their zero-emission premier electric drive B-Class, the first electric 5 passenger premium car on the market that takes just 4 hours for a full charge. Next was the impressive SLS, a 750 horsepower AMG Electric Drive 2 seater sport car, the only electric sport car with such high horsepower.
So there you have it. My initial impression of the show is that most of the world’s automobile companies have stepped up to address environmental issues. The U.S. auto industry, across the board, has improved their cars’ styling and designs to once again capture the car buyers’ eye. Now they have to more aggressively combine those features with a greener car. Ford leads the way, but GM and Chrysler have to step it up within their divisions. Now the U.S. car companies not only have to have more models that are green cars but also make them appealing with designs and amenities that car buyers want.