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Chicago Auto Show Highlights: Automakers Debut 2014 Models

By John Stewart

Auto sales analysts are predicting growth in car sales overall, some to levels as high as 15.4 million for 2013. This would be good news for aftermarket manufacturers and retailers, as unit growth in the types of vehicles that enthusiasts tend to customize continues to gain momentum.

Truck sales will be a positive factor for 2014, according to Toyota officials speaking at the Chicago Auto Show. They estimated the fullsize pickup segment exceeded 1.6 million units in 2012, and could hit 1.8 million by 2015. According to statistics offered by Toyota, the fullsize pickup segment has typically been one of the most loyal in the industry, with owners usually replacing their old trucks with new ones of the same type and brand. Toyota marketing spokespeople were encouraged that in today's market, truck owners are taking the opportunity to change brands. They also report greater segment switching as people move from SUVs and cars to gain the unique capabilities and increasing comfort of fullsize pickups. With a return to personal-use pickups, the mix of 1/2-ton Crew Cabs has grown from 48% to almost 60% over the last five years, according to Toyota.

’14 Toyota Tundra

’14 Toyota Tundra

Among the vehicles expected to lend growth potential for the pickup segment is the ’14 Toyota Tundra. Toyota unveiled a new exterior design that features a muscular front view and a wider, taller grille and headlamps that interlock with the rest of the front fascia. The hood was raised by 1.6 in., contributing to the bolder appearance. A new bed design helps carry the character lines down the side leading to a new tailgate that has an integrated spoiler and “TUNDRA” embossed into the sheet metal. A new bumper goes from one to three pieces, allowing for grade differentiation and lower customer replacement costs.

To satisfy the growing number of premium fullsize truck buyers, the redesigned Tundra will offer five distinct grades, each with a “unique flavor” that is immediately recognizable—including a different front grille for each, rather than just an equipment build up from grade to grade. The grades range from entry-level SR for the work-use buyer, to the high-end Platinum edition that will offer premium interior design. The SR5 will continue to be the volume model. Toyota also announced the 1794 Edition, inspired by the ranch founded in 1794 where the Tundra plant is now located in San Antonio. It reflects a western lifestyle with saddle-brown premium leather seating and ultrasuede accents.

’14 Ram Commercial ProMaster

’14 Ram Commercial ProMaster

Chrysler debuted the all-new ’14 Ram Commercial ProMaster—a fullsize van for the North American market. The new offering is an example of Ram and Fiat joining forces to expand the market internationally and offer the Ram Commercial ProMaster to businesses across the globe.

"As Ram takes a larger presence in the commercial truck market, the ’14 Ram ProMaster is a great addition, contributing to a one-stop shop of commercial-duty Ram trucks and vans," said Fred Diaz, president and CEO Ram Truck Brand. Diaz cited durability, capability and low total cost of ownership as advantages for the Ram ProMaster commercial truck.

Inspired by the Fiat Ducato, the Ram ProMaster offers the North American segment the first six-speed automated manual transmission controlled by high-tech software that responds to road conditions. The ’14 Ram ProMaster's powertrain features a 3.6L Pentastar V6 rated at 280 hp, or a 3.0L four-cylinder EcoDiesel engine rated at 174 hp with an 18,500-mile oil-change interval.

Thirteen chassis configurations will be offered, including the 1,500-series short-wheelbase, low-roof cargo van and 3,500-series chassis-cab cutaway. Ram's new full-size van will include more than 35 safety features, including a ParkView backup camera and ParkSense. An advanced technology system, Uconnect, will offer drivers a hands-free text-reply feature and a global positioning satellite to provide time-saving routes.

’14 Kia Forte 5-door

’14 Kia Forte 5-door

Kia Motors America (KMA) rolled out an all-new ’14 Forte 5-door. The Forte 5-door SX’s European-inspired hatchback design is complimented by an all-new 1.6L gasoline direct-injected (GDI) turbocharged four-cylinder engine putting out 201 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, making the all-new Forte 5-door SX the most powerful Forte from KMA to date. The Forte 5-door is expected to go on sale in the third quarter of 2013, and pricing will be announced closer to launch.

“We received very positive feedback after the all-new Forte sedan made its debut at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, and we expect the all-new Forte 5-door will build upon that success,” said Michael Sprague, KMA executive vice president of marketing and communications.

Presented in two trim levels—EX and SX—with two distinct engine choices, the Forte 5-door will offer customers premium amenities and features not normally found in the compact segment. Under the hood, the Forte 5-door buyer will have a 2.0L GDI four-cylinder engine putting out 173 hp and 154 lb.-ft. of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment. The performance-oriented SX comes standard with the 1.6L turbo four-cylinder—a first for the Forte line. The SX also offers buyers the chance to pick their own gears with a standard six-speed manual transmission, or they may opt for the six-speed automatic featuring steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

’14 Ford Fiesta ST

’14 Ford Fiesta ST

Ford countered with the ’14 Fiesta ST, in many ways a race car built for the street. With Ford’s global launch of Fiesta ST under way, Ford Racing will introduce the ST performance badge in the 2013 season of the Global RallyCross Championship and Global X Games events. The move is part of an expanded Global RallyCross program for Ford as it capitalizes on the popularity of the series and its increased visibility through X Game personalities, including Tanner Foust, Brian Deegan and Ken Block.

Fiesta ST is the result of the combined efforts of Team RS in Europe and SVT in the United States. Available exclusively as a five-door hatchback in North America and with a six-speed manual transmission, Fiesta ST is projected to achieve up to 34 mpg. A new high-output variant of the 1.6L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine propels Fiesta ST with an estimated 197 hp and 214 lb.-ft. of torque. This compact performance machine sports a unique grille and chin spoiler with new rear diffuser and fascia extensions. Bright-tipped dual-exhaust pipes and high-mount spoiler along with unique 17-in. wheels complete the visual package.

’14 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

The ’14 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel's 2.0L turbo-diesel engine produces an estimated 148 hp and 258 lb-ft torque.

Chevrolet debuted the ’14 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, entering the U.S. and Canadian diesel car markets this summer with a 2.0L turbo-diesel version of its hottest-selling sedan—the Cruze, which will feature the cleanest diesel passenger-car engine General Motors has ever produced.

Built in Lordstown, Ohio, the ’14 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel delivers a combination of segment-leading features and efficiency. Based on GM testing, the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel has demonstrated estimated best-in-segment range and 42 mpg on the highway.

The compact sedan’s new 2.0L turbo-diesel engine produces an estimated 148 hp and 258 lb.-ft. torque, with 0–60 performance of 8.6 seconds.

Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel’s emissions will be below stringent U.S. environmental standards, including Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions standards.

“Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel fills an important role in Chevrolet’s diverse four-cylinder lineup and is primed to win over diesel devotees and compact car buyers with its performance, torque and fuel economy,” said Chris Perry, Chevrolet vice president of marketing. “We leveraged engineering expertise from around the globe to develop a world-class, low-emissions engine to give U.S. and Canadian customers a car that’s both fun to drive and practical at the pump.”

With a starting price at $25,695, including a $810 destination charge (excludes tax, title, license and dealer fees) Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a 3.20 final drive ratio, a 140-amp alternator, an 800 cold-cranking amps battery, 17-in. alloy wheels, ultra-low-rolling resistance all-season tires, rear spoiler, an Aero Performance Package and leather-appointed seating.

Other standard features include Chevrolet’s infotainment system MyLink, a two-year maintenance plan and a five-year 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.