New SUVs, luxury cars shown off in New York

Kyodo

Japanese carmakers are showcasing their sport utility vehicles and luxury cars at the annual New York International Auto Show, which opened Wednesday.

Toyota Motor Corp. debuted the 2014 Highlander SUV with a redesigned exterior, bigger interior and three engine choices, including a hybrid option.

“We think it will wow buyers with its sophisticated look,” Bill Fay, Toyota group vice president, said at an event introducing the eight-seat vehicle, which will be put together at a plant in Indiana.

Honda Motor Co. will show off a refreshed 2014 Odyssey minivan with a unique optional vacuum system built into the vehicle that can reach all areas.

Honda’s luxury brand unveiled the production model of the 2014 MDX after showing a concept version at January’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“More sport, more utility, and a big dose of added luxury, the 2014 MDX raises the stakes in the very competitive luxury SUV segment,” Acura Vice President Jeff Conrad said in Manhattan, adding that it is about 125 kg lighter than previous generations.

The midsize SUV was designed and developed in the United States and will for the first time have a front-wheel-drive option.

Nissan Motor Co. unveiled a hybrid version of the 2014 Pathfinder SUV as part of its plan to use electric technology knowhow to make “greener, cleaner cars.”

“We have entered an era of electrification. The 100 percent electric Nissan Leaf is only the starting point to our green effort,” Nissan Senior Vice President Jose Munoz said at the presentation, also hinting that the GT-R sports car may be added to the line of electrified products.

Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, announced Wednesday that the seven-seat 2014 QX50 SUV will have an optional hybrid engine.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn earlier told a group of journalists that the company is dedicated to its goal of producing 1 million cars in Japan per year despite the “huge handicap” of a strong yen in the exchange market.

“This handicap is being removed little by little,” Ghosn said, adding that the Bank of Japan’s recent credit easing stance, leading to a weaker yen, is helping to “maintain the commitment.”

Meanwhile, among U.S. automakers, General Motors Co. focused on performance cars Wednesday and unveiled the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro. It also announced the return of the “legendary” Z/28 model for the next generation of Camaro.

Chrysler Group LLC unveiled the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and is expected to introduce the 2014 Dodge Durango SUV on Thursday.

About 1 million people are expected to visit the New York show, which will be open to the public from Friday to April 7.

Automakers’ Japan output fell 15.4% in February

KYODO

The nation’s eight top automakers said Thursday that combined domestic production in February fell 15.4 percent from a year earlier to 767,335 units on sluggish sales and exports.

Six of the eight posted output falls, including Honda Motor Co., which saw a 47.9 percent plunge to 60,392 units, and Nissan Motor Co., which saw output slump 31.4 percent to 76,631 units. Toyota Motor Corp.’s output fell 13.2 percent to 300,652 units.

By contrast, Mazda Motor Corp. said its domestic output jumped 19.6 percent to 84,035 units, while Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. reported a 5.2 percent rise to 52,086 units.

Overseas output in the month decreased 8.6 percent to 1,257,651 units for the eight.

Mazda reported a 43.7 percent plunge in overseas production, followed by a 14.1 percent fall at Nissan and an 11.8 percent drop at Toyota.

But Mitsubishi Motors Corp. scored a 28.9 percent risem, and Honda reported a 6.8 percent increase.

The eight companies’ global output fell 11.3 percent to 2,024,986 units. Nissan posted the largest decline, of 18.4 percent, followed by a 12.4 percent fall at Toyota.

Only Mitsubishi Motors and Fuji Heavy reported global production increases.

Exports at the eight sagged 14 percent to 366,109 units.