• Kyodo


Leading automakers from Japan and Europe have unveiled their latest luxury models at the ongoing Los Angeles Auto Show, one of the key exhibitions in the U.S. market with the lucrative upper-end segment particularly treasured by foreign automakers.

Honda Motor Co. displayed an upgraded compact sedan, set for release next year, from its high-end Acura division soon after the show opened to the public Nov. 21. Daimler AG grabbed attention with the global premiere of the Maybach sedan, a flagship brand the German automaker is reviving after a roughly two-year hiatus.

The California show, scheduled to run through Sunday, is being held at a time when the U.S. auto market is experiencing strong growth on the back of an economic recovery and demand fueled by low auto financing costs, thanks to the government’s ultra-easy monetary policy. Sluggish gas prices are also stimulating consumer appetite for cars.

Dealers are expected to sell more than 16 million new cars in the United States in 2014 for the first time since 2007.

In 2015, sales of new cars could slow somewhat as the U.S. central bank is poised to start lifting interest rates. But American Honda Motor Co.’s Executive Vice President John Mendel was bullish at the show.

“I think the planning assumption for us is probably closer to 16.6 million,” he said. “My listening to dealers and those kind of things, it could be more, but it will be better than 2014.”

The high-end segment of the U.S. market is where foreign manufacturers are enjoying strong demand, going after fat profit margins. In the January-October period this year, their luxury car sales were up 3.5 percent to 796,598 units.

The 2016 model upgraded ILX sedan from Honda’s Acura unit features LED lighting for headlights and a 2,400cc engine with a max 201 horsepower.

Optionally available is a safe driving support system programmed to detect the car in front or passersby with a millimeter wave radar located inside the front grill and a camera in the upper section of the front window. It consists of a collision mitigation brake system that automatically activates the brake if a collision is likely, and a road departure mitigation unit that works to minimize accident risks when the car veers sideways.

“Top to bottom, from dynamic design to luxury features, and leading-edge safety technology to sport sedan athleticism and sophistication, ILX is now a true gateway to Acura’s performance luxury sedans,” said Michael Accavitti, American Honda Motor senior vice president for the Acura division.

Toyota Motor Corp. presented the LF-C2, a concept convertible model for its Lexus upscale division. The Lexus’ signature spindle-shaped grille is marked by a mesh theme aimed to create a futuristic flair in design.

The car is 4.7 meters long and 1.8 wide, a size close to the RC model put on sale in Japan in October. “It may be released as a convertible version of the RC in the future,” said a journalist covering the auto industry.

Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti luxury car division unveiled the Q80 Inspiration Concept for the first time in North America.

Michael Bartsch, Infiniti Americas’ vice president said it is a “stunning” design and “a powerful statement about the DNA of the brand.”

He indicated that new models in the offing from the division will likely follow the concept in design. “You can see elements of that in the Q50 (a main sedan now being marketed) and in what is coming down the line in terms of what is touchable in the next 24 months.”

Among European cars, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 was Daimler’s centerpiece exhibit at the show. It is modeled on the top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz S600 with increased interior comfort. The legroom pitch is doubled to around 33 cm in the back seat. Leather is used lavishly for interior upholstery.

Installed with an engine with 6,000cc in displacement, the German car generates a maximum 523 horsepower. Mercedes-Benz Japan Co. said the car is scheduled for release in Japan in the coming months, possibly in the first half of 2015.

Porsche AG unveiled for the first time the 911 Carrera, a high-performance sports car with a maximum 430 horsepower, and other models. The German automaker logged a roughly 11 percent year-on-year increase in U.S. sales in the January-October period.

At a Nov. 19 news conference, Bernhard Maier, member of Porsche’s executive board of management, was optimistic about demand for the company’s car in the U.S. market. “There are more Porsche sports car friends in America than anywhere in the world. There are more Porsche sold in America than any other market,” he said.

Audi AG’s Audi Prologue concept features a hexagonal front grill, unlike the trapezoid of its existing models. The headlight shape also looks sharper.

It is the first full concept car under the direction of Audi’s new head of design Marc Lichte. The company said the frontal design will be followed in new generations of the flagship A8, the A7 and A6 sedan.

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