New York Auto Show Shows It All, But Mostly Small

The poster ads for the New York International Auto Show this week at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center are a big detour from the traditional. The ads, on subways, buses, kiosks, and phone booths (yes, New York still has them), eschew auto eye candy for a simple image of a “start” button of the kind that more and more cars have now instead of a traditional key slot. It shows that as cool as cars can be, apps, pods, pads, interfaces, Bluetooth devices, smartphones, the "Internet of Things" and glowing buttons are at least as cool. Or cooler than the cars. And the button is green, as in “green.” Indeed, the focus at the New York auto show this year is on compact cars, fuel efficiency, and "clean" technologies.

Here's a rundown of what some automakers are showing off: 

- Toyota says it will use the show as a pre-Earth Day demo of what it can do with fuel cells and plug-ins. Among other things the company will be offering are rides in its Prius Plug-In Hybrid and the Highlander fuel cell hydrogen vehicle (FCHV). On the show floor, Toyota will have a concept version of a fuel-cell sedan it will begin selling next year. 

- After having revealed new Focus cars in Geneva last month, Ford will bring the next-generation Focus four-door hatchback and the Focus Electric to New York. Ford says Focus was the best-selling vehicle nameplate for 2013 worldwide, based on Polk's new vehicle registration data. 

- At General Motors, Chevrolet is using the most urban of auto shows to focus on its small car portfolio, including what it says will be a new nameplate and a revamp of the Cruze compact. It will reveal a new Corvette performance variant. And yes, you can be sure there will be a focus on the recall. Mary Barra will be headlining a J.D. Power conference the day before the show, where she will no doubt talk about the "T" word: consumer trust and how to regain it.

- Nissan will show new tech, too. On tap are its "Smart Rearview Mirror," essentially an LCD monitor that, per the company, obviates the need to tell tall passengers to slump, shift luggage or otherwise figure out ways to see around obstacles. The tech also transcends visibility issues from weather, and the design of a vehicle behind you. Also on tap is the 2015 version of its sub-compact car, the Versa Sedan.

- Honda is going small, putting the spotlight on its 2015 Fit subcompact nameplate, and the new diminutive crossover that will join the Fit ranks. The newest Fit goes on sale this month. Honda says that its now-famous robot, ASIMO, will do the honors. In addition, the next generation of ASIMO will hold a special live demonstration on the 17th of its new technology and mobility capabilities during Honda's special lunchtime press conference.

- Volkswagen says it will show a concept version of the SportWagen carrying a TDI Clean Diesel engine. The real car, a variant of the Golf, goes on sale next year and is touted as both more powerful and more fuel-efficient. 

- Hyundai -- which, along with its Kia sibling, tends to be clandestine about its auto show plans -- will reveal the new Sonata, while Kia says it will unveil an all-new midsize multipurpose vehicle, a wagonesque crossover, based on drawings, and one that can portage eight adventure-seeking passengers (meaning it can carry them and their gear.)

- Chrysler Group, which is at pains to keep Dodge a relevant brand, will show the 2015 Dodge Challenger and Charger. The company's Fiat division will show 2015 models as well with enhancements centered on new instrumentation boasting a seven-inch high-definition cluster. For the Abarth performance versions, the automaker gets sacrilegious: a six-speed automatic transmission.

- On the premium end of the spectrum, BMW will show a new nameplate, the X4 "sports activity coupe." The automaker has been adding even-numbered cars to its portfolio since introducing the 6-series. Odds are traditional four-door sedans and SUVs. Evens are coupe variants, including convertibles. So the X4 is the coupe variant of the X3. 

- Small be damned. The biggest outlier to the auto show small theme will be Mercedes-Benz, which is going to show off a six-wheeled behemoth that makes the Hummer look like a Smart car. Its the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6 that costs around $479,000. The monster makes 540hp. It will also star in the forthcoming "Jurassic World" movie. Maybe as a dinosaur.

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