L.A. Show Has Lots Of Electricity, Test Drive Opps

JeepThe Los Angeles Auto Show this year will be big on alternative vehicles and opportunities for consumers to test-drive vehicles on the road and on faux trails. The show, which is held at the L.A. Convention Center starting this week, will include 50 vehicle debuts, some very big experiential programs, and a new raft of alternative powertrains.

The more important vehicles being rolled onto the stage at the show are Nissan's new Quest minivan (Nissan will have a Quest Kids' Fun Zone); Chevrolet Camaro and Volkswagen EOS convertible. And Fiat, whose Chrysler LLC division this week announced a roster of dealers that will sell the Italian brand, is returning to the auto show for the first time in a quarter of a century to show off its Fiat 500-Cinquecento sub-compact.

The L.A. show will have a record 50 electric, hydrogen fuel-cell electric, hybrid, clean diesel and natural-gas vehicles. The roster of electric cars includes Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, Jaguar's C-X75 electric super car and Kia's POP electric concept. Also, Mitsubishi will show its electric concept, called "i." The company says the vehicle will go on sale at its dealerships in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii next November and nationwide by the end of 2012 for around $30,000. Toyota this week debuts an electric version of the Toyota RAV4.



Automakers are also ramping up test-drive programs at the show. Land Rover will have an off-road course; Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Toyota will offer test drives. Ford will have a 75,000-square-foot exhibit, its largest ever at the L.A. show. The exhibit includes a section devoted to showing off and explaining its new array of engines for the F-150 pickup; a recreation of a wilderness area called Outdoor Urban Festival, to demonstrate the new Ford Explorer's terrain management system; an in-car theater that creates a virtual ride in a real Boss 302 Mustang; a rock-climbing wall, and a Fiesta that visitors can "paint" with a virtual spray can.

Chrysler is using the show to unveil a new company-owned dealership called The Motor Village of Los Angeles, which is intended as a showplace for its vehicles. The company is using the four-level store near the Convention Center as a Petri dish for retail programs, processes and services as well as displays, materials, and furnishings. It will have several separate salon-like spaces for Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, Jeep, Mopar and Fiat.

The automaker is also using the show to talk about Mopar -- its parts and services division -- which usually gets the big spotlight at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. Chrysler will have several vehicles on show festooned with Mopar aftermarket parts and accessories.

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