NY Auto Show Roundup: Mercedes, Nissan, BMW And GM

There was at least one reference to the presidential campaign at the auto show press days in New York City yesterday. Mercedes, which devoted its presence to promoting its Bluetec diesel-powered vehicles, used the election theme to say that consumers will--hopefully--vote" for Bluetec when those diesel variants are available in all 50 states later this year. The company says it expects to see 14% diesel penetration in the U.S. by 2017, and that 22% of Mercedes vehicles sold in the U.S. are diesel. Currently 30% of E-Class and 12% of R Class vehicles sold in the U.S. are ordered with diesel.

Nissan unveiled the 2009 Maxima, its full-sized sedan that has played second fiddle to the Altima for years. The new version is being promoted as a sports sedan. Al Castignetti, VP and general manager of the Nissan division, says the company's latest vehicle--and 50% of the company's initial volume of its first "supercar", a high-performance sports car, dubbed GT-R--are sold for July delivery. Also coming: the Cube, which Castignetti said was intended for young buyers.



BMW is also bringing a raft of new variants to market this year. Tom Purves, CEO and chairman of BMW North America, says that the company this year will introduce "No fewer than 11 completely new models." They include the X6 crossover, a 1-Series coupe and convertible, and a new version of the M3 performance car. He says the goal "in the medium term" is to sell 400,000 vehicles in the U.S. market, which he says is now BMW's most important.

General Motors' Pontiac division brings famous New Yorkers to the stand to introduce new vehicles. Last year it was Donald Trump. This year, rapper 50 Cent was ushered up by head of NA design Bob Lutz to talk about three new Pontiac vehicles intended to align to the brand's affordable-performance mantra: The Solstice Coupe, GXP G8 sedan and a El Camino-like car/truck combo. The company is launching a promotion in which consumers are encouraged to go to Pontiac.com/namethatcar and suggest a fitting appellation for the vehicle. Fifty Cent suggested calling it the "Curtis," half seriously.

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