News / Economy

Sexy Performance Meets 'Green' Ethic at Detroit Auto Show

The new Mercedes-Benz 2015 C-Class is displayed during a private preview for media at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan, Jan. 12, 2014, on the eve of the 2014 North American International Auto Show.
The new Mercedes-Benz 2015 C-Class is displayed during a private preview for media at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan, Jan. 12, 2014, on the eve of the 2014 North American International Auto Show.
Reuters
To look over the roster of racy new and future vehicles at the 2014 North American International Auto Show here, the initial impression is that U.S., European and Asian automakers want to turn back the clock to a time when performance and speed trumped concerns about energy and the environment.

So-called green cars - electric vehicles, hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells - are being heavily overshadowed at the Detroit show by sports cars, in a broad spectrum of sizes, shapes and price segments, from Ford Motor Company's redesigned 2015 Mustang to Kia Motors' zippy GT4 Stinger concept.

“Sex sells. Speed sells,” said Michael Tracy, principal at Michigan-based consultancy the Agile Group. “People don't talk about wanting to buy a Camaro because the base V6 gets great mileage.”

A hint of green

In fact, there is more than a hint of green lurking in even the sexiest sports cars at this year's Detroit auto show, which opens for media members this week. Take the new Mustang, which this fall will offer buyers the choice of a 420-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 - a throwback to the classic street cars of yesteryear - or an economical 2.3-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that still cranks out an impressive 305 horsepower.

“We're seeing a new era of performance cars that are very safe, very fuel-efficient and more mainstream,” said industry consultant Lincoln Merrihew, of Millward Brown Digital.

The latest edition of Volkswagen AG's Golf R, which goes on sale in early 2015 in the United States, is a good example.

Under the familiar hatchback shell of the long-running Golf, VW has fitted a 290-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. VW said it is the most powerful Golf ever sold in the United States, but it also surpasses the fuel economy of the 2013 edition, with an EPA highway mileage rating of 31 miles per gallon. To help improve the car's stability and traction, all-wheel drive is standard.

Evolving definition

The definition of “performance” is evolving, from the old-school values of straight-line acceleration and cornering capability. As with the Mustang and the Golf, engines are getting smaller to improve efficiency, but devices such as turbochargers provide more power, so there is less tradeoff between going faster and going farther.

Perhaps the epitome of the modern sports car is Kia's GT4 Stinger, a compact, low-slung four-passenger model fitted with a 315-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that hints at a future rear-wheel-drive performance model from the Korean manufacturer.

Makers of traditional sports cars are reducing weight, which further enhances both sides of the power versus economy equation.

Even the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, which goes on sale this spring, has benefited from General Motors Co's  “lightweighting” efforts. GM engineers shaved mass from the $75,000 muscle car by using a smaller battery and thinner rear glass, as well as eliminating the trunk carpet and the tire-inflator kit.

Lighter weight

BMW says its redesigned 2015 M3 sedan, which reaches U.S. dealers in early summer, has shed 175 pounds, in part by using more aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic in place of heavier steel and by switching from a normally aspirated 4.0-liter V8 to a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. The smaller engine makes more power and, with the weight reduction, enables faster acceleration, while boosting fuel economy by 25 percent and lowering emissions by the same amount.

Both the M3 and its two-door companion, the new 2015 M4 coupe, also provide an array of driver assistance systems, including a new Active Driving Assistant that warns of an impending collision with a pedestrian.

Enthusiasts will find many of the same safety systems and focus on efficiency in the latest supercars from Europe, Asia and the U.S., notably the 620-horsepower 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, which goes into production late this year.

The fun factor

Chevy also aims to amp up the fun quotient for Corvette owners. Later this year, the 2015 Corvette will offer an optional Performance Data Recorder - essentially a built-in high-def videocam and microphone that will enable drivers to record up to 13 hours behind the wheel and play it all back on the car's in-dash touchscreen or upload it to Facebook and other social media sites.

Five years ago, during the depths of the U.S. auto industry's recession, “excess went out of fashion,” said consultant Merrihew, as auto companies parked their performance models to focus on greener technologies.

Now that the economy has rebounded and automakers are redefining performance as a combination of speed, safety and efficiency, “that stigma is starting to fade,” he said, “and performance cars are OK to buy again.”

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9247
JPY
USD
118.78
GBP
USD
0.6657
CAD
USD
1.2190
INR
USD
62.395

Rates may not be current.