Highlights of the Chicago Auto Show: GENERAL MOTORS: Buick Division will finally get an SUV - the Rendezvous, an upscale truck that debuted at the Chicago show and goes on sale in the second quarter of 2001 as a '02 model.
It will be targeted at buyers who are younger than the average age of 60 for Buick owners, says Roger Adams, the division's marketing general manager.
"Our research shows that the boomer and Generation X groups, who tend to buy SUVs and other trucks, acknowledge there's plenty of quality behind the Buick marquee," he says.
Rendezvous is such a big change for Buick, the automaker will begin an extensive training for dealers this spring.
GM also showed off a couple of concept vehicles, the Chevrolet Traverse (billed as a reinvented family sedan with truck-like utility) and the Pontiac Piranha (an athletic-looking coupe).
"These aren't dream or show vehicles," says GM Chief Designer Wayne Cherry. "They are based in reality."
DAIMLERCHRYSLER: Two platforms, two plants, one name. That's DC's new small-car strategy for 2001, which will see the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring coupes merged into the Stratus and Cirrus lineups.
The new Dodge Stratus coupe and sedan, shown for the first time at the Chicago auto show, resemble a scaled down Dodge Intrepid.
"Despite predictions of analysts, cars accounted for 50% of sales last year," says DC President James Holden.
That's about 8.5 million units - well worth DC's efforts to concentrate on cars as much as trucks, he says.
DAEWOO: As Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motors consider purchasing the Korean automaker, Daewoo is thinking big. Well, big for them.
Part of that new thinking is an impending $30 million ad campaign this spring and the potential launch of a new 4-door SUV sometime soon.
"It's our first truly national advertising campaign," says William Tucker of Daewoo Motor America. "Thirty million dollars is a lot of money for us. We need people to know we exist."
Meanwhile, Daewoo is aggressively signing up new dealers, after a failed effort a couple of years ago in which it enlisted college students, in lieu of dealers, to sell the vehicles.
"The college program was a great way to get notoriety," Mr. Tucker says. "It was a noble experiment."
In other words, it bombed.
Mr. Tucker says Daewoo thereupon went from 0 to 253 dealers in 18 months. Its goal is to have 450 retailers in place at the end of this year.
SUBARU: The Japanese automaker showed a new concept vehicle, the STX, which is a crossover vehicle indeed.
"It's part Legacy, part Outback, part truck and maybe part convertible," says William Cyphers, marketing vice president.
Subaru lays claim to launching the crossover craze, starting in 1993 with a strategic refocus in which all its vehicles were equipped with all-wheel drive.
"We felt like a lone voice in the wilderness," says Mr. Cyphers.
Chances that Subaru might put the STX into production? Pretty good, considering the automaker's record with previous concept vehicles.
FORD: The truck sales leader is putting an Edge on its Ranger lineup.
The automaker debuted the 2001 Ford Ranger Edge at the Chicago show. It has a bigger engine - a 4L SOHC V6 - and 45 more horsepower than a typical Ranger.
It also has a power dome hood and monochromatic exterior color treatment
The Edge is being pitched to the coveted youth market.
"We think this will appeal to the under-30 crowd and be heavily skewed towards men," says Ford Division President James O'Connor.
Ford sold 350,000 Rangers last year. Mr. O'Connor declined to predict what percentage of that share the Edge might grab when it goes on sale next model year.
NISSAN: The 2001 Frontier pickup truck got beefed up to make it look bigger and badder, says Jerry Hirshberg, Nissan North America Inc.'s design president.
Its predecessor "didn't have enough testosterone going for it," he says.
The upcoming Frontier gets a complete exterior facelift and a V6 engine, billed as the most powerful in its class.
Nissan North America sold 604,000 units last year. Trucks accounted for 42% of that.
"A bigger truck is one of our biggest priorities for our dealers and for us," says Jed Connelly, Nissan Div. vice president.