February 14, 2011
Automakers unveiled a slew of hyper-horsepowered models at the Chicago Auto Show. The debuts of these go-go cars come as gas prices are rising, and after more green-focused, fuel-efficient models were introduced at the recent Detroit and Los Angeles shows.
General Motors touted its 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, powered by a supercharged V8 engine with 550 horsepower. Hyundai showed off its new 2012 Veloster Rally Car with 500 horses. The 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8, on hiatus for the 2011 model year, will come roaring back with an estimated 465 hp, just one of several high-powered Dodge models that include a “man-van” 283-hp Grand Caravan R/T minivan.
Are Americans clamoring for performance models? Not really, said Todd Turner, president of CarConcepts consultants, adding: “No more than they were for SUVs” a decade ago. But, said Turner, these higher-end models are the most profitable.
Jessica Caldwell, senior industry analyst at Edmunds.com, wondered whether Americans are ready to open their wallets for high-powered machines after the past two-and-a-half years of bad economic times. Such cars “could be a way to get people to buy and spend more than they really need to.
“After the past few auto shows focusing on green technologies, it’s interesting to see the Chicago show full of performance vehicle introductions,” said Caldwell. “A pony race is truly on among the domestic automakers, with the new, high-powered Camaro, Dodge Charger and Shelby intros.”
Turner said that Dodge’s new man-van minivan makes sense for the brand, which is pushing performance in a big way. Those in charge at Chrysler, Dodge’s parent company, “are the only people I can think of who would make a performance minivan,” he said. He also feels this move could be a “huge risk” as gas edges toward $4 a gallon in many parts of the country and is poised to hit $5 by the end of 2011 or mid-2012.
JEAN HALLIDAY is a seasoned journalist with the nation’s longest consecutive run covering auto advertising. Her years in the trenches include stints at Automotive News, Adweek and Advertising Age. The native New Yorker now lives outside the Motor City. You can read Jean’s blog at AutoAdOpolis.wordpress.com.