2009 NAIAS Preview: 2009 Honda Insight Hybrid

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Even though Honda won’t be holding an over-the-top press conference at the 2009 NAIAS, the all-new 2009 Honda Insight Hybrid will still be debuted to the world in Detroit. Ruining all the fun of a surprise, Honda has dropped one photo of the Insight ahead of the show.

The Insight is expected to have annual global sales of 200,000 units per year – approximately 100,000 in North America – and will utilize a new interactive, driver-focused fuel economy enhancement technology named the Ecological Drive Assist System.

The five-passenger, five-door Insight will go on sale in the spring of 2009.

Lord Byron: The Detroit Auto Show — Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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Story by Byron Hurd

That’s not a Dave Matthews Band lyric, by the way. If it’s still familiar to you, that’s likely because it’s the title of a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, first published in her Epoch collection in the mid-1960’s. What does it have to do with this column, or with the automotive world as a whole? Well… nothing, actually. But the title’s catchy, and I think it’s a good foundation for a discussion about a twenty-year staple of the American auto industry. According to the NAIAS fact sheet, Detroit has hosted some semblance of an auto show for the better part of a century. It wasn’t until the late eighties that Detroit started to lobby its way into the international spotlight. And while New York, Chicago and Los Angeles also play host to the international automotive media, Detroit hosts the North American International Auto Show. Or at least it did.

At publication time, the list of deserters is as follows: Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Nissan (Infiniti), Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Porsche and Land Rover have bailed entirely. Whether any of these companies will have display models on the floor isn’t entirely clear, but their reps will be absent. Honda has also announced that they will not be holding any press events, but it appears their vehicles (including the new Insight, which was supposed to be debuted) will be on the floor for viewing and photography. I suppose that fits though, since for many enthusiasts the excitement of a hybrid vehicle typically ends at its sheetmetal. Now when you compare the sales volume of these manufacturers to that of those who are still on the floorplan, it may not seem like a catastrophic shift in direction, but it is certainly not insignificant. Two of the Big Japanese 3 are out; two of the smaller Japanese volume sellers are out; and the exotic builders are dropping fast. Keep in mind, most of these announcements have come over the last two weeks. We’re still over a month out.

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2009 NAIAS Preview: Mini Cooper Cabrio

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Though there seems to be an exodus out of this year’s NAIAS, some manufacturers ARE still planning on debuting their latest and greatest creations at the Detroit show. Mini is one of those manufacturers, and will be unveiling the next-generation of Cooper Cabrio. This new model is more powerful, more efficient, and safer than the outgoing model.

Power for the base Mini Cooper Cabrio comes from a 1.6L engine producing 118hp, while the hotter Cooper S Cabrio gets a turbocharged 1.6L engine which produces 172hp. Mini says that these engines are up to 19% cleaner and more efficient than the engines in the previous model. While the EPA numbers for the new Cabrio have not been published, we can expect them to be close to the hatchback version’s numbers.

The Mini Cooper Cabrio retains the same sliding soft-top roof style as the previous generation, which Mini says can be retracted fully in just 15 seconds. To add to the safety of the Cooper Cabrio, Mini has added a single-piece rollbar behind the rear seats which can deploy automatically in just 150 milliseconds.

Pricing for the new Mini Cooper Cabrio starts at $24,550 for the base model, and $27,450 for the Cooper S Cabrio with deliveries starting on March 28, 2009.

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