Alternative Powertrains Rule the 2013 Detroit Auto Show

January 18, 2013
4 min read

The press preview of the 2013 North American International Auto Show (i.e. Detroit Auto Show) came and went earlier in the week and with it brought unveilings of 59 new or significantly refreshed models. As is commonplace for a modern auto show, a large portion of the introductions were hybrid, electric, or diesel powered vehicles.

Jeep kicked off the Detroit show with the introduction of a significantly refreshed 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee; the luxury midsize crossover now has a fuel-efficient diesel engine capable of 30 miles per gallon (mpg) and best-in-class towing figures.

In the luxury department, both Nissan and Acura showed off luxury hybrid models. Nissan’s 2014 Infiniti Q50 is an entry level sedan whose top-of-the-line trim will include a high-powered hybrid powertrain. Acura’s NSX Concept is a high-powered, four-wheel-drive hybrid that will compete with other exotic supercars, like the Nissan GT-R, in the coming years. Daimler introduced a new 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan and station wagon, with a new four-cylinder diesel powertrain. The new E-Class also has a hybrid model capable of 30 mpg.

Nissan also showed off its new internally developed hybrid powertrain system, in the Nissan Resonance Hybrid. The fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain will likely show up in the redesigned 2014 Nissan Murano and (or) the all-new 2014 Nissan Rogue, later this year.


Automakers also unveiled an array of electric vehicles that’ll join the fast growing category in the coming years.

Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept

The Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept offers a glimpse into the German carmaker’s strategy when it comes to its SUV lineup. The CrossBlue is designed to slot above the Tiguan and below the Touareg in terms of pricing, and is specifically designed for the US and Canadian markets, said VW. The CrossBlue features an innovative diesel plug-in hybrid system, which could travel 14 miles on electric only, and then achieve an average of 35 mpg in the combined EPA cycle.

Tesla Model X

Tesla’s Model X is a three-row, seven-passenger variant of the Tesla Model S. It’ll have an electric range of 230-miles or 300-miles, depending on the battery chosen, and is expected to go on sale sometime next year. The Model X features rear “gullwing” doors that allow adults to remain near upright while entering the second or third rows.

2014 Cadillac ELR

The Chevrolet Volt adopts a new form in the guise of the luxury 2014 Cadillac ELR. The plug-in hybrid will be one of the first from a luxury carmaker. Unlike the Volt, the ELR will only be offered in a coupe body style. Differences between the Chevy and the Cadillac include a more powerful electric motor and a high-end interior.

2013 Nissan Leaf sees $6,400 price reduction

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor, announced at the show that the new, localized 2013 Nissan Leaf will see a steep $6,400 discount in pricing for the year and some trims will get a faster charging unit that’ll bring charging times down from about eight hours to four hours. The 2013 Nissan Leaf now starts at $28,800 (down from $35,200 in 2012); with an eligible $7,500 non-refundable tax credit, that price could be as low as $21,300 for some households. The Leaf is now the most affordable electric vehicle on the market. The Leaf will also be able to travel farther, pending EPA testing; currently the Leaf has an estimated 73-mile range.

Sales of the Nissan Leaf have so far performed below the carmaker’s expectations in the US Ghosn commented on the lackluster sales of the electric car, saying that “consumers are saying it is too expensive” and that “[they] are saying eight hours is too long to charge the car.”

What We Think

According to Mintel’s latest research on the US market of hybrid and electric cars, concerns about initial cost of hybrids and electric cars (84%), length of time it will take to recoup the extra initial cost of hybrids and electrics (74%) and recharge times (85%) were some of the principal concerns among American consumers, in our survey regarding the purchase of an electric vehicle. Price reduction and faster charging times should significantly boost the Nissan Leaf’s sales performance as the model reaches dealerships in the US in the coming months.

In the same research, wealthy households (making $100-$149.9K a year) who own or lease a vehicle, said they preferred a plug-in hybrid over an electric car, making the Cadillac ELR a prime candidate for such buyers.
For 2013, Mintel predicts that 535,000 hybrid and electric vehicles will be sold, up from 490,000 in 2012.

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