Of the 47 manufacturers participating at the Los Angeles Auto Show, 21 will be making their debuts. The 10-day exhibition, which began on Nov. 24, is the most important in North America after the Detroit auto show. Traditionally held in January, the LA Auto Show has shifted its place in the calendar with the aim of becoming the biggest opening exhibition of the season.
Fourteen of the new designs will eventually go on sale to the public while seven are 'concept cars', flagging groundbreaking new technologies. A majority of these prototypes have been dreamed up in southern California, home to design centers for around 15 car manufacturers from the U.S., Europe and Asia, such as Honda, Acura, Hyundai and Mazda.
Several manufacturers will use LA to display models tailored for both the sun-drenched California climate and the state's big-spending inhabitants, such as the new Aston Martin convertible and Lamborghini.
But California is also the biggest U.S. market for environmentally friendly 'hybrid' cars powered by both electricity and gasoline. The state also boasts the most stringent clean-air laws of any in the U.S. and has set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.
Several manufacturers are exploring alternative technologies. BMW's revolutionary hydrogen-fuelled 7 Series is among the "green" cars of the future that will be displayed during the show. The car runs on a conventional-style engine with almost zero emissions.
General Motors meanwhile will show off a hybrid version of their best-selling 4x4 the GMC Yukon as Ford displays a gas-electricity variation of its Escape station wagon.
But these U.S. designs are already scrambling to make up lost ground in the face of Japanese giants Honda and Toyota, which already have second- generation hybrids on the market and are busily developing the third. Toyota is currently working on a hybrid 'plug-in' vehicle capable of being recharged directly from a power grid, enabling journeys of 3,000 km on a single tank of gasoline.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006