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NY International Auto Show puts focus on SUVs, electronic safety aids

2019 Acura RDX compact SUV is on display

2019 Acura RDX compact SUV is on display at The New York International Automobile Show at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. Credit: Acura

The 2018 New York International Auto Show opens next week amid a healthy new vehicle market, a continued shift in tastes toward sport utility vehicles and a growing number of electronic aids intended to make driving easier and safer.

The show opens to the public Friday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. Carmakers plan to debut at least 60 new or redesigned vehicles either for the first time anywhere or the first time in North America.

About a million people usually attend. They will see about 1,000 vehicles in more than 800,000 square feet of exhibit space, according to the event's organizers. Admission is $17, or $7 for children younger than 12.

SUVs, especially the smaller, car-based models known as crossovers, dominate the list of new models.

"Crossovers and SUVs are the name of the game right now," said Melanie Spare-Oswalt, chief executive of Sayville Ford, Suffolk's largest retailer of the brand. Her most popular model, she said, is the midsize Explorer, followed by the compact Escape.

For 2019, Ford has added a smaller SUV, the EcoSport, starting at around $20,000, and has freshened the larger Edge SUV, which starts around $29,000.

Sales of SUVs, vans and pickups — collectively called light trucks in industry parlance — accounted for 64.5 percent of new vehicles nationally last year, according to the trade paper Automotive News. The split is about the same in the 12-county downstate area that includes Long Island and is covered by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, sponsors of the Javits show. The split nationally and locally was 50-50 as recently as 2013.

However, not everyone expects the shift to continue at the current pace. "There are people who still want sedans and coupes and convertibles," says IHS Markit principal auto analyst Stephanie Brinley, based in Michigan. "It's a different driving experience."

Lee Certilman, chairman of the Greater New York auto dealers and owner of Nardy Honda in St. James, one of the brand's largest Long Island stores, says his Accord sedan, starting at about $24,000 and ubiquitous on Long Island, remains a hot seller."I think there are always going to be people who want cars and don't need SUVs," he said.

New-vehicle registrations in 12 downstate counties including Nassau and Suffolk fell 3.4 percent in 2017 from a healthy 2016 level, according to the dealer association, to about 588,000. The group's figures do not include a relatively small percentage of sales to fleets for groups such as police departments.

It would have been worse without light trucks, whose registrations rose by 2.1 percent, while new registrations of passenger cars fell by 12 percent.

The dealer group didn't offer a breakdown by county for cars versus trucks, but, in total, Long Islanders registered 229,166 new vehicles last year — 2 percent fewer than a year earlier, the group said.

At the 23-store Atlantic Auto Group, Long Island's largest dealership chain, co-owner Michael Brown is optimistic about the market this year, citing new models, especially from Hyundai and Volkswagen, and the expiration this year of a large number of leases written three years ago. "I'm looking for a modest increase, a few percentage points," he said. Last year's car sales were off slightly from 2016, he said.

John Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the area's largest business group, said he's optimistic about sales of big-ticket items this year, including cars.

"The positives are a strong labor market and evidence of growing wages," he said. "There's high consumer confidence, and the most recent data suggests consumer spending is strong on Long Island."

At Sunrise Toyota in Oakdale, one of the Island’s largest sellers of the brand, owner Jimmy Berg said he expects another strong year, on top of a 5 percent gain last year over 2016 at the Oakdale store and another Toyota outlet he owns in Middle Island. SUVs account for 60 percent of his sales, and the compact RAV4 has replaced the Camry sedan as his best seller, Berg said. "I think the smaller-SUV market will continue to grow," he said.

Toyota is expected to unveil at the Javits show a redesigned RAV4, which starts at about $25,000 and competes against popular models like the Escape and Honda CR-V.

Other new or redone SUVs scheduled to be at Javits this year, mostly as 2019 models, include the new BMW X2 subcompact, a smaller addition to the German carmaker's lineup and priced around $36,000.

Lexus, Toyota's luxury division, has added an optional three-row version of the RX 350L SUV starting at about $53,000, and Subaru is adding a new three-row SUV, the Ascent, starting at about $32,000. Subaru also is expected to unveil its next-generation Forester SUV, with prices not yet announced. Lexus plans to show its first compact SUV, the UX, unveiled earlier this month at the Geneva auto show, with prices to be announced.

Hyundai, Nissan and Mitsubishi also have added new small SUVs: the Kona, starting at about $20,000; Kicks, starting at about $19,000; and Eclipse Cross, starting at about $23,000.

Redesigned SUVs also include the Jeep Wrangler, the descendant of the famed World War II military scout vehicle. It starts at about $27,500. Also redone is the Hyundai Santa Fe, which starts at about $30,000. Freshened models include the Jeep Cherokee, starting at about $24,000, the Buick Envision starting at about $34,000, and the Lincoln Navigator starting at about $72,000.

Also among luxury-car makers, Cadillac is scheduled to show a new compact SUV, the XT4, at Javits for the first time anywhere, with prices due later. Jaguar is adding its first compact SUVs, the gasoline-powered E-Pace starting at about $39,000 and the electric I-Pace, whose price isn't yet available. Lincoln will unveil its new Aviator three-row SUV at Javits — no price given yet.

New passenger cars include the Volvo V60 station wagon going on sale early next year at about $38,000 to start.

Another important new sedan is the redesigned Volkswagen Jetta, the brand's U.S. bestseller, starting at about $19,000. VW also will be showing its new flagship sedan, the Arteon, whose price isn't available yet. Also redesigned is Toyota's biggest sedan, the Avalon, which starts at about $34,000. And Audi will show its redesigned A6 luxury sedan, which starts around $50,000.

A few of the offerings are just for fun. Ford, for example, is bringing back the Mustang Bullitt edition for another limited run, this time to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Steve McQueen detective film, which contains one of cinema's best-known car-chase sequences. Pricing is expected to be in the mid-$40,000s.

Porsche is expected to display the 500 hp. 911 GT3 RS shown at the Geneva auto show, priced at about $144,000.

Somewhere between utility and sporty is the Mercedes-Benz AMG G63, a rugged SUV that's just been redesigned; the price hasn't been disclosed yet.

Fully self-driving cars still are believed to be years away from showrooms, with a host of safety issues yet to be worked out. A pedestrian was killed March 19 in Tempe, Arizona, by one of many experimental autonomous cars being tested on the nation's streets. The car was operated by the Uber ride-hailing service, and had an emergency backup driver behind the wheel.

But technologies continue to proliferate in vehicles on sale now to assist drivers at staying centered in a lane, maintaining set speeds even when the traffic slows or accelerates, automatically steering around curves or changing lanes, stopping for obstacles and "seeing" other cars in blind spots.

Cadillac's "Super Cruise" is available on the 2018 CT6, one item in a $5,000 options package, according to Cadillac. It allows hands-free driving on about 130,000 miles of pre-mapped U.S. and Canadian highways, automatically keeping the car in lane, following curves, accelerating and braking. It uses multiple cameras and sensors and at the same time ensures that the driver stays focused on the road even when not steering the car or even holding onto the steering wheel. The driver will, however, have to take over to change lanes or exit the highway. The pre-mapped limited-access highways include the Long Island Expressway, according to Cadillac's website.

Competing systems are offered by Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla.

Hyundai's new Santa Fe has two unusual safety systems, one that is designed to prevent children from either locking themselves in the car or being left inadvertently in the vehicle, and the other to prevent a door from being opened if a vehicle, motorcycle or bicycle is approaching from behind on that side of the SUV. The first system works by sensing movement in the rear seat of the vehicle after the driver has exited. If it does, it honks the horn, flashes the headlights and sends an alert to the driver's cellphone that a passenger has been left behind.

Information on crash-avoidance systems in specific models is available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at

Most of the new vehicles due at the show are gasoline-powered but carmakers, who are under pressure from federal regulations to improve vehicle fuel economy, continue to show new electric and hybrid gasoline-electric cars and SUVs.

New "green" models at Javits this year include the 2019 Honda Insight, an early hybrid gas-electric model returning redesigned after a four-year absence. It goes on sale in summer at a price to be announced.

The electric Jaguar I-Pace SUV has a 220-mile range between rechargings and 400 hp. available.

The Nissan Leaf pure electric was redesigned and went on sale in January at about $30,000. Also new is the latest version of the Honda Accord hybrid, which starts at about $25,100.

A potential cloud on the automotive horizon this year is rising interest rates, which experts think could particularly affect borrowers with weak credit.

Local dealers, though, foresee little impact, at least this year.

"I think rising interest rates are definitely going to be a factor and people are watching that, but I think there are more positives than negatives when we're talking about the economic landscape," said Brown of Atlantic.

A selection of new or significantly updated vehicles scheduled to be at the 2018 New York International Auto Show*

2019 Acura RDX: Compact SUV redesigned. On sale summer.

2019 Audi A6: Redesigned sedan, on sale late this year.

2018 BMW X2: new subcompact SUV on sale now

2019 Ford Bullitt Mustang: Limited edition 'Stang commemorates the 50th anniversary of the detective film of the same name.  Has a 475 hp. V-8. On sale summer.

2019 Ford Ranger: Midsize pickup truck returns to North America, redesigned to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Colorado. On sale early next year with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission.

2019 Ford Edge SUV: Freshened styling and the addition of an ST performance versions with a 335 hp. twin turbocharged V-6 engine and sport suspension. On sale summer.

2018 Ford Transit Connect: Redesigned passenger or work wagon. Four-cylinder gasoline or diesel engines available. Two wheelbases offered with five- or -seven-passenger capacity, respectively. On sale now.

2018 Ford EcoSport: Small five-passenger SUV available with four-wheel drive and three- or four-cylinder engines. On sale now.

2019 Honda Insight: An early hybrid gasoline electric model returns redesigned after a four-year absence. On sale summer.

2019 Hyundai Kona, compact SUV. On sale spring.

2019 Hyundai Veloster: Sport Coupe redesigned. On sale spring

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe, redesigned midsize SUV, on sale in summer in five- and 7-passenger configurations.

2019 Kia Forte. Compact sedan redesigned. On sale later this year.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace, compact SUV, went on sale in January. Electric version, the 2019 I-Pace, goes on sale in late summer with a claimed 220-mile range and rapid recharging from zero to 80 percent in 45 minutes.

2018 Jeep Wrangler: Redesign of the iconic, original, Jeep. On sale now.

2018 Lexus RX 350L: Three-row version of midsize SUV, on sale next month (April).

2019 Lexus UX: New compact SUV, this brand's first. To be offered in gasoline and gasoline-electric hybrid version. On sale in December.  

2019 Lincoln Nautilus: Compact SUV replaces MKX. On sale in summer.

2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 4-Door Coupe: Additional model joins two-door brother, with up to 630 hp. available and an automatic transmission with nine forward speeds.

2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG G63. Rugged, iconic SUV also known as the Gelandewagen redesigned. On sale by the end of this year with a 563 HP. V-8 engine.

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross: Compact SUV to compete with Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4. On sale now.

2018 Nissan Kicks: New, inexpensive, subcompact SUV, on sale in June.

2018 Nissan Leaf: Electric car redesigned. On sale now with a 147 hp. motor, an increase of 37 percent from the previous Leaf. Range between recharges: 150 miles.

2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Sportscar, with 500 HP. On sale date n/a.

2019 Ram 1500. Full size pickup truck redesigned, made lighter, safer and longer. On sale now.

2019 Range Rover SV Coupe: New model added to lineup, on sale late this year.

Subaru Ascent: New three-row SUV. On sale summer.  

2019 Toyota Avalon: Redesigned large sedan. On sale late spring.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon: New flagship sedan replaces the smaller CC. Already on sale in Germany, due in the U.S. in the summer.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta: VW's best seller in the U.S., a compact is redesigned, made roomier inside. On sale summer

2019 Volvo V-60: Midsize station wagon redesigned, available with all-wheel drive and up to 316 hp. On sale early next year.  

*List does not include new models not yet shown publicly and for which photography was unavailable.

Sources: Vehicle manufacturers, Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.

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