The all-new 2014 Chevrolet SS performance sedan is Chevrolet's first...

The all-new 2014 Chevrolet SS performance sedan is Chevrolet's first rear wheel drive performance sedan in 17 years. Credit: Handout

The New York International Auto Show comes to town this week, with performance taking the driver's seat, luxury riding shotgun and practicality sitting in back.

The roster of cars and trucks being shown at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for the first time anywhere -- or at least the first time in North America -- reflects renewed industry optimism amid gradually rising employment, a slowly growing economy and a strong stock market. That optimism comes despite the "sequester," automatic federal budget cuts, and an increase in Social Security payroll taxes.

The new models include a redesigned Chevrolet Corvette convertible, and new cars and sport utility vehicles from Porsche, Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Cadillac and, for one percenters, Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

"The mood of the industry has changed dramatically over the past year," said George Magliano, senior auto economist with IHS Inc., an economic consulting company based in Englewood, Colo.

The reason: rising sales in the United States. February's were 4 percent higher than a year earlier, in units, running at an annualized rate of 15.36 million vehicles, the trade paper Automotive News said. That's up from 14.47 million the same month a year ago.

Full recovery for the American auto industry from the recession now seems in sight. Sales totaled 16.5 million in 2006, the year before the downturn began. "Sales have chugged up to that 15 million-plus rate," said Magliano.

IHS is forecasting a full recovery to 16.5 million units by 2018.

On Long Island, new-vehicle registrations rose by 11.5 percent in January from the same month in the previous year, said auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co. February numbers aren't in yet.

For all of last year, registrations rose by 9.9 percent over the total for 2011, to 202,588, Polk said, with a significant boost from the replacement of vehicles destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

The New York Auto Show, timed to coincide with the spring selling season, is the nation's best attended, drawing more than a million visitors. It has grown in importance and become a news generator; more than 7,000 writers, photographers and other media personnel were registered to cover last year's two-day press preview. Organizers at the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association say the show has a $250-million impact on New York metro area business.

More than 1,000 vehicles are scheduled to be on display over 846,000 square feet at Javits during the show's media preview Wednesday and Thursday, and on 10 public days, which begin Friday.

Vehicles being shown for the first time anywhere include the 2014 Corvette Stingray convertible. The hardtop was introduced in January in Detroit; both go on sale in the summer. Long Islanders were driving more than 10,400 post-1974 Corvettes as of April 2011, according to an auto census done for Newsday by Polk.

The Porsche is a GT3, redesigned for 2014 and due near the end of this year at $130,000.

The Bentley is the redesigned Flying Spur four-seat convertible, and the new Rolls is the Wraith, a coupe, expected to cost about $300,000.

The Range Rover is a redesigned Sport. Jaguar is adding two performance versions to its XJ sedan and XK Coupe lines.

The Cadillac is the redesigned CTS, the division's midsize model that begins around $40,000. It goes on sale in October.

The new Mercedes is the CLA 45 AMG, similar to the CLA 250, an effort by the German automaker to lure younger buyers into its showrooms with a sticker price starting just under $30,000. The 250 goes on sale in September, the 45 AMG in November at a price not yet announced.

Long Island's best-selling luxury make last year was Mercedes-Benz, with more than 10,600 new ones registered. BMW and Lexus ran second and third, according to Polk.

While the sizzle of sport and luxury will predominate among the estimated 60 models getting their world or North American debuts, there will also be autos offering something more like steak. Long Island's favorite brand, after all, is non-luxury Honda; more than 27,800 new ones were registered last year.

New offerings also include redesigned versions of the Buick Regal and LaCrosse, due at dealerships in the summer; the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and Golf GTI, due early next year; an SUV from Jeep that reprises the name "Cherokee," replaces the Liberty and goes on sale in the fall; and the Chevrolet SS -- a V-8 powered, rear-drive sedan mechanically related to the short-lived Pontiac G8 that was sourced from GM's Holden unit in Australia.

Also scheduled to be shown are a redesigned Toyota Highlander SUV, Acura MDX midsize SUV, a refreshed Honda Odyssey minivan, a new Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid and an Infiniti QX60 Hybrid SUV. Kia is promising three new production cars, and Dodge was promising a new Durango SUV, but neither carmaker was releasing any details in advance of the show. Volvo plans to unveil sportier "R" versions of its S60 and XC60.

Some of the cars and trucks on display will be "concept" vehicles, which often hint at future production models -- sometimes not so subtly. One such is the "Honda Urban SUV," previewing a wagon smaller than the CR-V, based on the Fit subcompact and due in showrooms some time next year.

The Lincoln MKC concept SUV shares basics with the Ford Escape and is expected to reach dealerships next year.

And despite this year's emphasis on performance and luxury, $4-a-gallon gasoline remains on automakers' minds. Mercedes will be showing its B Class Electric Drive, a small car due in showrooms early next year.

BMW is showing a new plug-in hybrid, the Concept Active Tourer, a compact with a three-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor. And Subaru will show its first hybrid, a variant of the XV Crosstrek.

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