The latest motor vehicle designs, technology and more are scattered among the new cars and trucks at this year’s Cleveland Auto Show that opens to the public today at the I-X Center.
“There’s over 1,000 brand new vehicles in this building,” said Lou Vitantonio, president of the Cleveland Auto Show and the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association. “It’s a low-pressure event where you can see a lot of vehicles.”
Joseph Dehner is partial to the latest Dodge and Ram vehicles — not a surprise because the Cleveland Institute of Art graduate and Indiana native is head of design for those Chrysler products.
“Basically, the Rams and the Dodges all fall under me,” Dehner said Friday during a media preview of the Chrysler vehicles. “I’ve been with Chrysler for 25 years. Chrysler was my first and only job.”
Ram is showing off its latest trucks, while the Chrysler display includes its new — and not yet available — 200 sedan and a 2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad.
Dehner said the latest contribution from his team that is on the floor at the auto show is the Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker.
“Dodge, it’s really like the fountain of youth. It’s fun to drive. It’s functional. It’s dramatic looking. It’s affordable,” he said. “We’re making attempts to do designs that are a little more timeless, not just fashion statements. More pure designs. And there’s a performance aspect, too.”
The Dodge brand is 100 years old this year, Dehner said. Muscle cars are one part of Dodge’s heritage that have stuck, he said.
“We are trying to redefine performance,” he said.
As for Ram, Dehner said his team has to design for customers that use their vehicles for work to ones who want something tough yet luxurious. He took his Ram design team to the Dallas and Fort Worth area of Texas, including the Texas State Fair, to get firsthand looks at how truck owners use their vehicles.
“I think it was a real eye opener for the designers,” he said.
There are plenty of other designs to see as well at the show.
Ford is displaying its new aluminum body F-150 pickup truck, the latest incarnation of the best-selling vehicle in the United States and one of the top sellers in Northeast Ohio. Options include an EcoBoost engine built at Ford’s Brook Park plant.
The redesigned pickup is about 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor, according to Ford.
“At the end of the day, we think what we are bringing to market really is the new standard in full-size pickups,” said Doug Scott, Ford truck marketing manager.
Ford also is displaying a 2015 50th anniversary Mustang. The Mustang and new F-150 go on sale late this year.
General Motors has a redesigned made-in-Lordstown Chevrolet Cruze model coming out, but that vehicle will make its debut in April at the New York Auto Show, not Cleveland.
“It’s a very important car for General Motors and very proudly built by our folks in Lordstown,” said Dora Nowicki, Chevrolet marketing manager for the Cruze. “Cruze has been in the marketplace since the 2010 model year. It’s a global platform.”
Chevrolet brought its newly redesigned Corvette Stingray and prominently displays a 2015 high performance Z06 ’Vette with a supercharged V8 engine.
Spring sales kickoff
The Cleveland Auto Show is considered the spring kickoff sales event for dealers in Northeast Ohio.
New vehicle sales have continued to grow, with 2013 turning in the strongest performance since the onset of the Great Recession.
Even with this winter’s relentless deep cold and snow, January sales also were higher than a year ago, according to the Cleveland dealers’ group. New car and truck sales totaled 19,053 in January, up 3.2 percent from 18,455 a year ago.
There are ride-and-drive events, including two indoor programs, one featuring Jeep vehicles and the other Ram trucks.
The show runs through March 9. Parking is free.
Tickets are $13 for adults; $11 for seniors 62 or older and for children ages 7 to 12. Children 6 or younger are admitted free.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.