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New models key to U.S. automakers' success

Buick Regal: This sporty midsized sedan must appeal to well-educated and affluent Lexus and Acura buyers or Buick’s future — and GM’s new four-brand strategy — looks shaky.

GM

Buick Regal: This sporty midsized sedan must appeal to well-educated and affluent Lexus and Acura buyers or Buick’s future — and GM’s new four-brand strategy — looks shaky.

Ford, GM and Chrysler all are showing positive signs, with lower costs and a recovering economy contributing to the good news this spring. The automakers' upcoming vehicles will determine whether they've really turned a corner. Here's a look at key models Ford, GM and Chrysler will introduce in the next year and their potential strengths and weaknesses. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press

Ford Fiesta: The first real test of Ford's plan to use global engineering for cars sold in the U.S. style. Advanced features and 40-mpg fuel economy make the Fiesta appealing, but how much will Americans pay for a subcompact Ford?

Ford Explorer: A 21st century replacement for the SUV that drove Ford's profits in the 1990s. Can the new Explorer combine high fuel economy with the room and capability that made the original a hit?

Chevrolet Cruze: GM's latest attempt to make money on a small car. The Cruze promises a 40-mpg EPA rating and near-midsized passenger room in a compact. It could be a hit, but GM must sell big numbers without the cut-rate pricing of previous compacts like the Chevy Cobalt and Cavalier.

Chevrolet Volt: The extended-range electric car could revolutionize the industry and change how the public sees GM. If the Volt succeeds, GM is a high-tech winner, and government assistance to save the company was a smart investment. Glitches will disastrously reinforce negative images of the company.

Jeep Grand Cherokee: The latest version of Jeep's upscale icon has looks, technology and prestige on its side. It must overcome a sense that SUVs are out of fashion and must generate cash to pay for investment in future Chrysler vehicles.

Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger: Striking new models of two great cars. They promise style, comfort and performance. Their biggest challenges may include fuel economy and consumer concern about Chrysler's survival.

Fiat 500: The first car Chrysler will build for its Italian partner, the 500 is a test of the automakers' alliance. Europeans love the funky little retro car. But Americans have neither Europe's history with the original post-World War II Fiat 500, nor its track record of buying cars 6 inches shorter than a Mini Cooper.

New models key to U.S. automakers' success 05/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 3:57pm]

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