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Detroit Unveils Products, Predicts Another Strong Year

Ford revealed its new Taurus and Chrysler previewed a car for the MTV generation Tuesday as dozens of automakers joined the annual pitch for today’s products and tomorrow’s concepts at the North American International Auto Show.

“You’d better get your passports up to date if you want to keep up with us,” said Edward Hagenlocker, automotive operations president of Ford Motor Co. He spoke on the first of three days of media events at the show, which opens to the public Saturday.

The events Tuesday included the formal introduction of the 1996 replacement for the Ford Taurus, the country’s best-selling car.

Fireworks, flames and explosions set against an arena-wide rising globe were backdrops for the Ford event. It is the first all-new Taurus since the car appeared in 1985 and captivated midsize car buyers with its rounded, aerodynamic shape.

Other briefings Tuesday were heavy on so-called concept cars, the vehicles that sometimes end up as real future products and sometimes as designers’ follies.

“If these production vehicles are the hardware … these concept cars are the dreams that spawned them,” said Arthur C. Liebler, Chrysler Corp. vice president for marketing and communications, at a session where the Plymouth Back Pack concept car was shown.

The Back Pack, a mini-pickup type vehicle, was designed for the California lifestyles of the MTV generation. The video that introduced it wouldn’t have looked out of place on the allmusic cable channel’s offbeat sports programs.

There was also seriousness mixed with the spectacle:

Economists for the Big Three domestic automakers told Wall Street analysts they expected 1995 to be another year of booming sales for the industry, with estimates ranging from 15.6 million to 16.2 million vehicles. The 1994 total for the industry, to be reported later this week, is expected to be at least 15 million vehicles, up from 14.2 million in 1993.

Michael Dale, head of North American operations for Ford subsidiary Jaguar, said the British carmaker was “obviously on track from the point of view of the business plan” after losing money since the decade began. Ford Chairman Alex Trotman said Jaguar lost money again in 1994, but Ford officials said this year is expected to be profitable.

Dale said Jaguar’s U.S. sales were expected to total more than 15,000 for 1994, an increase of nearly 20 percent from 1993.

Other companies showed off concept cars that ranged from Buick’s 150 mph, voice controlled, no-hands driving XP2000 dream car to Acura’s CL-X, a luxury sports coupe that will become a new Acura model to be built in the United States - the first car built here by the luxury division of Honda.

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