The new Jeep Gladiator is already the hit of the Los Angeles Auto Show—before the event is even open to the general public.
In a mashup that is surely made in heaven for many fans of Fiat Chrysler’s most popular brand, the company unveiled a new Jeep-branded, mid-size pickup truck in the press preview for the show, meant as another way to extend the Jeep franchise while complementing FCA’s Ram full-size pickup truck line.
With sales of the new Gladiator—and its distinctive Jeep grill—the company will be tapping into the continued explosive growth of the Jeep brand as well as returning Fiat Chrysler to the mid-size pickup truck market that it abandoned seven years ago. General Motors first proved there was still room for a mid-size truck that is priced below full-size versions a few years ago with its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and Ford is set to re-enter the segment next year with a new Ranger.
Meantime, Gladiator wowed the automotive press with its sales potential and its remarkable allegiance to styling like that of the Jeep Wrangler, with fully removable doors and a folding windshield.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles, these brands are helping prove that traditional car shows, while recently fading in importance, still are a great stage for wowing the industry. Here’s a sampling of reveals:
Audi:Audi is showcasing all-new versions of its Audi A8, Audi A7 and Audi A6 sedans, and the all-new Audi Q8, which are now on sale at dealerships. And following its global debut in September, Audi has staged the fully electric Audi e-tron in Los Angeles.
Honda: The mainstream-market mainstay introduced an all-new, five-passenger, mid-sized SUV called Honda Passport, which will go on sale in early 2019. Honda said that Passport “provides a unique combination of on-road driving refinement and off-road adventure capability along with best-in-class interior space.”
Lincoln: The Ford-owned luxury brand formally unveiled its own new Lincoln Aviator, a three-row SUV that brings back a nameplate from several years ago. Lincoln is a full participant in the rush to utility vehicles as its sedan sales lag.
Porsche: The performance-car icon introduced the eighth generation of its iconic 911 model at the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles on the eve of the show. It delivers 443 horsepower in the S versions and features automated-driving advances such as the Porsche Wet Mode for increased driver awareness on wet roads.
Toyota: The brand revealed a first-ever hybrid edition of its 53-year-old Corolla nameplate, something sure to excite California buyers more than anybody else in the country. Toyota also announced new all-wheel-drive versions of its Prius hybrid, giving the nation’s top-selling line of hybrids a new performance capability that is increasingly coveted by US consumers.
Volkswagen: The German company delivered a gadget kit of things including a zero-emissions panel van concept that offers up to 340 miles of range and its first electric bike in North America, called Cargo e-Bike. There’s also the auto show debut of the last version for the historic Beetle franchise, Beetle Final Edition, representing the third generation of the car, which is set to end production in 2019 after it began in the mid-Twentieth Century.