Yee-haw! The General Lee, a 1969 Dodge Charger from the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show, will be joined by hundreds of 2006 vehicles as well as previews of 2007 models at the annual New Jersey Auto Show all week in the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus. Characters like Dora the Explorer and Jimmy Neutron and sports stars like Mark Gastineau will also be bouncing around the 100,000 square feet of show floor space at the Plaza Drive facility from Jan. 21 to 29. “We have been producing auto expo shows in the Meadowlands since 1990,” said spokesman Cliff Locks last week. “It’s the oldest show at the facility, and has something for everyone. It is a convenient and customer-friendly environment to shop for vehicles, and kids can see sports stars and have their picture taken with cartoon characters and super heroes.”
Crossovers and hybrids
The buzz this season in the automotive field is around crossover and hybrid vehicles, Locks said. Crossovers bridge the gap between cars, minivans and SUVs by offering “truck-like abilities with car-like rides.”
“These are the hot items this season,” said Director of Sales and Marketing John Orlo. “With this year’s new products, the lines begin to blur between cars, minivans and SUVs.”
Orlo, who works International Automotive Showcase, Inc., in Long Island, said that after the sports utility vehicles burst on the scene in the 1990s, they were extremely popular.
Between 1987 and 1997, there was an increase of 118 percent of minivans, 107 percent increase of SUVs and 24 percent of pickup trucks registered in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
These and other nationwide statistics prompted business savvy manufacturers to introduce models with all the creature comforts of passenger cars. This includes heat-controlled leather seats, fold over seats, more cargo space, and a smoother and more stable ride.
“The trend started about three to four years ago and introduced a whole new segment into the market,” said Orlo. “SUVs were originally built on a pick up truck platform (read: bumpy ride). Now manufacturers are putting more powerful engines and better suspension systems into their crossover models.”
There will be crossover models on view at the auto show. For example, Orlo said the Dodge Magnum is lower to the ground than other SUVs, and is “low slung,” meaning the wheel bridge is wider apart so you can “feel the road more.”
The Ford Explorer has anti-rollover mechanisms, as well as a more powerful V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
For those interested in Hybrids, these models are save on gas and reduce tailpipe emissions. Hybrids combine electric motors with petroleum-burning engines to increase mileage.
“Hybrids use an engine propulsion system (engine and battery). Cars that historically get 15 to 20 miles per gallon, can get 30 to 50 miles per gallon as a hybrid,” said Orlo.
The Prius, Toyota’s best-selling hybrid vehicle, came out in 1997. The 2006 version will be on display at the auto show. The Prius has a gas engine and an emissions-free electric motor and is said by its manufacturers to need only three tanks of gas to go 650 miles.
Fun for the whole family
Locks said there are factory representatives and spokespeople for over 30 domestic and import manufacturers answering questions in a no-pressure atmosphere at the weeklong event. Models are available for inspection, and potential clients can get up close and personal with their favorite vehicle.
“Showgoers can go from one manufacturer to the next while comparing notes with family members,” Locks said. “There are other fun things to do for the whole family.”
Famous movie cars like the General Lee, a 1969 Dodge Charger from the Dukes of Hazzard movie, will be on display as well as the souped-up 1967 Pontiac GTO from “XXX: State of the Union” (which stars Ice Cube of hip-hop fame). The GTO has a $25,000 paint job that changes colors as well as a hybrid rocket engine.
Sport Celebrities will also be on hand. Carl Banks and Ottis Anderson from the New York Giants, Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau from the New York Jets, and others are scheduled to attend.
For the youngsters, there will be “The Thing” from The Fantastic Four movie and Nickelodeon characters Jimmy Neutron and Dora the Explorer to greet fans and pose for photos.
Admission for adults is $8, and children from 4 to 11 are $4. Parking is free at the Meadowlands Exposition Center. For more information call (201) 223-1000 or visit the website http://www.autoexpo.com/nj.htm .