US: even small automakers make good impression at NAIAS image

A couple of smaller automakers outside of the main hall also made heads turn at NAIAS, even though they didn’t have the space the Big 3 and their Asian and European competitors do at the auto show.

Through a partnership with General Motors, one of them, VIA Motors, a manufacturer and developer of electrified trucks, SUVs and full-size vans; removes the transmissions, starters and alternators from Chevrolet Silverados, Suburbans and Express Vans and replaces them with the same technology you can find in a Chevy Volt.

VIA hopes to overcome a longstanding concern that electrifying larger vehicles results in lost acceleration, torque and towing capacity, said Diana MacArthur, VIA Motors’ director of dealer networks.

The move toward electrifying trucks and SUVs could dramatically shrink the carbon blueprint for these traditional gas-guzzlers. For example, a crew cab pickup on display in Cobo’s basement advertises it can get up to 100 mpg. An optional solar panel lid for the flat bed adds an additional hour of battery life for every hour it sits under the sun, MacArthur added.

VIA Motors, founded in 2008, has made the rounds at auto shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and early this month made headlines when the privately held company announced it won business worth $80 million from Sun Country Highway, which wants to offer electric vehicles and charging stations to hotels.

Another head-turner in the lobby, VL Automotive, also pays homage to Motor City craftsmanship, this time by adding style and power to the heart of a Chevrolet Corvette.

Advertised as a car “with a luxurious body style and the heart of an American sports car,” VL’s Destino Concept is geared toward the Lamborghini and Ferrari super car enthusiasts, said Gabriel Villarreal, the son of one of the owners, Gilbert Villarreal.
The company based its Destino Concept on a Fisker Karma but smoothed out the front and rear and features the engine and drive train of a Corvette ZR1.

The GM connection for these new automakers perhaps has something to do with their links to Bob Lutz, former GM Vice Chairman, who sits on the board of directors for VIA and is the co-founder who put the L in VL Automotive.