"Buon giorno," Press said in his best Italian, before turning to the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The relatively practical nature of this year's New York show reflects the state of the U.S. auto industry. Chrysler and General Motors are on life support thanks to government loans. The rest of the industry is facing the U.S. recession and the worst auto sales since the 1970s. Most car companies don't have the money to invest in a concept car that amounts to a trial balloon.
Even the futuristic-looking Hyundai Nuvis Concept, which debuted in New York, is probably fairly close to how a future crossover from Hyundai will look, in terms of size and shape.
A crossover gets its name from the fact that it combines features from different product segments, such as a high seating position like an SUV; a one-piece body, like a car, instead of a body bolted on a frame, like a traditional pickup truck; and two or three rows of seats, like a minivan. Some are longer and lower, like a station wagon. Others are shorter and higher, like an SUV. Other examples include the Mazda CX-9 and the Ford Edge. Mazda displayed a face-lifted Mazda CX-9 in New York.
The Hyundai Nuvis Concept has oversize "gull-wing" doors hinged at the top, so big that they also provide access to the rear seats. The doors look good, but they will probably get dropped on a production car since they're expensive to produce and not that practical.
Customers would worry about the doors hitting the car next to them, and the lack of a central B-pillar would mean that the rest of the car and the roof would have to be beefed up to provide safety in rollovers and side impacts.
It's a sign of the times that South Korean brands Hyundai and Kia were headliners at the New York show, instead of the U.S. domestic manufacturers or even the biggest import brands. Kia, which built its U.S. reputation on inexpensive cars, debuted the Kia Forte Koup in New York. Kia and Hyundai belong to the Hyundai Group. They're gaining market share, while sales stagnate for the rest of the market.