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Curtains rise on '16 LA Auto Show

November 18, 2016
This is the year of calculated risks for the automakers at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Manufacturers are doubling down on what’s been working — investing in the compact crossover and SUV segments — but the recent strong market has freed them up to also develop halo products and variants that attract more of a niche audience. 
And while LA used to be known as the "green show," alternative fuel vehicles are scant, which isn’t a complete surprise given that it’s a crowded playing field with low levels of demand.
Among the highlights of the 10-day public show, which closes Nov. 27:
• Automakers see just how hot the compact crossover market has become and they can’t push out new products fast enough to meet the surging demand. With strong fuel economy, plenty of cargo space, surprising technology, and — most important — low starting prices, these vehicles check off some of the most important features that today’s car shoppers value most.
• Performance and high-end luxury cars are still considered a niche market, but it’s a niche market with more potential than perhaps ever before. Even as auto sales level off, if gas prices stay low and the economy stays strong there’s certainly room in the market for growth in these smaller volume segments. And as long as cars continue to be a hot status symbol in LA, this show is a popular launching pad for high-end automakers.
• California has long set the standard for alternative fuel vehicles, and there’s no indication Golden State car shoppers will cede that reputation anytime soon. After all, California has accounted for 35.2 percent of all EV and hybrid sales this year. (The next closest state is Florida, at 5.5 percent.) But while these cars have found a sweet spot here on the West Coast, their sales have stalled in the rest of the country. 
Better nationwide infrastructure is needed if plug-in cars have any chance of succeeding, but as long as gas prices remain low and Americans continue their love affair with SUVs, shoppers won’t have the urgency needed to make these vehicles really take off.