Carmakers unveil new SUVs at New York auto show but also focus on electric vehicles

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Carmakers unveiled new sport utility vehicles (SUVs) at the New York car show on Wednesday (April 12), boosted by low fuel prices and increasing demand, but said they were also moving ahead with new US electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles for the US market.

Ford Motor Co showed off a redesigned Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV with an aluminum body that cuts nearly 90.72 kg off its weight.

Subaru Corp unveiled a concept seven-passenger Ascent SUV Concept, meanwhile, saying it planned to start selling the large SUV in 2018, and General Motors Co showed off a new larger seven-passenger Buick Enclave.

Not to be outdone, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV took the wraps off a new limited version of its Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, with 707 horsepower and a 6.2-litre V-8 engine, while Toyota Motor Corp showed off a concept SUV aimed at outdoorsy millennials called FT-4X for Future Toyota.

SUVs accounted for nearly 40 percent of total US vehicle sales in 2016, up from 32.6 per cent in 2014, as a growing number of Americans ditched cars for more fuel-thirsty larger vehicles.

President Donald Trump has said he will revisit strict 2022-2025 vehicle fuel efficiency requirements set by the Obama administration, a move that may reduce future requirements.

But after investing substantial sums in electric vehicles (EV), carmakers say they are not backing off their plans to compete in the EV market segment.

Ford alone is investing S$4.5 billion (S$6.3 billion) to introduce 13 new electric and hybrid vehicles over the next five years, chief executive officer Mark Fields told reporters at the New York show.

Honda Motor Co unveiled a new Clarity EV and plug-in hybrid version at the show and the Japanese carmaker said it sees electric or hybrid vehicles accounting for two thirds of all sales worldwide by 2030.

Nissan Motor Co, meanwhile, said it will unveil a new version of its electric Leaf later this year with a longer battery range than its current version.

Volkswagen, the world's biggest carmaker, said it will sell at least three new EVs by 2020, partly due to an agreement with California aimed at settling its diesel emissions cheating scandal.