November 26, 2017 / 1:13 PM / 19 days ago

Automakers struggle with the future in Los Angeles

DETROIT (Reuters) - Car manufacturers’ attempts to square what U.S. consumers want against the clean vehicles regulators and investors demand will be on display in Los Angeles this week at an auto show that has moved away from calling itself just an auto show.

FILE PHOTO: People look at a Lexus LF-C2 concept vehicle on display during the model's world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni /File Photo

Automakers on Monday will begin previewing new models for the media at an event called AutoMobility LA, reflecting an emphasis on digital technology and new ways to get around, such as self-driving cars. On Friday, the Los Angeles Auto Show will open to the public for 10 days, attracting visitors from one of the world’s most affluent and culturally influential metropolitan markets.

For now, self-driving cars are not ready for consumers, and sales of the battery-powered vehicles demanded by California regulators remain marginal and money-losing. Profits are generated by gasoline-fueled sport utility vehicles and trucks.

Automakers caught between the petroleum past and the digital future will send muddled messages.

Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE will try to replace memories of the diesel emissions cheating scandal that tarnished its image with many California customers by promoting its $40 billion wave of electric vehicles.

In the next breath, the German automaker will tout its gasoline-fueled Audi A8 large luxury sedan, which can pilot itself under limited circumstances but is out of step with a market where buyers are switching to sport utility vehicles.

Rivals overshadowed by electric vehicle pioneer Tesla Inc TSLA.O are in a quandary, too. Despite a booming stock market, sales for luxury brands BMW, Daimler AG’s DAIGn.DE Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp’s 7203.T Lexus are down for the first 10 months of 2017.

BMW AG BMWG.DE is expected to roll out new versions of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. But for those not interested in electrification, the company will use the show to promote a high-performance version of its 5 Series sedan.

Tata Motors TAMO.NS unit Jaguar Land Rover will accompany its new gasoline-powered Range Rover SVAutobiography, billed as the “pinnacle” of a lineup that already has models priced above $100,000, with its first plug-in hybrid Range Rovers.

At AutoMobility LA, auto and technology industry executives will debate how ride-sharing, self-driving vehicles and electric cars will shape the future. At the auto show itself, the stars will be gasoline-burning SUVs, such as the Subaru Ascent, a large, three-row SUV from a brand known for compact, all-wheel-drive cars.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV FCHA.MI will unveil a new Jeep Wrangler with styling that still harks back to the trusty vehicles that helped the United States win World War Two.

Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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