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International Auto Show rolls into town

The 2013 San Diego International Auto Show will motor in Thursday through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center.

Kevin Leap, the show’s director, said the nearly century-old event showcasing the upcoming model year, will feature more than 400 vehicles ranging from customized Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris to muscle cars, the latest hybrids and plug-in vehicles.

“Porsche and Land Rover are with now with us as well, which they hadn’t been in the (recent) past,” Leap said.

Leap declined to reveal the number of attendees nor the projected sales figures, but expects a 10 to 20 percent increase in attendees and ticket sales this year over last based on generally improved auto sales during the past year.

With the number of hybrids and plug-in vehicles increasing with each passing year, the show has dedicated an entire section of its Convention Center space to what is being called the Eco Center.

With everything from Chevy Tahoes to S-Class Mercedes hybrid vehicles and plug-ins such as The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, Leap was asked if, in 15 years, everything will be a hybrid or a plug-in car.

He said the recent advances notwithstanding, there will always be a place for the standard internal combustion engine.

“The challenge is always going to be how far (plug-ins) will be able to go on a charge,” Leap said. “There will be room for each of these types of vehicles.”

Auto Show spokeswoman Amy Foley added that this test drive program will be the largest of its kind in the United States this year.

Brands represented this year will include Buick; Cadillac; Chrysler (including Dodge, Fiat and Ram); Chevrolet; Ford; GMC; Honda; Jeep (Camp Jeep); Kia; Lincoln; Nissan; Toyota; and Volkswagen.

Foley says people want the showroom experience, in addition to the opportunity to evaluate numerous brands in one location.

Leap, who said the show includes a heavily customized Ford Mustang valued at $350,000, said most of the vehicles are in a much more affordable range.

The show is roughly equally divided between American and foreign cars.

This year the event will feature a section called Mobility Zone, where physically disabled drivers can test out the latest advances in technology and equipment that will allow them to be more independent.

“Our show is about transportation, and we believe that access to transportation should have no limits,” Leap said. “We like to say that this show has something for everyone, and the Mobility Zone is a prime example.”

The Mobility Zone will feature new, modified vehicles that accommodate disabled drivers, including models from Chrysler and Ford.

The exhibit will also include an adapted Jeep Wrangler and other off-road vehicles.

The event is presented by the New Car Dealers Association of San Diego County (NCDA), which represents the majority of new car and truck dealers in the region.

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