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Buffalo Auto Show spotlight is on fuel efficient vehicles Five-day event starts at 11 a.m. Wednesday

With gasoline prices climbing again, this week's Buffalo Auto Show has a timely theme: fuel efficient vehicles.

Across the industry, hybrids are attracting more attention and automakers are trying to tap into drivers' renewed interest in fuel economy.

"The show's a catalyst for thoughts," said Paul Stasiak, president of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, which organizes the show. "It makes people think about their driving."

About 285 vehicles, from fuel sippers to dream machines, will be displayed in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The five-day showcase begins at 11 a.m. on Wednesday in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Tickets are $8 at the door, with children under 8 admitted free. Discount tickets are available at Tops Markets and for $6.50. Family passes for four cost $20 at Tops.

Each year the show aims for a slightly different theme to keep things fresh. Fuel efficiency has commanded greater attention over the past year, with consumers trying to spend less at the pump.

The Buffalo Auto Show competes with other auto shows to display some of the most sought-after new-production vehicles and concept cars. Several other cities' auto shows overlap Buffalo's dates, and there are only so many cars to go around.

Among the vehicles in this year's lineup will be the 2007 Ford Edge, a "crossover" vehicle significant to Buffalo Niagara's economy: it will be assembled in Oakville, Ont., and will provide abundant new work for Ford's stamping plant in Hamburg.

Dodge plans to bring its Charger and Caliber; Ford plans to display a 2007 Shelby Mustang GT 500 and Sport Trac.

Plenty of hybrids will be available for up-close inspection, including Chevy's Silverado, Honda's Insight and hybrid versions of its Accord and Civic, and Toyota's Prius and Highlander hybrid. The show will also have some concept vehicles, including the Jeep Hurricane and the DaimlerChrysler ME Four-Twelve "super car."

Buffalo area dealers look to the car show each February to help jump-start new vehicle sales, by stimulating interest in what they have on their lots.

U.S. automakers Ford and General Motors have endured well-publicized struggles in the past several months, but each reported improvements in their U.S. sales in January.

Meanwhile, foreign brands such as Toyota have gained ground in the U.S. market, and have left the American brands struggling to catch up in categories such as hybrids. Last week, GM announced it would build two SUVS, the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, with advanced hybrid technology.

The Buffalo auto show is trying to align its show with the greater interest in fuel economy, Stasiak said. "We've been trying to get the dealers to train their people about the latest and greatest in fuel efficiency."

Beyond the vehicles, the show will also emphasize fuel-conservation tips such as proper tire inflation and routine oil changes, he said.

The Buffalo Auto Show also offers diversions for non-car enthusiasts, such as appearances by Curious George; Wellness Lane, a new kids room created by Fisher-Price; and tie-ins with the Winterfest celebration taking place outside.

"I think it gives them a second reason to come," Stasiak said.


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