SAN FRANCISCO -- The 56th San Francisco International Auto Show opens Thanksgiving morning with 38 manufacturers showing off more than 600 cars, SUVs, trucks and concept vehicles.
One of the Bay Area's two big stops for auto enthusiasts -- the Silicon Valley International Auto Show takes place Jan. 9-12 -- the San Francisco event offers cars for everyone, from high-performance sports cars to electric vehicles to a "Sponge Bob"-themed SUV.
Among the offerings from GM will be its next-generation 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Stingray, which this month was named Automobile of the Year by Automobile Magazine. The new Corvette is completely redesigned, except for two parts -- a cabin filter and a roof latch.
It comes with a $52,000 base price. An optional $3,000 Z51 performance upgrade allows the driver to switch through five different performance modes and adjust a dozen functions -- from steering to brakes to exhaust -- that "transform the Corvette from a good track car to an amazing performance car," said GM spokesman Shad Balch.
On the new electric vehicle luxury end of GM's lineup, the Cadillac ELR represents that brand's first plug-in electric vehicle. It's essentially the same four-seat, two-door coupe concept car that Cadillac unveiled at the San Francisco auto show two years ago.
"It was so well received that we put the car into production without hardly changing anything to the design," Balch said. "San Francisco's going to be a critically important market for that car. We expect it to do well there."
In between the Corvette and EV Cadillac, GM will have the next generations of some of its best-selling trucks and SUVs -- the 2014 models of the Chevrolet Silverado HD (heavy duty), GMC Sierra and Sierra HD -- and even 2015 models of the GMC Yukon and longer Yukon XL, along with the 2015 Suburban and Tahoe.
While the show bills itself as the largest exhibition of any kind in Northern California, show director Kevin Diamond declined to estimate the attendance expected at this year's show at the Moscone Convention Center.
Another domestic automaker, Ford, will have its 2014 Fiesta, which offers a one-liter, three-cylinder engine powered by its popular "EcoBoost" technology that gives the Fiesta 45 mpg on the freeway, Ford spokesman Robert Louisell said.
By 2015, Ford plans to expand its fuel-efficient EcoBoost technology to 95 percent of its fleet.
Along with its trucks, Ford continues to dominate the commercial van market. At this year's auto show, Ford will offer the American version of the seven-passenger Transit Connect commercial van that's been popular in Europe for a decade.
The U.S. version is longer and beefier and is designed as either a commercial people hauler or a delivery van.
Among the other automakers attending is Acura, which will present its 2014 luxury, all-wheel-drive hybrid sedan that will represent Acura's "new flagship" when it goes on sale next spring, spokesman Chris Martin said.
It's based on Acura's existing four-door, two-wheel drive luxury RLX sedan but has been re-engineered as the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. The "SH" stands for "super handling" because the RLX uses three electric motors in addition to its gas-powered engine, which drives the front wheels. One of the electric motors, located in the transmission, also can operate the front wheels while two more in the back independently control each of the two rear wheels, giving the driver the option to run in four-wheel drive or spin one rear tire faster than the other for high-performance handling, Martin said.
The hybrid gets 28 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway and 30 combined. "That's unheard of for a sedan with 377 horsepower," Martin said.
Acura has not announced sale prices, but they likely will be more than the current price of the RLX, which ranges from $48,450 to $60,450, Martin said.
Acura's sister company, Honda, which remains a distant second behind Toyota in California car sales, will display its all-new 2014 hybrid Accord, which gets 50 mpg in the city, Martin said.
"It's the newest big thing. The two-motor hybrid powertrain is all new for Honda," Martin said, adding it also gets 45 mph on the highway for a combined 47 mpg. Prices start at $29,155 and go up to $34,905.
Honda also will show its updated 2014 Odyssey minivan, which includes an optional built-in vacuum cleaner stored in the back.
Honda's 2014 Civic coupe and sedan also are getting new looks, more power and transmission upgrades that offer better fuel performance.
All of the new models offered by the competition impress California's No. 1 car seller, Toyota, which also produces its sister brands, Lexus and Scion.
"Competition makes us better," said Briana Nelson, assistant general manager for Toyota's San Francisco region. "If you're winning everything and you're on top and sit back and relax, you're going to get passed. We have to stay on our toes. We have to keep looking at things differently."
So Toyota has upgraded several of its standard bearers for 2014, including the 11th generation of its popular Corolla.
"It's definitely a dependable car, but it's now exciting," Nelson said. "It's a lot sportier, to go after that younger market buying their car for the looks."
For under $30,000, Toyota's 2014 Highlander SUV also has been overhauled with a redesigned interior and longer and wider exterior that seats up to eight people.
While the previous generation Highlander tended to have a bit of a bubble design, the new version is streamlined and classier, Nelson said.
"People will be surprised by the poshness of the vehicle," Nelson said
At the auto show, Toyota also will display a special "Sponge Bob"-themed Highlander aimed at families with young children.
Toyota also has upgraded the next generation 2014 Tundra truck with a beefier front.
The third-generation Tundra "has the same guts but is more chiseled," Nelson said.
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.
Runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at Moscone Convention Center
Admission is $10 for adults; children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult
Tickets can be purchased at the door. For more information go to www.sfautoshow.com.