Industry To Get Real In The Motor City
The North American International Auto Show tends to be less fantastical and more practical than just about any other auto show in the circuit. The Tokyo show, for example, is visionary to an almost hallucinatory degree. Los Angeles has a hip, scintillating progressiveness to it with a focus on new powertrain technology The Detroit show, by contrast, is down to Earth, reflecting a more pragmatic response to consumer demand and market dynamics, and, of course, old-fashioned, all-American muscle, the sort of feeling exploited to some extent by Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" campaign.
Thus, next week General Motors Chevrolet will be unveiling the new Corvette, and will also debut the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado pickups. Ford will show its F-150 pickup concept, which is (probably) going to launch next year. Honda will show a compact crossover and Corolla concept.
The luxury brands will also go pragmatic, with models meant to address the lower end of the market, as premium makes battle it out for new customers to lower the median age of their owners and steal share. Mercedes will the show the CLA concept, BMW is 4-Series, and Infiniti will show its first car bearing the new "Q" nomenclature replacing the G37. Lexus will show the IS 250, bringing back the IS nameplate that launched in the U.S. around 2001 to lure younger, performance-oriented buyers to the brand, those who saw Lexus as staid and bland.
In a phone press conference, Edmunds industry Jessica Caldwell discussed what the show says about where the business is going this year. "The overall mood will be good because of last month's high note, and you'd have to go back to the ’80's to see a year with such big change [versus the previous year]," she said.
Indeed, the show will reveal 55 new vehicles of which 41 are global debuts, up more than 30% from 42 vehicles in 2012, notes Edmunds, which says infotainment will be another focus this year.
As for the Corvette: while it's an American icon, it's of course a niche vehicle and older skewing in relation to other high performance vehicles, including Cadillac's CTS V, said Caldwell. "I think that is something that needs to be addressed at some point: car companies need to appeal to a broader demographic and that needs to be addressed with new Corvette."
The other biggie at the show will be Cadillac's version of the Chevy Volt electric, the Cadillac ELR, first shown as a concept in 2009. Caldwell said it's a good time for such vehicles as electrics had their best month, with sales up 37%. "This will bring excitement to the Cadillac brand, something different." She also said (news to me) that a lot of observers thought Volt should have been a Cadillac to start with, "So people are happy that Cadillac will finally have a version."
And SUV's will have a big place in the show, with Chrysler's Jeep division showing off the new Grand Cherokee, with a caveat: it's a diesel version. "That vehicle has been a real catalyst of Chrysler's turnaround and has consistently been one of their top vehicles." We'll see how ready Americans are for Europe's fuel of choice (or necessity).