Detroit Auto Show Aims To Engage Consumers

Plenty of media attended the Jeep reveal.  Photo credit: Tanya Gazdik

Although my fellow automotive journalists were quick to bemoan the lack of news coming out of this year’s Detroit auto show, I’m equally quick to point out that, gasp, it’s not all about them.

I said basically the same thing after attending last year’s North American International Auto Show, the first held in September vs. the old January time slot: This show is absolutely perfect for its intended audience, which is consumers. There are a number of educational and experiential elements that show-goers will enjoy. 

Open to the public through Sept. 24, the downtown event marks the return of Tesla to the show for the first time in years. The electric vehicle pioneer is one of the manufacturers offering vehicles for rides on an indoor EV track along with BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC and Volkswagen. 

New vehicles on display include a majority from the Detroit Three, including the Cadillac Escalade IQ, Cadillac XT4, Ford F-150, GMC Acadia and Jeep Gladiator.

Hometown automaker Ford hosted a huge  evening event downtown adjacent to the show for a second year in a row. Last year it was to unveil the 2024 Mustang Stampede. This year, the automaker took the wraps off the 2024 Ford F-150 pickup truck. 

Available starting early 2024, the truck enhances the ability to tackle challenges with purposeful technology. It features a new design, including the new available Pro Access Tailgate, which swings open from the side to allow greater access to cargo. 

Ford created a 2 1/2-minute video to introduce the F-150’s many features. The automaker also took to a livestream on YouTube to broadcast the public reveal of the truck on Tuesday night. It has since been viewed 58,000 times. 

General Motors revealed two new vehicles, a refreshed and more advanced 2025 Cadillac CT5, and the 2024 GMC Acadia SUV, which is longer, wider and taller than its predecessor.

Production of the CT5 begins in the spring. It features a revised front fascia, and offers more standard comfort, safety and technology features, while also incorporating the brand’s 33-inch-diagonal LED color touchscreen display. 

The Acadia, expected to be available in early 2024, includes a portrait-oriented 15-inch-diagonal infotainment screen, available Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance feature and compatible Google built-in technology. 

Its larger size means more storage space and versatility — including nearly 80% more cargo space behind the third row and more than 36% more behind the second row, compared to the current generation.

Finally, Jeep unveiled the 2023 Jeep Gladiator, which offers a best in category up to 7,700 pounds max towing and up to 1,725 pounds max payload. A refined interior also includes  more technology and amenities, including available 12-way power adjustable front seats and all-new instrument panel with best-in-class standard 12.3-inch touchscreen.

Jeep parent Stellantis brought back its popular Camp Jeep track, which this year includes the tallest and steepest mountain in Detroit auto show history. The Ram Truck Territory test track will demonstrate the power and capability of Ram trucks, while a new Camp Jeep Kids’ Zone features new Jeep 4xe Power Wheels and a 26-foot climbing wall.

The start of the auto show corresponded with the beginning of a strike by the United Auto Workers against all three Detroit-area based automakers. 

While vehicle shortages could be an issue the longer the strike continues, UAW actions that cut or slow production aren’t always a bad thing for the automakers, at least not initially. 

The walkout at the Toledo Jeep factory will help Stellantis burn off 74 days worth of Jeep Wranglers and 188 days worth of Jeep Gladiator, according to S&P Global.

One thing I’m hoping for this year is some metrics about show attendance and attendee engagement. The show organizers declined to release attendance numbers last year, which left the media only to assume it was down significantly from the show’s last pre-pandemic appearance in January 2019.

Like many things, the pandemic has permanently changed the purpose of auto shows and where and how automakers choose to conduct new vehicle reveals. That’s not necessarily bad, as long as you understand the context and the goals. 

The Cadillac press conference was equally well attended. Photo credit: Tanya Gazdik

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