Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shanghai and Highlights of the 2014-15 Auto Show Season


Alexander Carabitses

Part 1: Auto Shanghai 2015

Shanghai, China held the final major auto show in the auto show season of 2014-2015.  And what did the U.S. market gain from it?  Nothing except 6 production car unveils, compiled with 2 or 3 concept car introductions.  And in case you were wondering if this auto show really is insignificant to every other market except China, just go on the U.S. websites of the brands that unveiled new U.S. bound vehicles at the show.  I'm serious, just check their future vehicles pages and with the exception of BMW and Mercedes, there is absolutely nothing.

That's the Chinese market in a nutshell.  Automakers have different product cycles in China (a perfect example is the facelift of the current Chinese market Chevy Malibu; they don't get the new one that was unveiled in New York).  While I'm at it, I should mention that there are Chinese specific segments, such as this oddball sedan segment, which consists of cars sized between compact and midsize; picture a car that's sized between the compact Toyota Corolla and the midsize Camry, and you're right on track.  I guess we now officially know what it feels like for Europeans when they hear about the latest pickup truck unveilings in Detroit, they just don't give a shit and they shouldn't.

For years, the only people in the U.S. and Europe who seemed to give a crap about the Chinese car market were those who ran the car companies themselves, as it should be.  Up until recently, it seemed like the media only reported on the Chinese market, when talking about the massive growth of the industry in the country, or when reporting a forced tie-up between a foreign automaker and a Chinese automaker.  Did the automotive community really care about the Beijing and Shanghai auto shows? No, not even slightly.  If you were to go on the websites of many automotive magazines, they still don't have any Chinese auto show listed under their "auto shows" tab; if anything there was only 1 debut for the U.S. or European markets to care about a few years ago, but now that's changed.  The amount of debuts that are significant to the U.S., European, and Japanese markets is growing.  This year we hit about 9 vehicle introductions that are relevant to us, and that number could grow in the next few years, depending on how much the Chinese car market grows.

So what were these new vehicle introductions? Let's have a look.

Ford unveiled the all-new Taurus... well all-new for China (seeing as how the nameplate has never been sold in the country before).  Is it technically all-new? Yes, but there have been major modifications for the Chinese market.  While it was expected that the new Taurus would be longer than before, it is extra long in China, because people with money like to be chauffeured.  It also features reclining rear seats and shit like that, of which our Taurus will never get.  By the way, the new design, which is a combination of handsome and boring, won't change.   Buick unveiled an all-new Verano, which looks good from the front, and atrocious from all other angles; it clearly looks designed by the Chinese for the Chinese.  In case you were wondering, that's a bad thing; the Chinese either plagiarize designs, or come up with something original that looks so bad, that you wish they plagiarized instead.  I'm blaming this on the design schools in China, because there are certainly chinese Americans designing cars in the U.S. and Europe, so it is by no mens a cultural thing.  Unfortunately, I'm thinking that the design of the new Verano could stay the same when it goes on sale here in a few years, but who knows, maybe I'll have warmed up to it by then.

Cadillac unveiled the new CT6 PHEV, which is exactly what its name implies, a CT6 plug-in hybrid.  By the way, I have proof through live photos from the car's unveiling that the design is carry over from the regular CT6.  Moving away from the domestics, a former semi-domestic brand showed off an interesting vehicle: Volvo.  Called the XC90 Excellence, this new SUV should give the Range Rover SVAutobigraphy a run for it's money, and although it hasn't been confirmed, sources are hinting that it could go on sale in North America.  Meanwhile, Lexus was at it again, as they unveiled a face lifted version of the ES and the ES Hybrid.  BMW ended its disappointing auto show season by teasing the new 7-Series, and not actually unveiling it.  They also revealed the new BMW X5 xDrive40e, which is also a completely stupid way of saying X5 Plug-in Hybrid.

There was a pair of important concept car unveilings, both of which came from German luxury brands. The first was the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe Concept.  Al you need to know is that it's a thinly veiled version of their BMW X4 rival, and it looks awful.  The second was the Audi Prologue Allroad Concept, which is like the other Prologue concepts, with the only differences being a higher ride hight and a new powertrain.  And what better way to wrap things up than with a new super-car unveiling from McLaren.  This time, they unveiled the 540C, which is a "less expensive" version of the 570S; they look the same though.

So yeah, that's it.  I will mention the Chevy Find New Roads Concept, and how good and un-Chevy-like it looked, along with the new Infiniti Q70 L Exclusive, which is nothing more than a stop-gap until their flagship sedan arrives.  I will also mention that stupid Volvo XC90 Lounge Console Concept, and how badly laid out the whole thing is, as well and how dumb of an idea it is.  Why the hell would you replace the passenger seat with an ottoman, even if Chinese clientele like to be chauffeured.  What if the other passenger wants the same amenities while they are in the back, then what?  Sure, some may consider it a good idea, but I'd prefer one in my living room than in my car.

Well, that wraps up my review of Auto Shanghai 2015.  It seems that Chinese Auto Shows are becoming more and more important now, and like I said earlier: be prepared to see a yearly increase debuts coming from this show that are significant to the U.S. and Europe, in the next few years.

Part 2: Highlights of the 2014-2015 Auto Show Season

Highlight 1: 2017 Ford GT
This reborn American super car was hard to contest after its debut in Detroit, and should be hard to contest on the road and at the track.


Highlights 2, 3, and 4: Lincoln Continental Concept, Buick Avenir Concept, 2016 Cadillac CT6
The large American sedan is back, and better than ever.  It's more refined, while the driving dynamics will improve as well.  They also embody their brand's new core values enough said.

Highlight 5: 2016 Mercedes AMG GT
This car looks better than the SLS, and should handle better than the SLS (an improvement that SLS really needed).

Highlight 6: 2017 Ferrari 488 GTB
I love Ferraris and I love this car.  The 458 Italia was great, and this is even better somehow. (Picture from USAToday.com)


Highlight 7: 2016 Porsche Boxter Spyder
I'd be an idiot to not put this in the highlights list, just look at the numbers, then look at the car, and the results should speak for themselves. 

Highlight 8: McLaren 570S
Why would you not take this over a Porsche 911, seriously, why wouldn't you?  It's mid engined and looks fucking beautiful!  And although it hasn't been driven by the media yet, it would have to be a blast to drive, right???

Highlight 9: 2017 Jaguar XE
It's a ballsy move for Jaguar to take on the BMW 3-Series, but given how bad the current 3-Series is, that should be an easy task to achieve.  The real question becomes, can it out-do the other cars in this class?  We'll just have to wait and see.


Highlight 10: Aston Martin Vulcan Concept
This concept car looks better than any Aston currently on sale.  Please, use this design on future models. 

Highlight 11: 2016Mercedes-Benz S Class Maybach
I love it for the name, the looks, and the amenities of the back seat.  What's even better is the Pullman version. (Picture from Autoblog.com)


Highlight 12:  2016Chevrolet Volt:  
It's better than before and it has a nearly useless back seat, while in the previous generation car, Chevy saved some money by not putting in a back seat.  The results were about the same in the end.

Highlight 13: 2016 Mazda Miata
The hairdressers' car no longer looks like its for hairdressers.  And because it's a Miata, it will put a smile on your face when you drive it. 

 Highlight 14: 2016 Shelby GT350/GT350R
I like it, but I don't love it.  Overall, its better than the car it replaces, but I'd still take the new GT, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Highlight 15: 2017 Ford Focus RS
How stupid do you think I am not to like this car.  It's a hot hatch that has a total horsepower rating of somewhere in the 300s.  The aero kit doesn't look that bad either; it's a good-ol' pocket rocket.

Highlight 16: 2016 Cadillac ATS V
Finally, someone with real balls is deciding to truly compete with the M3 and M4.  These are rivals to the benchmark.  Mercedes has come close, but failed, as have Audi and Lexus.  Given how well Cadillac's cars handle now, there shouldn't be any problems at all (except the usual quibbles with CUE).

Highlight 17: 2016 Cadillac CTS V
While the Cadillac ATS V will have hard competition from BMW, the CTS V won't because the current BMW M5 sucks; this should beat it easily.  Plus it's in the freakin' 200mph club!!!!!

Highlight 18: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu
This new generation of Malibu improves in every way imaginable, plus it was designed by a 25 year old and look at how good it looks.  I'd even go as far to say that this looks better that the Ford Fusion. I'd have to see them side by side, but I think so.

Highlight 19: 2016 Alfa Romeo 4c Spider
I love Alfa Romeo, and I love the 4c, but this is nothing more than a convertible version of a car that already exists.  It's a highlight for sure, but I doesn't really bring anything new to the table compared to a lot of these other vehicles.   I guess that's not fair either, because the Boxter Spyder kind of falls into the same category, so I'll let you guys decide; tell me where you'd rank it based on your own personal opinions'.


Highlight 20: Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept
Originality is the name of the game right here.  This vehicle should be singing I'm Different because it really is.

So that's it for highlights, and this also wraps up the 2014-2015 auto show season, along with my coverage of it.  Granted, I did miss a few early shows, but I will do my best to report on all of them next season, beginning with Frankfurt in September.  In the meantime, the debuts of the 2016 Camaro on May 16 and Alfa Romeo's new sedan on June 24th should hold most people over until then.  Plus the new Civic goes on sale in the fall, so we could see a reveal of that in the summer.  I also read that Automobile Magazine believes the new Mercedes GLC will go on sale later this year (meaning a summer reveal), while CAR and DRIVER believes that the production version of the Lincoln Continental will debut at Pebble Beach in August.  Notice how I'm throwing them under the bus, so I don't get blamed for being wrong, even though they did throw those assumptions out there.  A summer reveal of the new Ford Taurus for the U.S. market seems likely, but is unconfirmed so we'll have to wait and see.  Finally, given how much the new BMW 7 Series was teased before Shanghai, I'd like to think that it will debut before Frankfurt, but we'll see. 

Anyway, that's all for now.  Thanks for reading, and have a good week. 

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