Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Take on the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show

Alexander Carabitses

Since I've been gone, the SEMA show saw the debuts of many decked out cars, by both OEMs and aftermarket manufacturers.  Then came the Tokyo Motor Show, which was an all out field day for the Japanese manufactures.  Now we are back on an equal playing field, as the 2015 Los Angles Auto Show kicked off yesterday.

Los Angles hosts the third biggest auto show in the US, right behind Detroit and New York.  The difference between LA and New York is quite obvious; there are far more significant debuts in New York, and collectively, more doubts make up that show.  This does not mean that LA should be overlooked (its not as lifeless as the Chicago Auto Show), as there were a handful of interesting debuts.  The best part about LA is how diverse the show really is.  There was no specific theme this year, and for the automakers it was more about having fun and showing off.  I've decided to present the debuts in a different format, so enjoy...

The most important debut, by far, was the 2017 Ford Escape. The vehicle is second to the F-150 in sales by Ford, and this refresh presented a new design and some cosmetic interior upgrades.  I still haven't warmed up to the design that much, but I originally didn't like the refreshed Explorer and that has grown on me.  The Lincoln brand surprised everyone with the debut of the facelift 2017 MKZ, which can be equipped with a 400hp eco-boost engine.   The interior also features buttons and knobs, while the exterior gets the brand's new front end that was originally featured on the Continental Concept.
(Image credited to Ford)
(Image credited to Lincoln)

While heavy refreshes dominate the Ford stands, FCA debuted a few special edition Jeeps and Fiats.  On top of that the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadriofoglio made its US debut, although I'm not sure why we should care seeing as how they've delayed production and US sales by one year.  Thankfully, the all-new 2017 Fiat 124 Spyder will be in showrooms next summer, without any delays.  Based on the Mazda MX-5 chassis, combined with the 500 Abarth's engine, and a unique exterior design, I'm sure that the thing will be quite a blast to drive.  I will admit that I have to reserve judgement on the design of the car until I see it in person next spring.
(Image credited to Fiat)

So with Ford and FCA coming out strong, what did GM have to offer?  For starters there was the debut of the Chevrolet... oh right, they didn't have any new debuts at the show.  Very little spotlight was placed on the 2017 GMC Canyon Denali and GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate, both of which did not have a press conference, as they are only trim packages.  Cadillac is still on a roll right now, with the US debut of the 2017 XT5, which replaces the SRX.  In reality, it was Buick that had the most important GM unveiling and perhaps the most beautiful debut of the entire show: the all-new 2017 Buick Lacrosse.
(Image credited to Buick)

Mazda shined with the debut of the long awaited 2017 CX-9, which is a big improvement over its predecessor.  Honda showed the all-new 2017 Civic Coupe and the FCX Clarity (which originally debuted in Tokyo), while Volkswagen showed off the production version of the Beetle Dune, as both a coupe and convertible.  There was also some special edition Denim Beetle that nobody cared about.  In terms of premium cars, Mercedes showed off a face-lifted version of the GLS (previously the GL),  while the SL also received a much needed refresh.  Infiniti showed the 2017 QX30 crossover, which is bound to sell like hotcakes, while Volvo showed up with the Concept 26, which is the company's vision for autonomous cars, or something like that. Porsche showed the Cayman GT4 ClubSport, as well as facelift versions of the 911 Targa 4 and 4S.  Audi had the RS7 Performance and Mini had the Cooper Convertible (another car that originally debuted in Tokyo).  Oh, and Lamborghini showed up with the rear wheel drive Hurracan, which somehow got lost in all of the buzz over the mainstream cars.  Supercar debuts are for European shows, got it? Good.
(Image credited to Mazda)
(Image credited to Mercedes-Benz)
(Image credited to Volkswagen) 
(Image credited to Volvo)

The show was going great, until Land Rover rolled out what was perhaps the most hyped debut of the show, but also the most stupid.  It is the Range Rover Evoque Convertible and if the Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet is any indication, this will only survive a few years before mercifully being axed from the lineup due to poor sales.  It was nice as a concept car, but I guarantee it won't find homes easily.  Nissan also disappointed with the debut of the 2016 Sentra.  Its not a bad car, it's just dull, and Nissan's new design language doesn't work on it at all.  By the way, the look of the new Maxima is way too polarizing for my taste.  Speaking of polarizing, has anybody else seen Scion's CH-R concept?  The brand's vision for a subcompact crossover is nothing more than a bloated vehicle that looks like a frog.   The Subaru Impreza Sedan Concept previewed what the future of the most boring compact car on the market will look like.  Hyundai launched a redesign of its own compact sedan, the 2017 Dodge Dart...I mean Hyundai Elantra.  I'm telling you, the way the headlights point to the grille, the Elantra does almost look like the aforementioned Dodge Dart.  Finally, there where some US debuts of cars that were shown in Frankfurt, like the Jaguar F-Pace and the Kia Sportage, while Mitsubishi reminded the automotive media of its existence with the debuts of the 2017 Mirage and Outlander Sport, both of which look dull, unimaginative, and, in the case of the Outlander Sport, ugly.
(Image credited to Land Rover)
(Image credited to Scion)
(Image credited to Hyundai)

Overall, I'm impressed with many of the debuts from this years show and it is great to see that the Industry is still going strong.  However, I'm hard pressed to think that this year's show reflected anything other than the strength of the industry.  As I said earlier, there wasn't a theme to this year's show; most automakers rolled out whatever they deemed fit.  This is somewhat odd, given that last year's show placed emphasis on subcompact crossovers, but it could be that this show is similar to this past Detroit Show, simply because it is all about excess, with a little something for everybody.  In an industry this big, having an auto show with a diverse mix of debuts is not a bad thing.

Many industry analysts were discussing that there were no plug-ins or EVs that debuted at the show, which was obviously strange given that LA has always been the show where all of the eco-friendly cars end up.  We did learn that the production version of the Chevy Bolt is debuting at the Consumer Electronics show in January, so stay tuned for more news on that.  I think that the lack of EVs at the show, reflects the fact that automakers don't truly give a damn about the green car market, simply because customers don't care either. They will build them to please the government, and nothing more.

Anyway, that wraps up my coverage and thoughts on LA.  Thank you for reading and being patient during my long absence.  I would also like to wish everybody, in advance, a happy and safe Thanksgiving.  I hope everybody gets to spend some quality time with their families and to truly count their blessings.  Until next time, have a great weekend!

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