Sunday, February 21, 2016

Where Did These Come From And Why Should I Care? (Part II): My Take On The 2016 Chicago Auto Show

Alexander Carabitses

The 2016 Chicago Auto Show, the nation's largest auto show in terms of square footage, is also the least significant auto show of the season.  It holds the status of being the largest consumer show in North America, so auto makers feel the need to launch new vehicles at the show in order to get attention from the media. Unfortunately, the media always shows up with the anticipation of seeing only one or two significant vehicles, as the Chicago Auto Show has become the best place to unveil new special edition models or trim packages.  However, in conjunction with these worthless introductions, there were several noteworthy new models...

Beginning with the special editions, I'll save everybody the aggravation of having to read in depth articles about what makes these models unique and just list them:

  • 2017 Chrysler 200S/300S Alloy Editions
  • 2017 Chevrolet Silverado Midnight Edition
  • 2017 Chevy Colorado Midnight Edition
  • 2017 Subaru XV Crosstrek Special Edition
Thankfully, the number of special edition model debuts have shrunk from previous years.  Now, I want to list the main debut vehicles, and at the same time highlight just how many of them were special editions...

  • 2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE (Technically a trim package, although in realty, it's more of a handling/track package)
  • 2017 Chevrolet Trax (Welcomed mid-cycle refresh)
  • 2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport (New trim level)
  • 2017 Ford Explorer MXV (A wheelchair accesable Ford Explorer, uplifted by Braun Ability)
  • 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe/Santa Fe Sport (Mid-cycle refresh)
  • 2017 Kia Niro (An all new model and Kia's first dedicated hybrid)
  • 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid/Plug-in Hybrid (Technically a redesigned trim level)
  • 2017 Infiniti Q50 (More powertrains were showcased for the Q50)
  • 2017 Mercedes/Frightliner Sprinter Worker (A new base model Sprinter van)
  • Mercedes Sprinter Extreme Concept (A concept that showed the cabibility of the Sprinter chassis cab)
  • 2017 Nissan Titan light duty (While not physically present at the show, most of the information on the model was highlighted in the Nissan press conference)
  • 2017 Nissan Armada (A long awaited redesign of Nissan's full-size SUV. It is now a rebadged version of the global Nissan Patrol, just likes its sister truck, the Infiniti QX80)
  • 2017 Ram 2500 HD 4x4 (New trim package)
  • 2017 Ram Power Wagon (A nice update to what is technically a hard-core trim package)
  • 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro (A redesigned off-road trim level for the Tacoma)
As I pointed out in the list, the vast majority of debuts were new or revised trim levels of existing models.  More interesting is the fact that many of these were significant trim levels, such as the hybrid versions of the Kia Optima or the Camaro 1LE.  Heck, even the Ram Powerwagon is somewhat significant, at least for the brand.  However, when one looks at the other new trim levels, the immediate thought that comes to my mind is, "Geez, these things are so insignificant, they didn't even deserve a press conference."  Specifically, the Sprinter Worker and the Ford Explorer XLT Sport, the latter of which didn't even have a press conference are prime examples of something I'd read in an article titled Mercedes Sprinter/Ford Explorer Changes For the Model Year 2017.  Yet, here they are at Chicago.  Why?  Because Chicago is the consumer show and the truck/commercial vehicle show, and consumers love new trim packages and special editions, especially on trucks and commercial vehicles.

However, while this ridiculous trend of new trim levels showing up at consumer shows continues to bore the media, I'll say that I did take one thing away from Chicago.  Sedans no longer the number one choice for consumers, due to falling gas prices, and companies keep churning out crossovers, SUVs, and trucks.  The Kia Optima hybrid variants, as well as the Infinities with the new engines were the only sedans.  Everything else was a crossover or truck-based vehicle (Camaro 1LE aside).  And these truck debuts, like the Powerwagon and Tacoma TRD Pro are by no means modest pickup trucks.  Oh, and the new Armada comes with a standard V8 engine. If Chicago is the consumer show, then it has offered effective proof these three aforementioned body styles are truly resonating with consumers.

An automaker like Kia, which went on a hybrid vehicle launch binge in Chicago, is falling back on the hope that gas prices will begin to climb again; lets face it, they will, the question is when?  Maybe a vehicle like the Niro, which blends a hybrid powertrain with a crossover (the current favorite vehicle of the average consumer), is the best way to build sales momentum for hybrids again, and it may also serve as the best way to maintain the sales momentum of crossovers when gas prices rise again.  Kia has crossed its T's and dotted its I's with the Niro, which is why its the most important debut of the show (beyond the fact that it was one of only two all new vehicles at the show).

The 2017 Chicago Auto Show featured debuts that were self contradictory.  After looking at the complete list, which included the new trim packages and special editions, I thought, "Where Did These Come From And Why Should I Care?"  However, these utterly pointless debuts offer effective proof that pickup trucks, SUVS, and crossovers are the way forward from now on.

Thank you for reading and have a good week.

(2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE- Image credited to Chevrolet)

(2017 Chevrolet Trax- Image credited to Chevrolet)

(2017 Ford Explore XLT Sport- Image credited to Ford)

(2017 Ford Explorer MXV- Image credited to Ford)

(2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport- Image credited to Hyundai)

(2017 Hyundai Santa Fe- Image credited to Hyundai)

(2017 Kia Niro Hybrid- Image credited to Kia)

(2017 Kia Optima Hybrid- Image credited to Kia)

(2017 Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid- Image credited to Kia)

(2017 Infiniti Q50- Image credited to Infiniti)

(2017 Mercedes Sprinter Worker- Image credited to Mercedes-Benz)

(Mercedes Sprinter Extrem Concept- Image credited to Mercedes-Benz)

(2017 Nisan Titan- Image credited to Nissan)

(2017 Nissan Armada- Image credited to Nissan)

(2017 Ram 2500 HD 4x4- Image credited to Ram)

(2017 Ram Powerwagon- Image credited to Ram)

(2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro- Image credited to Toyota)

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