Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show) Review


Alexander Carabitses

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Well, another North American International Auto Show has come and gone, this time for the year 2017.  I have to say, a lot changes in 10 years.  In 2007, the show featured 60 debuts, with about half of them being concept cars.  This years show featured a total of 28 debuts, 5 of which were concepts. Also, Jaguar/Land Rover, Tesla, Bentley, Mini, Porsche, and Aston Martin all skipped the show this year, with FCA electing to debut no new products, further undermining the global significance of this show.  However, from what I've read, the general public is still very impressed with the show, and those who cover the industry do admittedly enjoy complaining about auto shows that don't feature a lot of debuts.  I think CES was more impressive than Detroit this year, and that is mostly to do with the fact that more significant news came out of CES than Detroit.

A perfect case in point is the star of the show, the 2018 Kia Stinger.  This production version of the GT concept from 2011 looks fantastic (nearly identical to the concept, save for the wheels), but its chances for success in the marketplace against rivals that include the BMW 4-series Grand Coupe and the Audi A5 Sportback are slim, especially when one considers the disappointing sales of the K900.  Maybe its looks will sell it, but automakers have bet on that working in the past and it hasn't, so we'll have to wait and see.  Either way, this questionable (yet admittedly beautiful) vehicle was the star of the show.
(Image credited to Kia)

Another star vehicle was the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz concept, which is yet another electric microbus concept, with the only difference than the previous three being that this one will be in production by the end of the decade.  Again, I love the look of this vehicle, but clinging on to retro vehicles hasn't worked for Volkswagen.  When the previous generation Beetle launched, sales started off strong, but eventually faded, yet Volkswagen invested in a new generation because people clamored for it, and guess what?  The car that resulted in 2011 is, last I checked, on the chopping block.  I know VW needs to invest in electric cars now more than ever, but for the love of God, come up worth a new idea in the process.  I honestly think that this company never learns from its past mistakes.
(Image credited to Volkswagen)

There were plenty of disappointing cars.  The Audi Q8 Concept, which preview a new vehicle that will debut a year from now and bare the same name looks very strange.  As an X6 competitor, it does not work, as its rear roof line isn't sloped enough; the new grille also looks like it was modeled after prison bars.  Another sad debut came from Volkswagen once again, with the 2018 Tiguan Allspace.  This seven passenger version of the Tiguan is the only version we are getting, and I'll be the first to tell you that this vehicle won't do well.  It looks bland, even when compared to the 5- passenger version and the third row will be useless.  I don't know why VW, and Nissan for that matter, insist on 7-passenger compact crossovers as they are too small to be functional.
(Image credited to Audi)
(Image credited to Volkswagen)

Speaking of compact crossovers, Nissan launched the 2018 Rouge Sport, a rebadged Qashqai, which has been brought to the US in an attempt to get Nissan more sales in this hot crossover market.  However, despite the fact that this is Nissan's best seller in Europe and that it has a lot of competition in that market, it's a tweener between the Rouge and the Juke here in the US, which makes it kind of risky as it could take away sales from either of those vehicles, both of which Nissan needs, or fail entirely on its own.  Internal competition is never a good thing.  I must say, I like the look of this crossover and would go as far to call it the best looking mainstream crossovers to date.  However, I'm not a fan of the Nissan V Motion 2.0, the preview of the next generation Altima, because it is over styled, albeit not as much as the concept and production versions of the Maxima.
(Image credited to Nissan)
(Image credited to Nissan)


Another over styled vehicle was the 2018 Camry.  The interior looks okay, but the exterior looks like a rebadged Lexus, which at this point, probably isn't the best thing because Lexus's don't age well.  In addition to this, Toyota's rival Honda is trying to make Hondas and Acuras look different (and for a good reason), while Toyota is doing the exact opposite.  At the same time though, Lexus is making their design language even bolder, with the 2018 LS being an example.  It looks good now, but as I said before, this design ages poorly and lends itself to some awful mid cycle refreshes.  Why? Well, Lexus is one of those brands that tries to make their cars look somewhat different when it comes time for a facelift, instead of having barely noticeable changes like Mercedes had with their 2018 GLA and 2018 AMG GT refreshes.  Yet, tweaking bold designs is difficult, especially when you know that you have a next generation model in development at the same time and you don't want the refresh looking too much like the all new car.  For this reason, you see vehicles like the recent refresh of the IS, which is just depressing.
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Toyota)
(Image credited to Lexus)
(Image credited to Mercedes-Benz)
(Image credited to Mercedes-Benz)

Not so depressing was the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse.  While it doesn't bring anything truly new to the table, I think that the body-on-frame SUV look on a crossover platform looks great and will appeal to a lot of people.  The 2018 GMC Terrain also looks nice, much better than the current car, but it's just a redesign that evolves a successful package and brings nothing new to the table.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 2018 Honda Odyssey bring a lot of cool new features and tech to the table, but the car looks like a Dodge airport van from Home Alone and the Civic front end doesn't work on a vehicle of this size.  The sliding second row seats (they slide left to right), the third row cameras, and the driver microphone will sell his van, but the current one still looks much better.
(Image credited to Chevrolet)
(Image credited to GMC)
(Image credited to Honda)



Finally, we come to Ford, which had the most awkward week in NAIAS history.  It showed the 2018 F150, it announced that the Ranger would return in 2019 and the Bronco in 2020, and then proceeded to launch the 2018 Mustang coupe on the fourth day that the show was open to the public, effectively screwing over the people who showed up for the first three days, and all of the media.  Ford also launched the car in several other cities, but didn't the foresight to have those launches coordinate with press days in Detroit.  After looking at photos, I must admit that I'm not a big fan of the new front end, although I appreciate the fact that the car looks lower.  Also, the two biggest stories from these refreshes are that there will be a diesel engine on offer for the F150 and the V6 has been dropped from the Mustang.
(Image credited to Ford)
(Image credited to Ford)
(Image credited to Ford)

Three other noteworthy pieces of news were the 2018 Audi SQ5 (one of the few real surprises of the show), the three GAC vehicles that debuted, but only have a 50-50 shot of coming here, and fact that the 2018 Volvo V90 can only be purchased through a special order and imported from Europe, a technique that I think other carmakers should explore.
(Image credited to Audi)
(The previous three images are credited to Autoblog.com)



That wraps up the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.  It has been a somewhat disappointing show if I'm quite honest, despite the fact that the best selling car and best selling pickup truck in America were redesigned/refreshed and unveiled here.  On the bright side, the products that many were expecting to show up, but didn't, are on their way to Chicago and New York so we have a lot to look forward to; Geneva is right around the corner as well.  Thank you for reading and have a great weekend!

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