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The Multi-Million Dollar Gamble in Detroit


By Marty Bernstein
AIADA Contributing Editor

In just a few weeks, thousands of America’s car dealers are headed to Las Vegas, Nevada – the official home of gambling in America and the high stakes gambling headquarters of the world – this year’s home to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s annual dealer convention and AIADA’s 37th Annual Meeting and Luncheon, the proverbial launch pad for international dealers’ 2007 legislative session.

While Vegas has gained fame for winning or losing vast fortunes on a single roll of the dice, the turn of a card and/or the spin of a roulette wheel, the real gamblers, albeit corporate gamblers are on display this week in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, the venue for the 100th annual North American International Automobile Show.

Here in hushed tones during media previews, a corporate executive details his/her brands’ exciting announcements for the New Year, and then, with the recorded sound of trumpet or the roll of snare drums or just really loud music, beautiful damsels deftly pull the satiny cover off a hand-made production car… and also a few next generation concepts that may one day soon end up in the showrooms of local dealerships.

This is the multi-million dollar crap shoot everyone loves to see… media journalists salivatging amid a clamour of “oohs” and “aahs.” The striking designs with rakish angles and smooth curves combined with shimmering metal and plastic, sensual leather, deftly prepared wood and bling-bling wheels that never cease to stir the souls of auto lovers.

The Detroit Show is arguably one, if not the biggest show for introduction of new models and concept cars from auto manufacturers around the world.

The Detroit Show generates the most consumer and trade media coverage, has more spectacular multi-million dollar exhibits, the very best in high tech visuals, gigets, gadgets and gizmos, passes out more trinkets, treasures and trash, the most stylish, slickest, sophisticated and spectacular media kits, is undoubtedly the most show-biz sanctioned auto show with more glitz, glitter, glamour than any other show in the industry.

Not too many years ago the show was the exclusive home of the Detroit automakers, but now it has morphed into a truly international show both in size and scope smack dab in the birthplace of the American auto industry.

As we go to press there are 15 production vehicles and 11 concept cars scheduled for presentation during the introductory media days here from Asian, European and U.S. automakers.

Below is a quick sneak-peak of some of this year’s new production and concept vehicles from international automakers:

Headed for Production

2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe … aka Convertible
The inspiration is the RR Phantom, but it’s not just a drophead coupe, it’s a drop dead gorgeous, stunning and for the few with master-of-the-word bank accounts and AmEx black cards, with a six figure price tag slightly over $400,000.

Nissan’s New Rogue – Murano’s Little Brother
Small crossovers are going to be a big utility segment if the new Rogue sells as well as expected. Aggressive styling both in and out offers appeal to a younger, male buyer. But they will sell to females as well with several key stow compartments.

BMW 3 Convertible – A Softtop Favorite Goes Hardtop
The fourth generation of BMW’s distinctive 3 Series four-seat convertible comes to the show with the introduction of the first retractable hardtop roof that opens in just 22 seconds and folds smoothly into the rear compartment.

The Mini Goes Maxi and Mighty
As one of the most popular small vehicles ever, the Mini added a few inches and more powerful model first shown last year in Paris. And just for the fun of it, a new Mini Convertible Sidewalk model will be seen for the first time in Detroit.

Hyundai’s Veracruz – Named for a Mexican Beauty
Veracruz may lack the fame of Cancun, Acapulco or Porte Vallarta as a beautiful vacation site, but Hyundai’s new crossover model will add to the luster of the Mexican city on the Gulf of Mexico. Its styling resembles that of the Lexus crossover.

Porsche Is On the Prowl for More Potent Power
Like the Porsche Cayenne, Turbo and S models? The new versions will be debuting to throngs of auto aficionados both in and out of the media world and they look stunning with new almost everywhere in and out and under the hood.

Mitsubishi Gaining Momentum
The brand’s new Lancer Evolution compact sport sedan which is scheduled for delivery to dealers later this year is derived from Concept X with sleek lines and stance.

Lexus offers only a sneak-peak-picture at its new model
Talk about top secret. All Lexus has said is it will stage the world premiere of the 2008 IS-F, an all-new high performance version of the popular Lexus IS 250/350 sport sedans.

The Concepts

Toyota FT-HS Concept – Hybrid Powerful
This concept is, according to advance publicity, powered by a 400 horsepower hybrid powertrain. The new concept car was designed at Calty Design Research, Toyota’s design studio in Newport Beach, California.

Jaguar C-XF Concept
Designed by the same teams headed by Jag’s director of design, Ian Callum, who produced the award-winning Jaguar XK sports GT a couple of years ago, the C-XF concept is a precursor to future Jaguar exterior looks and innovative interiors.

Nissan Bevel Concept
Another California designed concept car, from the Nissan Design America, in La Jolla, CA, the Nissan Bevel Concept is described by Nissan as a dynamic, multi-purpose vehicle with a small size, big utility and fresh thinking.

Acura ’Advanced Sports Car Concept’
Acura, like a few other OEMs, did not release any photos of its concept car, just a computer generated sketch as a tease. The advance release said, “The concept provides a glimpse of the next generation Acura exotic small sports car.”

Mitsubishi’s Prototype X
With the name ‘Prototype X’ it’s possible to imagine a vehicle designed at Site 51, the supposed home of secret designs for the military. X, we were advised, does hint at the next production version of Mitsu’s rally-winning Lancer Evolution for 2007.

Mazda Ryuga Concept
If the well-known Mazda ad slogan ‘zoom-zoom’ were interpreted by an automotive design studio, the Ryuga concept vehicle would result. In Japanese, Ryuga means "gracious flow," and this model definitely sets the tone for an amazing sheet metal reveal this week.

Honda Accord Coupe Concept
The Accord is Honda’s best selling model in North America, and this concept vehicle’s debut marks the first time an Accord concept car has ever been shown at a major auto show. Like other concepts it conveys styling cues for the future and is a widely anticipated occurrence at this year’s Show.

Volvo XC60 Concept
A combination of versatility and the sporty charisma of a coupe, the XC60 Concept is a preview of the new production Volvo XC60 that is planned to reach showrooms at the beginning of 2009 in the Small Premium Utility segment.

Mercedes-Benz Ocean Drive Concept

The German brand took a look to the past for a future design. The Ocean Drive Concept 4-door design revives the tradition of large luxury convertibles. There’s an aura of luxury and elegance that is unmistakable.