2015 Detroit Auto Show Summary and Refreshingly Honest and
• SEE ALSO: Complete Press Pass Coverage 2015 Detroit Auto Show
Co-publisher's Note: I'm sure that you will enjoy and appreciate Steve and Thom's automotive knowledge and candor reflected in their wrap-up report of the
2015 Detroit Auto Show.
The Auto Channel is proud to call Steve and Thom integral elements in why The Auto Channel is different (and better) than 99.9% of the too many copycat auto
focused web sites. Thom and Steve's breath of experience as both journalists and car guys is unrivaled. Steve told me that the 2015 Detroit Auto Show was his 52nd so when he references the past he speaks from first hand knowledge.
Thom has been an auto journalist for over 30 years and continues to tell it as he sees it which in virtually every case is exactly how it is.
Thanks guys for being such a clear reflection of our award winning team of tell-it-like-it-is, experienced and honest individualist editors and reporters here at The Auto Channel.
NAIAS 2015 Wrap-up
By Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell
The Auto Channel
Steve: The North American International Auto Show in Detroit –
universally acknowledged as one of the most important motor shows in the
world - traditionally kicks off with a presentation of the prestigious
North American Car and Truck of the Year awards judged by a panel of about
50 independent U.S. and Canadian A-list journalists. Eligible cars and
trucks are those introduced in 1014. Golf and Golf GTI took the win for
cars. Ford F-150 gets the truck award.
Bill Ford set the tone for the 2015 NAIAS on the first day of press
conferences when he said, “From here on everything we do at Ford will
be green, global and high-tech.” His team followed with introductions
of the Mustang Shelby GT350R
(“R” for racing), a new Ford GT
super car and a raucous new Raptor pickup, none of which have any green or
global credentials but certainly fit in the high-tech slot.
Ford’s president of the Americas revealed their 10-speed transmission
and smart-terrain suspension and chassis control system.
Thom: Ford's 10-speed transmission is significant considering the
outperforming Ram 1500 diesel. Ford has to be disappointed to be out
fuel-economied and the new tranny should boost fuel economy for the
aluminum bodied F-150.
The Ford Raptor is also a pleasure to see as there were rumors of
its demise. Having driven one—finally—down in Baja, they are
joyous off road vehicles indeed. This Raptor should be far better in every
Steve: We saw a gaggle of super cars, lots of new mainstream
production vehicles, some inspiring production-focused concepts, but just a
few greenies – close to 50 new products in all, including a trio of
Chinese cars that included an attractive small crossover that they hope to
bring to the U.S. market by the end of 2017.
Here are highlights of the show:
One of those super cars, and my pick for Best-of-Show, is the
, named after one of the brothers who founded the company
over 100 years ago. The Alfieri, a high-performance, ultra high-style coupe
combines a subtle elegance and grace with the classic look of a modern
super coupe. Shown first at Geneva last year it will be on sale here next
year with V6 power between 400 and 500 horsepower depending on the engine
The most significant greenie at the show is Toyota's Mirai
fuel cell sedan
. We’ll have it probably next year in LA and other
markets as hydrogen-fueling infrastructure grows. The car’s styling
shows some significant panache and it has a 300-mile range with enough
torque to provide a gratifying driving experience. Honda also showed their
next generation fuel cell car that looks much more modern but less
conventional than the Toyota.
Thom: Fuel cell vehicles are of great significance—on the
West coast where tax dollars support infrastructure growth. Having driven
the 11 million dollar Ford FCV many years ago, and watching it be refueled
at their proving ground, we note that the hydrogen fueling system is long
gone. Ultimately FCVs and other hydrogen powered cars may be the norm, but
that is still far in the future. Oh, Toyota’s car looks
production-intent, Honda not so much.
The other surprise greenie is the full electric Chevy Bolt
high-style small crossover with full electric power and a 200-mile range
built on the next generation subcompact Sonic platform. GM CEO, Mary Barra,
offered no promises to produce the car but it appears ready for prime time.
As I was admiring the Bolt Ed Welburn, GM’s VP of design, told me,
“Everything we do for Chevy from here on will have a bit of (Corvette) Stingray
in it.” And I could see a few subtle references. Bolt gets automatic
park-and-retrieve system, 200-mile electric range and an estimated $30,000
price tag including an anticipated federal subsidy.
Thom: Bolt was built in Australia and laid up in fiberglass from a
full-sized clay model. You don’t usually do a clay unless
you’re quite serious about a vehicle. The designer noted that the
wheels are pushed to extreme edges for packaging and human space and that,
unlike Volt, the battery pack is under the floor. A colleague from Germany
said that it’s front mounted motor allows more room in the boot, a
better use of space.
The next generation Chevrolet Volt
was also previewed with its slightly
better range (up to 50 miles/charge), an upgraded interior and space for a
third passenger in the rear, though that third passenger would have to be a
diminutive one. One of our colleagues quipped, “With the new Volt and
Bolt, Chevy’s next move ought to be an autonomous car for those who
can’t drive called the Dolt
Thom: I wish I’d said that—sort of. Autonomous cars are
a technology often in search of a problem. Well, that is a midwestern view,
not one from the beltway or the 405. I do wish the Volt had better styling.
This is a less remarkable car to my eyes. Perhaps it will look better on
Steve: A couple of other truck announcements, besides the hot-rod,
off-road Ford Raptor
and cosmetically enhanced Ram Rebel
, stood out at the
Detroit show. Toyota Tacoma
, fully redesigned with an exceptionally bold
nose, is ready to take on the new GM offerings in the mid-size pickup
category. And, Nissan’s all-new, full-size Titan
will be offered with
an optional Cummins diesel. Engineering for Titan, they emphasize, was done
in MI, design in CA, testing in AZ, marketing and advertising in TN and
assembly in MS. The implication is that it is a truly American vehicle.
Thom: As the in-house diesel guy, there’s lots to say about
the truck and the engine. The engine will likely appear in some other
vehicles yet to be announced as Cummins traditionally has partners in
multiple segments. The engine, built in the same facility as the parent
ISV5, is offered to mid-sized truck makers for vehicles of the size/shape
of a UPS truck. Hinted fuel economy should put the Titan in the same area
(25-28 highway) as Ram, only with far more towing and hauling capacity.
Titan itself uses front suspension derived from the real-world NV
van series and takes input from customers who have half a million
trouble-free miles under the tires. The rear is similar to the original
F-Alpha Titan with inverted suspension that creates more ground clearance.
Steve: We finally got a close look at a pre-production version of
the long-promised Acura NSX
mid-engine, twin-turbo, hybrid gas-electric,
racetrack-capable super-car from Honda’s luxury brand. It will be
built in a dedicated facility near the Honda factory in northeast Ohio. The
“Wow” factor for this one is nearly off the charts.
Thom: It’s interesting that there was a very late engine
change, now longitudinal. Definite WOW and a stellar interior, if you liked
Steve: Lexus, the leading Asian luxury automaker, expanded its
high-performance offerings with the introduction of the latest addition to
” line of cars – the GS F. GS is the mid-size sport
sedan and Lexus likes to make comparisons with their German competitors, in
this case claiming a lighter, better handling and quicker car with
5.0-liter V8. Lexus also announced it will compete in the popular GT3
racing series in 2015.
Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury division, made a big splash with
their Q60 Sport Coupe Concept
. They promised 2016 production. While
certainly a niche market car it will provide a bright halo for an otherwise
undistinguished brand. Infiniti will apply a great deal of advanced
technology as well as exceptional performance to go along with the
unexpectedly fresh design. The Q60 will be powered by a new 3.0-liter,
twin-turbo, direct-injected V6.
Thom: Infiniti, part of Nissan / Renault, is planning major changes
to it’s engine lineup, as Steve mentioned. Look for technologies like
twin turbos, direct injection (all well known), even supercharging to move
in to their lineup. OK, we mean Titan and other heavy SUVs.
Steve: VW has a broad range of products and an ambitious plan to
dominate the world auto business but has not had a credible mid-size CUV
product. So, it was not surprising that they showed a hint of one here
– the Cross Coupe GTE
. We expect a similar product in 2016 but we
won’t expect the high-zoot design, or some of the outside-the-box
features we saw here in the concept vehicle.
Thom: I heard a lot of disappointment from German colleagues about
the front end, wishing for more boldness and character. Personally, I was
impressed by the shoulders, which reminded me of ’40’s Zoot
Steve: The most serious Chinese participant yet to visit the Detroit
show displayed three vehicles highlighted by the Guangzhou (pronounced
gwan-jo) GS4 small CUV
with 1.3 or 1.5 turbo. It appears fully sorted and
they are hoping to bring it to the US in late 17 if they find a
distribution partner. The other two cars on their stand were a midsize
sedan currently sold in their home market and an unusual, gull-wing SUV
concept with an aquarium in the console. The Chinese designer for Guangzhou
worked for Mercedes-Benz and some design details reflect that experience.
Thom: Their first market is Russia, then other emerging markets
before moving on. You may not know GAC Group, but they are partners to
western auto makers.
Steve: Perhaps the biggest surprise to everyone here was theHyundai
Santa Cruz Sport Pickup Concept
focused on a demographic they call
“urban adventurers.” Do you remember the cute and fun Subaru
Brat? Well, this Hyundai offering is similar in that it is a mainstream
people hauler converted to a short-bed pickup so these adventurers can haul
their bikes and other sports equipment to where ever they want to play.
Most pundits agree that Hyundai’s design expertise is strong and this
concept truck reflects that.
Thom: Compared to similar small pickups, Brat, Explorer Sport
Trac, et. al., wheels are pushed to the rear for a solid appearance and no
extreme bed overhang. We’d want to keep the tow hooks and other bold
ideas for the 4x4 version, maybe a tamer “citified” 4x2 for
less adventurous buyers.
Steve: News from FCA (Fiat-Chrysler) was limited. An open-air
version of the Alfa 4C
called Spider (not Spyder) and a dressed-up Ram Rebel with lift
kit and lots of hot-shot trim briefly got the spotlight, but neither
represent anything particularly forward looking. We’re promised some
new products from Alfa in the near term though, so look for some sporty
mainstream sedans and hatchbacks from that historic but struggling Italian
brand next year.
Thom: Most impressive about Alfa is how well FCA’s American
execs have researched the brand’s history and can deliver it
impressively. Even Europeans were impressed. That said, the 4C failed to
connect with my eyes. Again, maybe it looks better on the road than an all
Steve: I was about to give the worst car name award to the concept
on the Buick stand called Avenir
until I talked to the designer. He
reminded me that Buick tends to use French names and revealed Avenir is
French for ‘future.” It is an impressive car. The rear-wheel
drive, full-size Avenir is purely a concept at this point and is meant to
represent a flagship sedan for Buick. And, what a knock-out it is. Cadillac
has been hinting at a similar car for themselves for a couple years now so
we assumed an association. Not so.
The Avenir is on a unique platform. Also
fresh meat on the Buick stand is the soon-to-be-released convertible from
Buick called Cascada
, essentially the same car with the same name is sold
by Opel in Europe – kinda cute, but looks very much like the VW Eos
This will be the first convertible from Buick since the Reatta.
Thom: Two notes on Cascada: Why doesn’t it have a Buick
grille? Really? What? Grille’s are cheap after the engineering has
been done, and it has. Oh, some German’s said “It’s an
Opel, nobody buys this car in Germany.”
Steve: Mercedes showed the most advanced technology with the
Mercedes F015 concept
first shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las
Vegas just the week before NAIAS. The F015 is designed to be fully
autonomous. Four occupants in the “pod” face each other and the
car operates itself. Though this technology is some way off, it may not be
as far away as you might think.
Still trying to define itself as a player in the full luxury market
Lincoln introduced the redesigned MKZ
mid-size crossover that closely
follows the look and feel of the surprisingly successful MKC small
crossover. High-end Black Label trim and other premium content along with
the split-wing grill and design queues will help the brand along the path
to luxury respectability.
Thom: I looked at this car, CUV, from high and low. It’s new?
Really? Not just a new grill? A big sigh of “Meh”, and a
desperate hope it looks impressive in traffic.
Steve: The Detroit show traditionally wraps up with a series of
design awards judged by the most prestigious panel of judges assembled
anywhere in the world and hosted by the EyesOn Design
car show team that
benefits the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. Best Production car honors
went to the Ford GT and Best Concept and Best Use of Color, Graphics and
Materials awards both went to the Buick Avenir. Best Interior was judged to
be the Audi Q7. EOD also honored industry icon Bob Lutz
(looking as good and sounding as powerful as ever) with his second
Catalyst Award. Lutz, as usual, gave a colorful, candid and lengthy