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Henny's Take - 2016 Auto Show Detroit In Positive Mood, But Will It Be Enough?


SEE ALSO: 2016 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) Complete Press Pass Coverage +VIDEO

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

DETROIT - January 22, 2016: Last week, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit started in a positive mood. No surprise, as sales went well last year. But are several interesting world premieres enough to conquer with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, that opened its doors a week before?

Since the early nineties until the financial crisis hit the world, Motown focused mainly on muscle power and concepts, whether or not realistic but always with a hint to the future. This year, the future was shown at the CES, where nine car manufacturers showed their state of technology for internet connectivity and autonomous driving.

Concept cars

Back to Detroit, where Buick stole the show with the Avista, a gorgeous concept car that shows the creativity of the design team of chief Ed Welburn. The Avista is a study for a 2+2 coupe and revives the old glory of Buick design. Is it realistic? I think so. Under the hood is a 400 hp strong twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 with cylinder deactivation. Inside the latest technology such as touch sensitive controls.

Another concept for an upcoming production model was presented by Volvo. Its S90 has to bring the Swedish brand into the premium segment, especially in China and important to Geely, the Chinese owners of Volvo. We can expect the production model to look pretty much the same, with alas, the info screen placed too low in the dashboard. Important feature is the ‘large animal detection for dear, moose and lions to minimize collisions. The S90 will be another full-size sedan that, design wise, does not set itself very much apart from its future competitors.

Kia presented the Telluride, a bold concept for a large SUV that immediately reminded me of my one and only visit in 1997 to the small town with the same name. From there a Jeep Jamboree took us to the top of the world overlooking the Rockies. Stunning!

Hyundai came up with the Genesis G90, a concept for the first new model under the separate Genesis brand. Personally, I would have chosen a different name and not one that has already been in use for a Hyundai model. The nose of the concept hints at those of the Lexus. No news about when to expect a production model.

Important production cars came into the limelight, such as the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, the new interpretation of the brand that ‘invented’ the minivan. Those who think that this type of vehicle will be phased out in the near future, may be wrong. Even with the declining popularity of the family van, Chrysler sold half a million units of its Town and Country last year. And with expectations of the amount of young families to increase, the Pacifica may open up new possibilities. But if sales figures can be brought back to 2 million, like in the past, remains to be seen. In any case, the looks of the new minivan is much more attractive than that of the boxy outgoing model.

When I looked at the Chevrolet Bolt, the compact electric model which GM put on stage, I doubted whether there will be many Americans who like to drive fully electric and if so, would they chose a small car like this? GM wants to introduce the Bolt in Europe under the wings of Opel, but even on the old continent, the BEVs (battery electric vehicles) can only survive with huge government incentives. Doesn’t that go for America as well? I heard that the Bolt is going to cost around 30,000, that is after a tax deduction of $7,500, hmmm.

There were more new models, such as the Chinese built Buick Envision, the Chevy Cruze hatchback, Ford Fusion, Infiniti Q50 and QX60, Lexus LC 500 Coupe., but less trucks than we were used to see at NAIAS. In that respect, Honda and Nissan attracted attention with respectively the 2017 Ridgeline pick-up and the Titan Warrior Concept.

I should not forget VLF. The abbreviation is well known as Very Low Frequency with radio amateurs, but they now also have a meaning in the automotive world. Former GM-chief Bob Lutz had already teamed up with businessman Gilbert Vilarrreal in VL Automotive and now, with Designer Hendrik Fisker on board the company is called VLF Automotive.

Before the unveiling of the new car, I spoke to Lutz, who volunteered that formerly, he would never have believed that it would be possible to build a new car with an investment of only 10 million dollar (5 million by himself and 5 million by Vilarreal. “That would have cost a car manufacturer some 200 million,” Mr. Lutz said.

Lutz, now in his eighties, still successfully passes the test for his pilot's license. No wonder that VLFs 745 bhp super-car has been given the name Force 1 (after the presidential plane Air Force 1).

Meanwhile, the Fisker Karma is adapted by VLF and is now called Destino. The car had to be reduced in size so as not to use most of the nearly 600 kg heavy battery pack as in the original model.


Of the Europeans, Mercedes-Benz stole the show with three world premieres including the new E-Class.

Audi presented the A4 allroad quattro. Porsche showed the 911 Turbo S and Volkswagen came to Detroit with the Tiguan GTE Active Concept, but without the Buzz-e, the concept for a new interpretation of the microbus, that made its world premiere at the CES in Las Vegas. The Tiguan GTE is a concept for a plug-in hybrid model with a 148 hp strong gasoline engine and a 12.4 kWh battery pack that delivers energy to two electric motors.

BMW’s booth was packed with real muscle in the shape of the new BMW M2 and the X4 M40i and – not new, but always good for a lot of attention – a bright orange M3. The Bayerische Motoren Werke will start its Centennial celebrations on March 7 in Munich and we may expect some interesting concepts/models this year. So far, everybody involved keeps tight-lipped, but the twinkle in BMW people’s eyes when I try to discover more, speak for themselves.

All in all there was a lot to see as a forebode of more automotive news this year. Please stay tuned.