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Detroit Auto Show Day 1 My First Hand Observations


From Michael Bernstein
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Each year the eyes of the automobile world and now many of the eyes from Silicon Valley turn to the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan for the annual North American International Auto Show to see the latest and greatest models; plus the technical innovations that now populate today's cars trucks, SUVs, CUVs, Hybrids and whatever comes next.

This is a quick overview of the unofficial first days. More specific information on the vehicles, technology and companies mentioned will be available on the Auto Channel throughout the press preview days and beyond.

Although the press preview days don't exactly officially begin until Monday, many of the OEMs are already in full throttle including Mitsubishi, VW, Mercedes, Chevrolet, and Ford who all held events prior to the official start.

Also getting a jump was Cox Automotive, the company behind Kelly Blue Book, Manheim and other brands, who hosted a reception to discuss and dissect this year’s numbers and comment on future trends in the automobile industry as a whole and the automated driving space that everyone wants to occupy in particular.

The outlook for 2018 is optimistic with consumer consumption driving this gross. The proof was the record-breaking sales generated during this past holiday shopping. Now positive changes to the tax code will add more fuel to propel sales.

There are risks and uncertainty mostly from monetary and fiscal policies that will be decided, that’s another way of saying politics, but most indicators point to a sales increase for the coming year according to their analysts and economists.

The future of autonomous vehicles and their place in this industry are still evolving but make no mistake they will have a prominent seat at the table. The noticeable shift from individual owners to fleet buyers, think ride share, is a trend to watch as this area expands.

Their needs and their influence on the OEM’s and the rest of the industry are evolving and alliances are being made, but no one can predict how fast technology will meet practicality but rest assured them changes are a coming and the industry as a whole will have to adapt. Who the winners and losers are will be determined by who reads the market and is the quickest to adapt

Of all the pre-show introductions Ford made the biggest splash. During an elaborate press review the Blue Oval introduced three new models highlighted by the return of the Mustang Bullitt on its 50th anniversary.

Not only did the original 1968 classic, one of the original two used in the movie, roar to life on stage but Steve McQueen's granddaughter was also on hand to welcome Ford’s homage to this iconic vehicle.

More powerful than a GT and equipped with the classic ball gear shifter this baby hits all the right cues.

Also introduced was the Edge ST. This Ford Performance enhanced version will feature a 2.7 Liter, 335 HP engine and lastly the folks at Ford decided that 7 years was a long enough wait before FINALLY reintroducing a mid -size pick up to the North American marketplace.

Mitsubishi was first out of the gate again this year and featured the Outlander Phev plug in and the Eclipse crossover in Detroit. Mitsubishi had another sneaky good year recording a seven percent growth and was the fastest growing non luxury brand according to EVP and COO Don Swearingen. When it came to the vehicles he let the two striking models on display do their own talking.

$18,845 that’s all the new Jetta will cost you. That’s actually a LOWER price than the current model. Enhanced looks and a dynamic high belt line give this version a sporty, yet refined profile while offering the full range of performance options, technologies, a suit of features and the connectivity usually not offered in this segment.

As for Chevrolet they introduced the next gen Silverado. This version is a solid effort but not enough to knock the F150 king off his throne.

For the second straight year the MobiliD conference shares Cobo Hall with the NAIAS. This hybrid of an event features a speaker platform, trade show and exhibit that is a showcase for some of the companies and the technologies that support this growing field that includes autonomous driving, smart cities, connected car and emobility.

We hear these terms bandied about in conversations and discussions but what does it all mean. In the case of TTS they are in the connected vehicle space and provide real time traffic signal date direct to your vehicle. Currently in operation in Las Vegas and looking to expand their foot print.

Then there’s Velodyne. Maybe that name rings a bell. The founder of this LiDAR innovator got his start in the Drapa Challenge and invented the process of light generating 3D mapping systems that are now guiding today’s autonomous vehicles by providing new levels of accuracy and clarity. Now the company is positioned to work with OEM’s on their autonomous vehicle platforms. Next I stumbled on URB-E. Located in the smart cities section of MobiliD, this LA based company is poised to own the under 5mph market by producing a scooter-esque conveyance that is too cool for school but perfect for collage.

Fully electric and available in two models, the Sport series and Pro series, the URB-Es have a range of between 16-20 miles and a top speed of 18mph.

Shaped more like a pyramid and less like a traditional bike it has a stable platform and I’m told it handles like a dream. I’ve been promised a ride and will report back on this front. What I can tell you it folds upright weighs 30 lbs and is FAA and TSI compliant.

Lastly on my way out I stopped or should I say I was stopped by the impressive AirspaceX display that offered a glimpse of the future of aviation. On display was 1/3 scale version of the MOBI-ONE e-VTOL passenger and cargo aircraft.

Picture the love child of an airplane and a drone and you start to get the picture of what this baby looks like. Fully electric it is being developed at Detroit’s City airport and while the company is not taking orders just yet, this idea has wings.

Monday, the fun really begins! Ladies and gentlemen start your engines!