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Auto Show Returns to the D


Motor Bella event in Pontiac offers exciting changes ahead

By Michael Bernstein
Michigan Bureau Chief

Well nothing could possibly go wrong, after a nearly two and a half year absence, brought on by a host of different factors-the economy, the changing landscape of the industry’s focus-not to mention the global pandemic and a complete overhaul that included both a relocation and a rebranding, with the re-launch of the Detroit Auto Show or as it had been known as The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

Well this is Michigan so anything is possible and there has been a history of weather related issues with this show, but that was then and this is not January, it’s late summer in Northern (Oakland County) Michigan!

Excitement was building to see what an outdoor show would entail and how, but more importantly for the survival of the show’s media significance, would the OEM’s utilize this new platform, as a CRM opportunity or a conduit to make significant announcements and of equal importance for the show’s legitimacy which brands would attend.

The results from a media perspective were more renaissance festival than the creation of a new media platform from which to make important announcements. That’s good news for spectators but not so for news generation.

In fact of the ten official press conferences scheduled on day one, day two’s six conferences (none of which involved OEM’s) were scarped due to torrential rains that hit the area, half were OEM’s, but in reality only Toyota and Ford made any kind of announcement of any significance.

Ford was up first and it’s no surprise that the Blue Oval was talking about trucks-Pick-ups, Broncos and the belle of this ball full size SUV’s. I don’t blame them they have close to 150,000 pre-orders for the E-150(now that’s what I call lightning!), The Bronco has well over 125,000 in advance sale and SUV’s make up 50% of sales, of which Expedition is on top.

The new 2022 Expedition comes in three models each with a specific Millennial and Gen X-er targeted and regardless of the model selected it will have plenty of power. That’s because the 2022 version comes standard with a 3.5L twin-turbo that generates a whopping 440HP and 510 Ft/Lbs of torque.

As its name suggests the Timberline model is the off road package and comes with a steel skid pad, 33” tires and seven drive modes. While the Stealth package has only one driving mode, as it is engineered for those that seek their fun on the road. The Platinum option offers, as its name suggests, the finer touches of life including a 15.5” touch screen, a B&O sound system and superior craftsmanship to highlight some of the differences and amenities.

Lastly they teased the expansion of the Raptor line-up to include... No surprise here...the Bronco in 2022.

The only other OEM to use the press conference to make an announcement was Toyota USA who rolled out the entirely US generated 2022 Tundra. By that I mean this version was America’s from literally the ground up. That’s because every facet of the process from design through production was done right here in the US of A starting in their R&D center located Ann Arbor, MI and then moving across Toyota USA’s network of plants located across the country.

Highlights of this year’s model include a nomination for a North American Truck of the Year as well as a 3.5L twin turbo V6 engine generating 389HP and 479 ft/lbs, 12,000lb towing capacity, 1,900lb hauling and the list goes on to include 51 new options for a total of 115 available.

The only other OEM with a scheduled time was the two small letters who chose to conduct a panel discussion as opposed to showcasing one of the many significant vehicles it plans to launch.

I give them credit for having a display on the grounds, something only Ford, Toyota USA and the folks in Auburn Hills were willing to do, but it was limited in scope and only featured the Corvette, a no brainer, and the Oxymoron, erg the electric version of the Hummer.

In fact while Audi had a fleet of its latest electric vehicle available for a test drive, Cadillac’s Latest, the Lyriq (pronounced CA-TEAR-RAH) was nowhere to be seen.

The other note worthy announcement was a recap of the awards given at this year’s Eye on Design. Another of the many hidden in plain sight events staged thought the greater Detroit area, this car show is staged on the opulent grounds of the Henry Ford Estate in St. Clair Shores, MI. This annual event also experienced a change, moving its date from its historic time of Father’s Day weekend to one in September.

This show benefits eye charities and feature the most unique award chosen by sight impaired judges that critique the vehicles not on looks but feeling the contours, shapes and lines that may be un-seen by those of us who can. What I find amazing is how the judges, without consulting each other, come to the same conclusions in many instances.

Originally scheduled outdoors through-out the grounds and on the track itself, all the announcements were held at the M1 Concourse’s newly completed Events Center which is a beautiful edifice that graces the campus of this innovative Motor Community. Frankly the M1 is the star of this show.

Coming off the success of their Woodward Dream Show, a ticketed event which coincided with this year’s Woodward Ave. Dream Cruise and which served as trial run for this year’s Motor Bella.

The “fan friendly” layout and unique nature of this sprawling “Motor Lifestyle Resort”, with its 1.5 mile track, will offer visitors a once in a life time, real world interaction with all facets of motor sports and it doesn’t end with Motor Bella.

While summer downshifts, the M1 Concourse is shifting into over drive by hosting not one but two major events this month, Motor Bella and the American Speed Festival slated for September 30-October 3. The four day event plays host and tribute to race cars and the drivers who dare. From Can-Am to NASCAR and every class in between, above or below will be here and more importantly on the track doing what they do...going fast and making noise!

The event is also giving back to the community it calls home by hosting the Checkered Flag Ball which will honor racing icon Jim Hall and will support the Pontiac Community foundation’s M1 Mobility. This partnership with M1’s charity arm looks to provide transportation solutions that connect Pontiac residents with essential community services. All the info on the Checked Ball and the American Speed Festival is available at

As for Motor Bella, both Jeep and Ford have constructed real world off-road courses that include the thrill of a min 24’, 35 degree hill climb and a sample of every off road condition imaginable. On the road visitors will have the opportunity to take a “hot lap” in one of the M1’s fleet of performance vehicles. It’s a celebration of the joys of driving as well as an opportunity to do a little business.

There were plenty of tier 1 suppliers and secondary marketers on site ready to do so. Although by the sparse nature of most of the OEM’s who, if they did choose to attend, just brought one or two vehicles to display. In fact if you were looking to buy your next vehicle and thought you would see complete line-ups, you will be disappointed, but if you want to really experience the thrill of speed or the adrenalin rush of rock climbing then this is the show for you.

Again this year MobilitD was included and with the limited number of OEM displays it was a welcome addition. Devoted to electric and automated driving technologies these innovative companies and institutions of higher knowledge were there promoting the vast network of components, both hard and soft, that propel these businesses in this emerging industry. One of them is DUNAMIS, based in Southfield, MI, who manufactures innovative charging stations for both commercial and residential applications. They were excited about the exposure they were receiving and encouraged by the inquires for new business. The Auto Channel will featuring them and their truly unique Detroit story later this year as part of our ongoing commitment to bring you the latest news and trends affecting the auto industry.

In addition to the established companies, I was equally encouraged by the number of colleges and universities, both big and small,that are active in this space. It was organized kayos with Spartans and Wolverines getting along!

I am also encouraged by the ever increasing number of women who have chosen to work in this challenging and historically a predominantly male industry.

The future of autonomous and electric vehicles and their place in this industry are still evolving but make no mistake they will have a prominent seat at the table and I can’t wait to see their contributions next year.

Motor Bella ran through Sunday, September 26.