February 5th, 2019
2019 - Last North American International Auto Show - as we've known it.
Filled with sprawling displays of gleaming sheet metal and enough spotlights to illuminate the International Space Station, this was the final chilly, Detroit Auto Show in January. 2019 lacked the European media-hustle excitement, which left extra space for other exhibitors.
Next year the Grand Experiment begins, moving show dates to June and using the Cobo Center rooftop and multiple venues spread throughout downtown Detroit to showcase the best in cars, trucks, crossovers, SUVs, SAVs, mobility pods and platforms. 2020 will be interesting, to say the least.
We've done the General Motors story, this is the rest of the best.
Ford kicked off the show, bringing their all-new 2020 Explorer to an early debut at Ford Field. Hmm, plenty of space under the dome! At Cobo Center, there were the new Explorer, new Mustang GT500, infused with a supercharged V-8 making over 700 horsepower with a 0-60 time a tick over three seconds, and the latest Ford F-150 Raptor, all brightly colored for maximum exposure. Interestingly, even on limited-attendance media days the Ford layout felt cramped.
The 2020 Explorer will use EcoBoost turbo power, either a 2.3L base engine or more powerful 3.0L depending on your needs and your credit union's scorecard. It's a rear-wheel drive platform, with AWD available. To me there's not a substantial change anywhere except the front-end, which is more like Fusion or Focus, which is not a bad thing.
FCA's RAM division challenged its cross-town rivals with an all-new RAM Heavy Duty 2500 and RAM Heavy Duty 3500 which the brand says, "Out-powers, out-tows and out-hauls every other pickup available." Why? It's thanks to an update Cummins 6.7-liter high output turbo-diesel that breaks the 1,000 lb.-ft. torque barrier for standard pickups. If you want all of those torques, you'll have to order a two-wheel drive model equipped with proper equipment. Then your Ram will be rated to tow 35,100 pounds and deliver a 7,680-pound payload. Ram's media briefing was all about axles, transfer cases, suspension, brakes and transmissions, AKA gear-head heaven and real news.
GAC, will likely the first Chinese automaker to deliver cars to the USA, and have multiple dealerships (we discount supercars and tiny e-cars.) They brought a non-concept concept called ENTRANZE. It seats 3+2+2 in a pod-like configuration. Of course the vehicle is electric, and a version of this shape/size/configuration will be released by GAC later in 2019 for the Chinese market. GAC will soon open a North American headquarters in California. They also displayed a full lineup of sedans and small-and-larger crossovers; these guys are for real, even if we don’t find most of their current lineup visually appealing.
Ford and VW held a teleconference announcing a partnership to collaborate on a products and technologies. Likely, VW wants to take advantage of Ford's truck expertise while Ford could rapidly benefit from Volkswagen's advanced electric platforms and autonomous vehicle research. How this shakes out is yet unknown and details are conspicuously-but not unexpectedly-absent.
The handsome Lincoln Continental 80th Anniversary Coach Door Edition, designed to remind us of Lincoln's heritage with center-opening doors and a luxury interior featuring Alcantara, was one of the best-looking vehicles on the floor. And the Continental delivers more than a sophisticated exterior, as under the hood you can option a hybrid version of the twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.0-liter V-6. By combining the EcoBoost with hybrid technology, it produces a respectable 450 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. of torque. Get into line with a bank draft, only 80 will be produced.
Arguably the most-anticipated introduction was Toyota's new Supra. The 2020 GR Supra is the first global model developed by Toyota GAZOO Racing, the international umbrella for Toyota's global motorsport program. Built on a chassis shared with BMW's Z4, Supra comes in two models, Base and Premium, with a third Launch Edition based on the Premium limited to 1,500 cars. Those get signatures from Akio Toyoda on carbon fiber for display in your office. However, the base model looks like the better bet. It has the same 300-hp. engine, grippy Alcantara seats (versus leather) and a low-low entry price of $50,920. Car-loving journalists agreed, it has better looks and more impact than Margot Robbie or Gal Gadot.
Lexus brought it's RC F Track Edition, which has been upgraded and with a refreshed body. Meant for performance enthusiasts, add a set of tires and extra brake pads and you, too, Can't Drive 55, or have a good weekend of racing. Also, the company displayed a "concept" LC Convertible, a very sexy and meant-for-sunshine-weekend-weather touring. It awaits a decision on soft top or folding hardtop; well, that's what we think.
For family buyers, Volkswagen introduced a new Passat, which could look a bit more like the Arteon concept, in our opinion. However, Passats are meant for driving, not display, so look for aggressive pricing and "German Engineering" adverts to follow. Also look for significantly upgraded features added to the brands already-good ride and handling. As their Atlas CUV has great lane keeping and VW's excellent telematics system, we expect Passat to be well received by couples and families.
Nothing says Auto Show like CONCEPT CARS. Real concepts, even if they somewhat foreshadow the styling of future product. No production-intent cut lines, no perfect rubber gaskets with part numbers. Real. For several years Nissan and Infiniti have provided winners, 2019 was no exception.
The Infiniti QX Inspiration is, of course an electrified vehicle that hints at Infiniti's upcoming EV architecture. There is, according to the company, intent to build, though likely with conventional doors to meet safety regulations. Like other EVs, there's a "skateboard" modular base with e-motors on each axle, which generates all-wheel drive. The QX Inspiration took three of EyesOn Design's awards— Best Concept Vehicle, Best Designed Interior and Best Use of Color, Graphics or Materials
Nissan brought the IM purely electric sedan with its odd 2+1+2 seating arrangement. Nissan says IM stands for "Intelligent Mobility". With power estimated at 483 horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque, the battery pack extends range to 380 miles, eliminating any range anxiety. It’s low, has a fantastic paint job, and a video-only instrument/infotainment panel sweeping across the dashboard.
Subaru, home of family cars and the wonderful Subaru WRX and WRX STI boy-racers, brought to the USA, for the first time, the STI S209, a full-on racecar wrapped into an STI body. Subaru Technica International is Subaru's race shop and skunk works. Everything is hand-built or hand-assembled, including the 200 S209's that will be sent to the USA. While 341 horsepower from the boxer engine might sound small, competitors around the world have been looking at the taillights in multiple racing venues.
Kia brought its new Telluride three-row crossover to Detroit, putting it on display and on an interior hill-climb track, the first at NAIAS. Appearance is sportier than the soon-to-come Hyundai Palisade, and Kia's theme echoed that with an active lifestyle display complete with ski racks and kayaks.
Hyundai showed an enhancement to their N Line of performance vehicles. Available to you and me Really Soon, the Elantra GT N Line combines sportier trim elements with refinements to the chassis and powertrain. Think "BMW M that I can afford." Their first N Line racecar, the Veloster N TCR, will compete in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race, beginning with the 2019 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.
Contributing Writer, GM-Trucks.com
General Motors is expected to announce soon that the company will move to eliminate certain car models and close some plants that build the cars. This news seems to jive with our recent reporting about a workforce reduction among salaried employees.
Reuters is reporting that the vehicle cuts will be significant and that some models will be eliminated. Separately, CTV News Canada is reporting that its sources say the Oshawa Plant in Canada that builds the Impala will be closing its operations. GM presently employs about 2,800 salaried and hourly union employees at this car plant. “While the union does not have complete details of the overall announcement we have been informed that, as of now, there is no product allocated to the Oshawa Assembly Plant past December 2019,” Unifor, the union that represents the Oshawa plant's hourly workers, said in its statement. “Based on commitments made during 2016 contract negotiations, Unifor does not accept this announcement and is immediately calling on GM to live up to the spirit of that agreement.”
In related news, Toyota is also planning to reduce the number of car models it produces. The Financial Times reported this week that Jim Lentz, North America chief executive officer, said the company was “taking a hard look at all of the segments that we’re competing in. We have got a large number of passenger cars,” he said. “You would expect that to come down over time.” These changes would mirror Ford's plan to eliminate all but a couple of car models in favor of crossovers and trucks.
Update: GM has confirmed the Oshawa plant news and added to its "Unallocated" list the Lordstown, Ohio and Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Detroit. In addition, GM is not planning any products for the Baltimore Operations in White Marsh, Maryland, and the Warren Transmission Operations in Warren, Michigan. GM's announcement focuses on re-aligning future product focus on electric vehicles. The announcement includes,
- "GM is evolving its global product development workforce and processes to drive world-class levels of engineering in advanced technologies, and to improve quality and speed to market. Resources allocated to electric and autonomous vehicle programs will double in the next two years."
- "GM has recently invested in newer, highly efficient vehicle architectures, especially in trucks, crossovers and SUVs. GM now intends to prioritize future vehicle investments in its next-generation battery-electric architectures. As the current vehicle portfolio is optimized, it is expected that more than 75 percent of GM’s global sales volume will come from five vehicle architectures by early next decade."
Contributing Writer, GM-Trucks.com
Ford released the specifications of its North American market new Ford Ranger over the weekend. The specifications are a clear indication of the benefits of a boosted gasoline engine. At least on paper. The Ranger will launch with just one engine. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost, four-cylinder with 310 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a 10-speed automatic.
With its towing package, the Ranger will have a 7,500-lb maximum towing capacity. That exceeds the maximum 6,800 that the top-selling Toyota Tacomas equipped with towing packages can handle. Diesel Colorado pickups from GM can tow up to 7,700 pounds. Ford makes the claim that its truck has class-leading towing, with the qualifier that it applies to gasoline-powered trucks.
Ford also revealed that the maximum payload for the Ranger. “Think of Ranger as the biggest and most capable backpack for your gear,” says Rick Bolt, Ford Ranger chief engineer. “With 1,860 pounds of maximum payload, Ranger can haul nearly a ton of gear to enable your next adventure.”
Ford is presently taking pre-delivery orders for the Ranger, which enters production in the coming months. The new ranger for North America will be built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant.
Contributing Writer, GM-Trucks.com
Nothing. That's what Mary Barra has on her mind when it comes to pickup trucks and the future for GM. In her recent discussion with Fast Company, Mary Barra discussed, "...GM’s immediate priorities and the broader, bigger vision that it’s working toward." We read over the interview that Fast Company published and looked carefully for any discussion of trucks. Trucks are presently what pays GM's bills and pays its employees paychecks. Barra focused mainly on electrification of cars and ride-sharing. Presently, electric vehicles like the Bolt cost GM money. The company has a target date set for profitability on EVs in 2021.
Barra answered a direct question on what she sees as the future of transportation. She said, "Well, we see four major areas that are transforming the way people move today, and one is propulsion. That’s our focus on electrification. We’re putting significant investment there, not only in electric vehicles but fuel-cell electric vehicles. The next is autonomous, and clearly we’re putting significant investment there. The next is connectivity, and we think we’re just scratching the surface of how we can really create value for consumers from a connected point of view. And then the last is sharing, which we’re also making investments in with Maven." We really didn't expect her to say "Every vehicle after 2020 will come equipped with a snorkel." But how does a profitable truck company that dabbles in money-losing cars ignore its core competency?
Let's be sure we enjoy the diesel Bisons and V8 Camaros folks. They are not part of GM's future. It looks like if GM is still making trucks they will be electric, self-driven and connected to a geo-fenced boundary, and owned by a ride-sharing company you will subscribe to.
well, it looks like Ford is putting all of its eggs into one basket; by dropping every passenger car currently in production and going all in on Trucks and SUVs. essentially, the ONLY car they will have left is the Mustang and even then by 2020, the Mustang will be paired with a word that makes the performance community projectile vomit when it is uttered: HYBRID. i for one, feel sorry that Ford is about to essentially ruin the last good nameplate it has.
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