As is our annual tradition, Mr. X and I, along with a friend of ours, went to the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Opening remarks? Yikes is show attendance down, both by manufacturers and the public! Now, to be fair, winter apparently saved up to hit Detroit all at once, so we got about 8 inches of snow yesterday and had highs in the single digits Fahrenheit today.
But this photo of the main floor tells the sad tale of NAIAS this year.
For those unfamiliar with the layout of NAIAS and Cobo Hall, the OEMs are pretty much exclusively on the main floor, and the basement is typically home to suppliers like Denso and Aisin, customizers like Envy Group, the food court, and various attractions.
This year though? Envy Group had massive footage on the main floor.
A huge section of the middle, remarkably filled with Envy Auto Group, but not with people. Normally by noon it’s so crowded it’s unpleasant and hard to get into vehicles. Today, we were there from roughly 9:30 (doors open at 9) to 1:30, and my off-the-cuff estimate is that crowds were down at least a full third. At 10:00 when I took this pic, you could have played catch in the aisles. Also missing were show mainstays Mercedes-Benz and BMW, as well as Volvo and Mazda. Jaguar-Land Rover and a few others pulled out several years ago.
No wonder they’re moving the show to the summer starting next year!
As is my tradition, I pretty much only photograph the things I find interesting. Sadly, there wasn’t much interesting on the floor this year. Everything had a sameness about it. Had you blindfolded me and put into an SUV, I would have had to search out the branding to tell you which one it was. The few remaining sedans were sort of the same story. Yawn.
Interesting stuff? Chinese GAC Auto Group (Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd.) with their Trumpchi brand, for the second year now, had main floor space. I’ve watched them go from things barely passable as autos in a corner of the basement to having main floor space to… this year.
They still need to work on their English translations, but the GE3 could easily be an honest competitor in the EV space. Overall, GAC’s fit and finish were on point-from what I saw I’d call it competitive with anyone else on the main floor at this point.
These two shots are of the aforementioned GE3. Seats were comfortable. Controls were logical, clear, and felt good. I could genuinely see myself driving this car, and I’d absolutely cross-shop it if it were available in the U.S..
Same for the GS8 large SUV. Technology was on point, including the very attractive screen-based IP and very modern center stack. I found the interior design, overall, very appealing, and again I could see myself driving this pretty happily.
Probably the most interesting of the Trumpchis, though, was the GM8 minivan. My first guess is that it caters to that segment of the Chinese market that is driven around, but some of the other minivan makers could take some notes from GAC. This thing was downright swanky inside!
I found all of the GAC offerings rather attractive. Design language is appealing, and I have to remark on the swanky floor mats that were in all of their vehicles, too! If they enter the U.S. market, there’ll be some waves for sure.
Other interesting stuff? Mahindra, for the first time ever, had space on the main floor. They had a few variants of their iteration of the WWII-look Jeep.
Inside, it is quite opposite of the Chinese approach with Trumpchi: the absolute model of stark simplicity; a big dumb clunky thing… And I bet it’s an absolute riot to drive for it! A few toggle switches, a couple levers, a wheel, and pedals. That’s it.
Lights Yes/No, fan Yes/No, high beams Yes/No, horn Yes/No. That’s it. Creature comforts aside, though, can this thing go on the freeway?
The ongoing debasement of Ford’s ST moniker. I realize that it’s only been around in the U.S. for a few years, but the European heritage of it is much more significant. Oh well, who cares about the enthusiasts when boring yuppie suburbanites have money? Inside are the saddest “sport” seats ever, but I’m sure it’s “zippy.”
As an aside, this Explorer’s on an all-new platform, but aside from that grille, it looks really really close to the previous one.
Lincoln, with about one-third the floor space they’ve had in past years, showed off their range, which is the best it’s been in decades (those interiors are some of the best out there right now, bar none). They did bring one of the 80 suicide-door Continentals with them, though.
I will say the effect of the doors not opening quite on the same plane is not quite as stark as some photos made it look. Still a bit noticeable, though.
Also, check out those hinges for the rear door!
I’m not sure what this very sexy concept from Infiniti is meant to be, but I absolutely want to strap in and let it make me feel things!
Speaking of performance, Honda again brought a Civic Type R, this time in a new color. These have been out for a couple years now, so I give Honda credit that it can still draw a serious crowd (probably the biggest crowd around any one car I saw at the entire show, honestly). Yes, it looks bonkers. No, I don’t care. Yes, I want one.
Honestly, in spite of an entire auto show, these were the few things that struck me enough to bother photographing. I definitely have thoughts on who had what going on, but I’ll wrap this up here.