Curbside Classic (Re)Visits The 2008 New York International Auto Show, Part 1


Organizing files electronically isn’t really that much different from the “real” thing. As long as you label, sort, and store items in a consistent fashion you should have no problem finding important pieces of information for future reference. Back in 2008 I wasn’t too concerned with keeping my digital affairs in order, and the consequences resulted in the presumed loss of hundreds of pictures. Turns out I was just a lazy 22 year old who decided to let the software to my old digital camera name the folders where these pictures would reside. Today’s trip down memory lane is brought to you by folder “0009” by way of the Nikon Coolpix app, circa 2008. 


Its been more than eight years since these pictures were taken, and while many things have changed, some remain the same. Like the more recent auto shows I’ve covered, Ford is either at, or near, the beginning of my coverage. For as long as I’ve been going to the show in New York I’ve always started on the south side of the main floor, and Ford just happens to be the company that has occupied that section, which coincidentally is also close to one of the entrances to the Javits Center.


The price of gas isn’t too much of a concern for car buyers these days. Back in 2008 that was not the case, and automakers were scrambling to add fuel efficient vehicles to their lineups to meet demand. While the sixth gen hatchback had already debuted in Europe no sedan variant existed until this “Verve” concept showed up in Detroit. I remember being surprised Ford would produce a subcompact that looked so upscale. Of course now we know that while the Fiesta did elevate the subcompact class upon its introduction, those chrome bits were conspicuously absent from the production model, at least until the 2014 refresh arrived.


Ford also ditched that chrome strip along the trunk and got rid of the altezza tailights, not to mention the central exhaust. This concept also features frameless doors and a glass roof, which leaves me wondering if those were ever considered for the production model, because the Verve ultimately looks like a slightly modified version of a real life Fiesta.

The next generation Fiesta hatchback was recently revealed in Europe. Ford has not said if the new subcompact will make it to America, and with the rapid decline of smaller cars, it wouldn’t be surprising if they decided against it. Judging by how Ford introduced the Fiesta back in 2008, we’ll know for certain if the car will be available to American shoppers within the year.


I didn’t take too many pictures of actual Ford vehicles, but I did snap this crash-tested Taurus, which was sacrificed so that others could benefit from its demise. Some might say this new front end is an improvement over the non-destroyed versions of the bull.


The Ford Explorer America concept reflected Ford’s shift towards more unibody front-wheel drive based platforms for its passenger utility vehicles. Although the first EcoBoost engine would debut with the 2009 Lincoln MKS, this concept came equipped with the 2.0 four cylinder variant that would go on to power many vehicles in the Ford lineup. The Explorer refresh that occurred for the 2016 model year did not include the 2.0, as it was replaced with the 2.3 EcoBoost found in the Mustang and MKC.

I’m sure many car enthusiasts balked at the idea of an Explorer being powered by a four cylinder, but the 240 horsepower, 270 Ibs torque figure of the 2.0 Ecoboost bested the contemporary 4.0 liter V6 found in the 2008 Explorer by 30 horses. Heck, the current iteration of the 2.0 beats the naturally aspirated 3.5 liter V6 found in a bunch of contemporary Ford products, at least when it comes to torque.


The Lincoln MKT is certainly an automotive pariah, and just like the Flex, its all but certain to meet its end in the near future. I’m guessing Lincoln will stick to a more conservative design for its next three row crossover, which will have to try very hard to sell as poorly as the MKT.


That interior may look a bit outlandish, but its actually not that far off from the production model, at least when it comes to the dash and center stack. The MKT is truly an ugly duckling, as its interior and road manners are quite polished.


The MKS has now been replaced by the Continental after a seven year run. Like the MKT, the MKS was an automotive pariah, scorned by many and loved by few. Fun fact: the MKS was the first Ford product to be equipped with an EcoBoost engine.

This was also one of the last years where the Lincoln and Ford displays were directly next to each other. Lincoln currently occupies space alongside all the other luxury brands at the northern end of the building.


The MKS and Taurus are not the most space efficient vehicles on the market. While the Taurus is short interior space for such a large vehicle, the big shortcoming for the Lincoln is the small trunk opening, which limits what you can put into the nearly 20 cubic foot cargo area.


Subcompact crossovers were pretty much nonexistent in 2008. Small work vans were also a rarity in the United States until the Transit Connect arrived on the scene for the 2010 model year. Competitors followed suit soon after, and today there exists a healthy market for the little vans.


Smart! The name that is only capitalized when put at the beginning of a sentence. The fortwo of this generation came equipped with a single clutch automated manual transmission that was pilloried by the automotive press for its lack of shift logic.


Like Ford, Honda had a subcompact model available for sale in Europe that eventually made its way to American shores once gas prices spiked. The Fit, like the CR-V, has earned a reputation for being very space efficient.


Honda’s Clarity is likely a pipe dream, especially as electric cars continue to improve. That being said, the Clarity did preview a number of design themes that are currently featured on Honda products. Note the hatchback-like rear end of this model and compare it to the 2016 Civic. The tail light packages of both cars are also similar.


Like the MKS, the Genesis coupe never really gained a following. Further compounding the issue is the newly created Genesis brand, which shares the same name but makes more of a business case for itself. Rumors point to a future Genesis luxury coupe, but whatever form it takes, that two door model will not be the Mustang competitor the Genesis coupe could have been.


As for the Genesis four door, it continues to live on as the G80, another luxury model with a boring alphanumeric name. The Genesis has always looked fairly attractive to me even if the design is a little staid. That being said, the Genesis was far more competitive with the Japanese and German luxury brands than anything available at a Cadillac or Lincoln dealership circa 2008.


The Transformers franchise may be in sequel hell right now, but when this yellow Camaro near-production concept showed itself in New York, the live action series had yet to become the eye rolling basket of mediocrity it is in 2016. I actually thought the the first movie was pretty good! And as annoying as Shia LaBeouf has become, he did a great job in his starring role, especially in his interactions with the far less annoying and absurdly attractive Megan Fox, whom I hope finds success in a critically acclaimed film someday. She deserves it.


As for the actual merits of the Camaro, I have always felt that this design works very well for the coupe, and its not surprising at all that Chevy felt no need to change anything for the sixth generation.


The Lamda platform will soon be replaced by the same architecture that underpins the 2017 GMC Acadia and the Cadillac XT5. As for the Traverse and Enclave, the models currently sitting in dealer showrooms are mostly similar to the ones that debuted in 2008, save for some cosmetic and technological upgrades. The Lamda platform checks all the boxes of a modern full-size crossover: large displacement V6 engine with an output over 250 horsepower; standard front wheel drive and available four wheel drive and enough space for seven passengers. With over 1.5 million units sold since 2006, the Lamda platform certainly qualifies as success for General Motors, and I suspect its successor will only build on the momentum of its predecessor


Remember when Toyota thought it needed a separate division to appeal to younger customers? Turns out that the company just needed to offer vehicles with compelling features at competitive prices.


Far more rational to focus attention to a product like the Corolla in order to draw in that coveted youth demographic.


The Yaris hasn’t enjoyed the same success as its bigger siblings, especially since gas prices have declined, but it still moves a decent amount of units per year. Was this Speed Racer tie in necessary? Most definitely not. Its a shame the Wachowski siblings haven’t made a good movie since The Matrix.


Speaking of failed endeavors, here is the Toyota Venza, the rare crossover that struggled to find buyers in a growing segment. The Ford Edge and Grand Cherokee are proof that mid-size two row crossovers can succeed in the marketplace, so what gives? Is there room for only a couple of nameplates in that particular size category?


I’m guessing Toyota buyers either went to the Highlander or the RAV4, as the Venza suffered from a mediocre exterior design.


GM officially debuted the Chevy Volt concept in 2007. One year later the Saturn Flextreme Concept previewed a much more conventional design that more clearly reflected the production model Volt. The hatchback actually debuted as an Opel and was later modified with Saturn badges for the 2008 auto show circuit. Opel eventually fielded its own variant of the Volt, but only for its first generation.


I’m not sure how a Segway style storage compartment would fare in a rear end collision, but the idea is certainly novel enough to be interesting.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Related Reading:

Curbside Classic Visits The 2007 Empire State Plaza Auto Show, Part 1

Curbside Classic Visits The 2007 Empire State Plaza Auto Show, Part 2