By on January 18, 2018

2019 Ram 1500

When I left the media center at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, I turned to Steph to say I might write a roundup piece this week, but I wasn’t sure what angle to take. It’s true this year’s show was truck-focused, and I wanted to go beyond the obvious theme (which Jack eventually took on here) and see if there was more to the show that was getting lost in the truck madness.

“Maybe I will find inspiration on the open road,” I joked.

Instead, the “open road” greeted me with snarled traffic near Detroit and whiteout conditions a couple hours later in Southwest Michigan/Northwest Indiana. So, as I tried to keep a Camry pointed forward and not sideways while surrounded by insane open-road truckers whose response to the weather was to drive even faster, I realized I wasn’t going to come up with some grand, sweeping theme for this year’s show.

Instead, I have a few random musings compiled below.

Side note: If you’re curious, the Camry acquitted itself well in the white stuff, with the exception of the driver-aid systems – the snow clogged sensors so badly that the dashboard was aflame with all sorts of dire warnings about how these aids were temporarily disabled. More on that below.

Without further ado:

  • Outside of trucks trucks trucks, the main theme of the Detroit show was contradiction, especially with Ford. Jim Hackett talked about his GT350 and its loud exhaust at the same presentation in which the company continued to drone on about the future of mobility and the cities of tomorrow. Not only that, but Ford launched a new Bullitt trim for the Mustang shortly before pissing off almost everyone by hinting that a future “performance” crossover with a battery electric powertrain could use the Mach 1 name, of Mustang fame.
  • Shortly afterward, Ford teased the upcoming Shelby GT500, a car that’s far from a BEV crossover with performance intent. I get that automakers are looking to please both performance enthusiasts as well as future-looking consumers who welcome more electrification (and perhaps more autonomy), but Ford’s mixed messaging gave off the impression that the company does not have a coherent vision for the future. And yes, a coherent vision could include both old-school performance vehicles and electric and/or autonomous vehicles – if articulated correctly. Ford, however, looks like it doesn’t know what it wants to do.
  • Speaking of autonomous vehicles, as mentioned above, I experienced some system failures on my drive home thanks to inclement weather. This isn’t to pick on Toyota, since these issues could have happened in any car, but it’s a reminder that there’s a way to go before this tech is ready for prime time, no matter what PR spin you may hear out of NAIAS.
    2019 Ford Ranger, Image: Ford
  • I might be insane or have bad eyes, but I detect a hint of current-gen Toyota Tacoma in the new Ford Ranger. That’s not a bad thing, and regardless if I am seeing things or not, the new Ranger does look good to my eye.
  • Based on everything I’ve read about it, both in the media proper and on social media, the new Silverado has the most divisive styling of the new crop of pickups. There seems to be no middle ground. For the record, I like it.
  • Circling back to the Blue Oval: What the hell is Ford doing with the EcoSport? One model on the show floor had such poorly assembled trim pieces that one of our writers was able to move a piece of trim that should be stationary up and down with ease. It looked and felt cheap, as if Ford was so desperate for a subcompact crossover that it didn’t care to put an effort into improving build quality as it brought the model to the U.S. for the first time. I’m not someone who subscribes to the (arguably xenophobic) belief that a car built in India can’t be well made, but at first glance, the EcoSport feels so shoddily put together that I’m already mentally prepping for the first stories about consumer complaints. Regardless of where this thing is built, Ford needs to step up its game.
  • On the other hand, I like the limited-edition Mustang Bullitt, but I can bet that unlike the car used in the movie, it’s not something that can be afforded on a “detective’s salary.” The last time I got bored and built a Mustang GT on Ford’s consumer site it came close to $40K. A quick Google search shows that the average salary for detectives varies from $52K to $75K, depending on the source. Sure, a detective making $75K might have enough cash for a Bullitt depending on his other bills, but the gumshoe making $52K is gonna have to stretch a bit – and that’s assuming dealers don’t mark this car up, which they will.Hyundai Veloster N
  • The other car that intrigues me is the Veloster N. Unlike with many performance trims, the performance doo-dads actually make this car look better than the “base” models. Not to mention that the numbers sound good. If Hyundai prices this right and gets the tuning right, the GTI has a real challenger on its hands – one that’s not named WRX or Civic Si (neither of which are available as hatchbacks, of course).
  • Some things never change: Truck wars are as active as ever. Between Chevrolet taking shots at Ford over diesel power specs, and Ford claiming its four-cylinder Ranger will lose nothing compared to V6 models, the usual, um, “contests of ego” remain. The average car buyer doesn’t care, of course, but truck guys now have new fodder for Internet flame wars.

The Detroit auto show is always interesting, and this year was no exception, even if it was a little strange. Chicago follows less than a month from now, and New York not quite two months after that – we shall see what weirdness may follow.

[Images © 2018 Bozi Tatarevic/TTAC, Ford, TTAC staff]

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29 Comments on “Contradiction at Cobo – Reflections on the 2018 Detroit Auto Show...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Side note: If you’re curious, the Camry acquitted itself well in the white stuff, with the exception of the driver-aid systems – the snow clogged sensors so badly that the dashboard was aflame with all sorts of dire warnings about how these aids were temporarily disabled.

    Yes but did it disable your VSC because of a bad gas cap? (Sorry Toyota I’m never going to let that one go.)

    Ranger is interesting to me to see how it actually drives in crew cab 4×4 form with a turbo 4 and 10 speed auto as the only choice. I did read on another site that the Ranger will use Dana 44 rear axle and front Dana 44 differential (same as Wrangler) which is cool.

    Re: Bullitt and a Detectives Salary – I still subscribe to the antique notion of never buying a car that costs more than 1/2 my annual salary. Just my 2 cents from a grey beard.

    • 0 avatar
      Verbal

      Is that before or after taxes?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Before taxes. Still puts me ahead of the morons who act like “oooooooohhhh the bank wrote me a blank check.” I’m also not comfortable with a loan longer than 72 months (that would have to be on a brand new car.)

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Half your salary or HHI? Half my salary puts me about 40% over my already generous budget; add my wife’s salary and I’m in a nicely optioned 911 that I have zero business owning, even if I wasn’t dropping $3k/mo on childcare.

        • 0 avatar
          Felix Hoenikker

          Dan,
          Make that max loan term 36 months. Suzie Orman validated that loan term for me. So far, I have managed to live with those terms. It’s a great defense against crazy increasing prices for new cars. But, then again, I was raised to be a cheap basta$d by depression era parents.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      That was a very interesting point that Tim made. I guess Ford’s idea of making a car specifically for detectives who live in San Francisco and frequently find themselves in high speed chases is gonna fail, big time. EcoBoostFlex was right all along.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @John – OK Mr. Sarcastic – I just think it is an interesting point.

        I have very little doubt that a San Francisco Police Detective could have afforded a Mustang fastback optioned like the one in Bullitt back in 1968.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    There’s a big disconnect between what people are purchasing based on 2 dollar gas and where the govt is mandating the future fleet. This probably doesn’t end well.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agree with you there.

      I don’t think regulating the SUVs and trucks out of the market is the answer, but neither is a hands-off approach to CAFE rules to suit the latest whims of the masses.

      To repeat myself, IMO the US should be seeking domestic energy independence as a matter of national security. This would address one aspect of the complex question of oil consumption and sourcing.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      FWIW, trucks are making leaps and bounds with regards to fuel economy. In 10 years the F150’s mileage has improved by 50% and I think there’s still room for improvement. That’s 21MPG combined- better than a Mustang GT. And FWIW the F150 and Mustang get the same combined mileage with the 6AT + 5.0L. Things are improving.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Regarding the truckers that think going faster is the answer to their problems – it’s the way of the road.

    Interesting to hear about the Camry losing its nannies to the snow. Shows that mother nature always has the upper hand, despite the technological advances.

    I keep looking for Ecosports on cargurus but they all show as “in transit” for local dealers. I’m interested in checking one out to see how bad they actually are.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Re: the Camry. What if it was an autonomous car with no provision for manual control?

      “Oh, its snowing, I’m just gonna stop here until it clears up. Good luck, human occupant!”

      • 0 avatar
        Tim Healey

        Oh no, it was just the pre-collision stuff and park-assist. Sensors too clogged with ice to work.

        • 0 avatar
          Middle-Aged Miata Man

          And an autonomous car would be using… sensors, too.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            And GM wants to put one out without a steering wheel! In the Upper Midwest in the first month of the year, fuhgettaboutit!

            And if I, with a weapon held to my head, had to choose a car built in India or China, I’d pick India in a heartbeat, and three times on Sunday!

            Of course, if Ford has their way, it seems that they’ll be leading the charge to get us all into the GoogleSaveThePlanetItsForTheCHILDRENPods sooner rather than later. (If the future is like the half-mile I spent today on my drive home behind some goodie-two-shoes-little-miss-PERFECT doing 22mph in a 25, I’ll need to be TRANQUILIZED!!! Heck, as I’ve always said about people who are that bent on following a single law (while likely texting and driving, if not worse), if a DOT put a sign up saying “Jump Off This Bridge,” WOULD THEY DO IT??!! Hopefully the passenger cells (as in prison) of aforementioned ThinkOfTheCHILDRENPods have good emergency exits, with floatation a bonus!

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Those are the sensors that are being used on autonomous test vehicles.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I’ve driven my Charger in serious blizzards and through snow up to the bumper and never had any system failure due to clogged sensors. Tons of road salt residue never rendered them inoperable either, even when my backup camera was covered. My alternator went (recall item) and the dash lit up like a Christmas tree though.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I’ve had my Adaptive Cruise/Forward Collision radar be rendered unusable by snow and sleet, though the design on my car is a larger, parabolic affair; the newer HondaSensing units are a little more compact, and until the 10th-Gen Accords bowed, the sensors were mounted higher in the vehicle. Now, of course, they are nearly at ground-level, dead-center in front of the intercooler.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Not sure about other manufacturers’ offerings, but I believe Chrysler’s adaptive cruise sensor (supplied by Bosch) is heated to ensure continued operation amid frozen precipitation. Of course, it might not be able to keep up in blizzard conditions.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Circling back to the Blue Oval: What the hell is Ford doing with the EcoSport?”

    I’ve seen issues with flimsy trim plenty of times on vehicles at auto shows (including some that are high-end), but then again, the show here in Denver is usually kind of late in the season. By the time thew show rolls into town here, these cars have been climbed in and out of a million times, so YMMV, as they say.

    Is it possible this was the case with the Ecosport?

    (For the record, it wouldn’t surprise me if this thing turned out to be junk…just trying to give it the benefit of the doubt.)

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    “What the hell is Ford doing with the EcoSport? One model on the show floor had such poorly assembled trim pieces that one of our writers was able to move a piece of trim that should be stationary up and down with ease. ”

    All Ford’s suffer from glaring quality issues like this.

    “Profits now, quality and recalls later” is their business model

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Don’t believe it is xenophobic to say some countries have issues assembling in a high quality manner complicated manufactured goods. Today. They will likely improve like South Korea did.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    Dom’t pick on poor Jim Hackett. Not only does he have to figure out which way is up at FoMoCo, he also has an albatross around his neck named Jim Harbaugh from his stint at UofM.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I’m not sure the Silverado styling is as divisive as you claim. I think the contingent of people who thought Chevy Trucks were the end-all/be-all (a group to which I do not belong) are disappointed the changes in this update are actually noticeable unlike last time. The people who don’t “get” Chevy Truck Love (guilty) still don’t see anything worth changing their mind about. At the end of the day, I’m solidly in the middle ground of can’t be bothered to care enough to either love or hate the new Chevy truck.

    I was all prepared to loathe the 2019 Ram based on spy shots. I’m definitely warming up to the new styling. I was all prepared to jump ship to Fords because the Ram 1/2-tons of the current generation sacrificed payload/towing on the alter of highway comfort while still foisting the transmission tunnel and short-cushion rear b!tch seat on us. The 2019 Ram appears to amend all those ills, but it’ll still be a Ford/Ram contest for my (hypothetical, at this point) next truck.

  • avatar
    NN

    I dumped my Ford stock this week after the 7% drop, which pissed me off, but I don’t like what I see other than a few short term profitable hits like finally wrapping up the entire F-Series rollout and the new Lincoln Navigator I sat in this past weekend at my local auto show. There’s nothing else that looks good for them. Ranger to me looks mediocre, same product they’ve been selling overseas, many years late to the party.

    No more Ford cars, 50 new Zotye low margin Chinese electric autonomous appliances. I guess they’ll be abandoning Europe as well if they’re not really investing in Focus/Fiesta and instead just a light rehash and move production to China.

    It all smells like weakness, following, and little to no future. I’ve had the stock since it was under $2 and Mulally brought them back. Too bad in a strong economy with lots of other growth opportunities now they look so weak.

  • avatar
    mojeimeje

    Is it me or did the NAIAS have a lot less media days this year as compared to previous years? Everything seemed to be revealed on Monday and Tuesday and that was it.

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