Contradiction at Cobo - Reflections on the 2018 Detroit Auto Show
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.
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]
NN on Jan 19, 2018
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.
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