By on November 30, 2018


Outside of a Nissan-hosted panel preceding the first media day, the typically mobility discussion was muted at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show (and even that panel wasn’t nearly as eye-roll inducing as the usual Ford pronouncements — at least this panel included actual experts making reasonable points, even if I disagree with some of them.)

L.A. was all about the cars – cars you’ll soon be able to buy, should you have the means.

Let’s start with the Jeep. We drooled over the Gladiator as much any other outlet, and with good reason. It looks even better in person, and kudos to Fiat Chrysler for allowing stick-shift buyers to have their cake and eat it, too. You can get a manual without having to sacrifice content, so long as you buy the gas engine.

Yeah, it may just be a Wrangler with a pickup box, but that’s what most of us want out of a Jeep truck, right? Jeep had no need to get crazy here, and they didn’t, and the result is something that looks pretty awesome.

(Full disclosure: Nissan hosted myself and other journalists in Los Angeles, covering our flight, hotel, parking, and a few meals.).

Moving on to the next iconic name on the docket, the Porsche 911. I didn’t get much time near it, so I don’t have a ton of thoughts on it, other than it looks good while still being recognizable as a 911. I can’t imagine many Porsche purists will be upset with what the gang in Germany cooked up.


Lincoln’s Aviator also wowed, and while I am skeptical about the use of a smartphone app to unlock and start the vehicle, everything else about it strikes me as just what Lincoln needed. It looks good inside and out, has big power numbers on tap, and is generally the powerful, midsize luxury SUV that fits the mold of what buyers are looking for these days. And it doesn’t even have an alphanumeric name!

Yeah, it’s probably going to cost a mint and guzzle a bunch of gas, and that latter likelihood will prove problematic should gas prices spike again. But timing is important, and right now, the Aviator is the kind of vehicle that will give Lincoln a much-needed shot in the arm. Plus, there’s a plug-in hybrid version, even if its appeal was all about power.

Another key vehicle shown in L.A. is the Honda Passport. While I am disappointed in the use of black body cladding on some models, I dig the look overall. I don’t care if it’s a truncated Pilot, or if it’s a bit boring. It’s still good-looking, and the interior looks nice, and the tech specs look good on paper.

I’m less certain about the Hyundai Palisade – it looks better in person than in pictures, but it also strikes me as a little derivative (to be fair, that charge can also be made, albeit less forcefully, against the Aviator). Still, if it’s comfortable and drives well enough, it will sell. Hyundai certainly seems to have gotten the content mix correct.

I am also a little “meh” on the 2020 Toyota Corolla – it looks worlds better than what it replaces, but that said, I am not fully sold on the styling. And if it doesn’t drive as well as a Honda Civic or a Mazda 3, I’ll continue to ignore it.

I know, I know, I’ve not mentioned the Kia Soul much. But I was working on posts on other vehicles and haven’t really dug into it yet. I like the updated looks, and I will have more thoughts later.

mazda 3

Ah, yes, the Mazda 3. The other big show-stopper. Handsome sedan, hatch that looks better up close but has an unfortunate rear end and C-pillar area. Looks to have an intriguing new gas engine and available all-wheel drive. Will continue to offer a stick, likely to still be a blast to drive. It, along with the Gladiator, is the L.A. debut that intrigues me the most, but for different reasons. The Gladiator is a clear winner, while the 3 is a bigger gamble. It appears to be headed in the right direction, but it’s not as obviously a winner on paper. While I need to drive all of these to ensure proper judgment, the Mazda seems to be the most likely to go either way.

Finally, there is the Rivian truck and SUV. I don’t have much to say about these vehicles other than that they look cool (especially up close) and hopefully they aren’t vaporware.

However good any of these individual debuts end up on being on road, I appreciate that this year’s L.A. show was mostly stripped of bullshit. No big talks about smart cities and mobility solutions. No concepts that betrayed the heritage of a historic muscle car (yes, that’s a shot at you and your Mach 1, Ford). Even the Nissan panel – it was held off-site before the media days, and instead of an exec preaching a buzzword-heavy spiel about a future that may never occur, it included questions and answers that were as grounded in reality as they can be at panels like this.

Even the corporate speak from a scooter-company exec was interesting, if not predictable.


Nissan then had a standard press conference at its stand the next day, announcing mild updates to two lineup stalwarts. While it’s a tad surprising for an OEM to bother with a launch for such a mild refresh, it was also good to see that while Nissan isn’t ignoring the “conversation” around mobility and autonomy (how much of that conversation is or isn’t hooey is up for debate), it was able to separate that talk from the cars, which are the stars.

Volvo’s car-free press conference, which focused on autonomous-driving tech, was the only blip here. But even then, autonomous-driving tech is part of the industry now, no matter how far we are from Level 5 autonomy.

Nope, this show was all about cars – cars that will be on sale soon. Few concepts, little in the way of useless chatter. Sounds simple, but sometimes simple is best.

Hopefully all auto-show media days going forward will focus as much on the cars as this one, but I don’t hold out hope. And while I don’t want to seem like a Luddite who ignores the future – I am aware that change is coming to the automotive and transportation industries, and one shan’t ignore this fact – I do think we need to continue to cast a critical eye on all “mobility” talks until they go beyond buzzwords and get into real-world applications.

The future of the industry needs to be discussed. But some of the biggest changes are years away, and in the meantime, there’s a market of consumers to continue selling traditional cars and trucks to. The OEMs seemed to realize that this year.

Perhaps that’s the future trend I’d like most to see.

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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26 Comments on “2018 Los Angeles Auto Show Recap – Move Aside, Mobility, the Cars Were the Stars...”

  • avatar

    Re: Lincoln, hasn’t every other company already made smartphone apps to start and unlock their cars? What’s different about this Lincoln seems like old tech now. Also does it have a V10? It looks like a typical crossover which means tiny 4 and 6 cylinders so fuel economy shouldn’t be an issue.

    That Jeep is really itching at me, throw the Hemi under the hood and I don’t think I’ll be able to resist buying it. It’s truly 90% there as it is but even 4:88 gearing can’t fix a V6.

    • 0 avatar

      The Lincoln has 400 hp standard, and it offers 450 hp with the plug-in version. These figures are very competitive with its class.

      But, yeah, it totally needs a V-10, that’ll make all the difference. And, if they gave it one, would you buy it? Of course not.

      And, no, other cars dont use a smartphone as a key, this is different than remote start systems that use an app but still require a key or fob to actually drive.

      But, as per your usual, don’t let pesky facts ruin a good guessing-game rant.

      • 0 avatar

        As usual your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired. You extract what you want to read from my post and bludgeon it til your blue in the face while everyone else cruises through understanding my point.

        Who the hell would buy a crossover with a V10? I specifically asked why this smartphone app was special, I don’t see where it says that the phone acted as a key, if I did I wouldn’t have asked clearly.

        • 0 avatar

          I think John read your comment, and then gave his opinion on what you said. I dont see the problem.

          • 0 avatar

            Where did I ever question the performance, and how does my comment relate to performance specs? How could you come to the conclusion that I think it needs a V10 based off of my comment? Where in the original article does it say that the phone acts as a key? It states the phone can be used to start and unlock your vehicle, something almost every vehicle made now can do.

            He’s free to give his opinion, but he comes out looking like a moron when he attacks me over something I never said and then over something trivial.

      • 0 avatar

        I would argue that it needs V12 for half the price of BMW X3.

      • 0 avatar

        @johnTaurus: “And, no, other cars dont use a smartphone as a key,”

        I know of at least one other car that already has it, the Model 3. There may be others, I’m not sure. The phone can unlock it and be used as a key for driving. Nothing else needed.

      • 0 avatar

        I hear you can pick up a used V10 Touareg real cheap!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m guessing it must use the app as an additional key via Bluetooth. I also agree on the fuel economy issue. I doubt this thing will have anything larger than a twin turbo V6 under its hood.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s marketing. My ’13 Taurus will let me start it from my smartphone. Most people don’t know that cars do this. If they don’t know, you brag about it as a selling point.

  • avatar

    FordSocial scooter-sharing app project is coming to the 2019 show then I guess.

  • avatar

    Where TF is the Bronco?

  • avatar

    The Jeep truck is just a whole lotta meh for me. Havent been a fan of the way the Wrangler looks from several angles for a few generations. Just looks silly. This is the same thing with a bed tacked on. Just IMO. I know itll sell.
    I’m happy Mazda is still around to do things a little differently.
    I like the Corollas redesign.
    Why do so many electric vehicles take old needed parts of designs, like radiator openings and then incorporate them and block them off. It looks dumb.

    • 0 avatar
      Clueless Economist

      I too am disappointed in the lack of anything interesting in the Gladiator. Wow Jeep designers, you put a bed on a Wrangler.

      I have been looking forward to the new Mazda3, but not loving the Pinto rear or the toned down interior. Concept was so much better.

  • avatar

    Regarding the Palisade, in a sea of nearly interchangeable 3-row CUVs, don’t underestimate the combined power of pricing and long warranty.

    I’d still buy an AWD minivan instead for this type of application.

  • avatar

    This is the first auto show I was actually a little excited about, why, because like the writer said, it was about the cars as opposed to just being about the tech. BTW that Aviator app is really kind of old news, but the vehicle isn’t and that’s what’s important

  • avatar

    That beautiful 3 would be an even bigger sales success if FCA would leverage their partnership with Mazda and brand-engineer a new Neon on that platform. With car sales dwindling I’m sure Mazda’s manufacturing plant could use the extra volume, and it would keep FCA relevant in the car game.

    But mostly, I just want a Mazda 3 that I can park close to the tech center in Auburn Hills without getting booted.

    • 0 avatar

      There is no real desperation for Mazda to chase volume. When the 2017 CX-5 came out – Mazda’s sales were 6 times the expectation and they had to re-tool another plant in Japan to make more CX-5s. Till the new plant in Alabama comes up – Mazda should be near full capacity.
      Few good things for Mazda’s sales:
      AA/CP – no matter what you think this moves cars.
      AWD – opens a newer market for them.
      2.5T in GT-R and Signature for CX-5, again opens up a market where it directly competes with RDX, NX-200t, XC-60/XC-40 and the Q5.

      Only thing I am confused about the 3 is the max price with 360 camera, cooled seats, HUD, digital gauge cluster, Japanese sen-wood, Napa leather, upscale materials and a new key fob would hit 33,000 USD which is steep. But Mazda has moved more GTs as a percent of overall sales – so there should be top end demand.

  • avatar

    It’s going to be sad when Mazda can’t move any of their beautiful new Mazda3, at least their CUVs are also the most attractive in their class.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Let’s start with the Jeep. We drooled over the Gladiator as much any other outlet, and with good reason. ”

    LOL! Why? because of all the new tech in it? The ground breaking design/styling? You can’t even get a V8 in it, so in IMO it’s underpowered for any type of real towing. Who gives a rats a$$ that they offer a manual. The take rate on that will be zero and they’ll discontinue it in a year or two anyways. I had a manual 5sp in my compact Toyota PU & after towing with it for a 11 years I came to hate that manual. Well hate is kind of a strong word, but you get the point. A manual was awesome in my BB Trans Am, they suck in a PU truck. Give me automatic or give me death! A V8 with an auto is lot more fun to drive in a truck than any V6/stick anyways.

  • avatar

    Full disclosure: “Nissan hosted myself…” –> “Nissan hosted me…”

    I know it’s petty, but me/myself and fewer/less are the two grammatical mistakes that stick in my eye throughout an entire article. They give me a negative opinion about the intelligence of the author. Probably undeserved, but there you have it.

    • 0 avatar

      Never a problem to have a visit from the grammar police. Try being married to a Language Arts teacher. That will make you sharpen your grammar skills.
      The one that sets my teeth on edge is the misuse of “lose and “loose”. “The last minute fumble caused the team to loose the game” Arrgghhh!

      My wife taught me one thing that I find very useful. The easy way to determine the correct way to use “me or “I” when combining it with another person; remove the other person.
      “Fred and me went to dinner” is not correct and quick way to tell is to remove “Fred” from the sentence. “Me went to dinner” just sounds silly.

    • 0 avatar

      Authors make mistakes. Editors are supposed to catch those mistakes. In most Internet blogs, the editor is the author. Mistakes don’t get caught.

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