2019 NAIAS Recap & Photo Gallery

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

It might surprise you, since most automotive sites have moved on to other topics, but the North American International Auto Show, aka the Detroit auto show, is still going on as you read this. Hundreds of thousands of people are planning to attend the public days of the show that continue through next Sunday.

If you’re thinking of going, or just want a recap of the significant vehicles at the show, you’ve come to the right place.

At first I thought it was my own ennui, but I wasn’t the only person who was less than excited about the final winter edition of the Detroit show (undoubtedly you already know that the NAIAS is moving to June for 2020). Any auto show that reveals a 700+ horsepower Mustang Shelby GT500 and a new Toyota Supra, introduced by Mister Gazoo himself, Akio Toyota, can’t be called a boring show, and it certainly didn’t have the funereal atmosphere of the 2009 show — when the Detroit automakers were circling the fiscal drain in the wake of the global financial crisis of ’07-’08 — but Akio was the only person who seemed really excited. My friend Jack thinks the Supra should have been a crossover because performance cars have become nerdmobiles in this market. If so, Akio is the chief nerd.

The Supra looks like it couldn’t have been designed outside of Japan. The new Mustang Shelby has a lot of slick aero tricks that you don’t notice at first because it’s still a Mustang.

The Infiniti QX Inspiration concept seem to have been the hit of the show, despite not quite making it on stage on time due to electrical gremlins (not a good thing for an EV concept). It won awards from the designers volunteering for the Eyes On Design charity.

They seem to have been impressed by Nissan designers’ attempt to give a “face” to an electric vehicle that doesn’t need a grille. I’ll agree that that gave it a face, but I think it comes off looking a little bit sinister. Infiniti also showed a slick looking electric monoposto speedster they’re calling the Prototype 10.

The consensus opinion on the Kia Telluride, the company’s swing at a midsize American SUV, was that Peter Schreyer’s team couldn’t decide what made an American vehicle American, so they decided to copy both GM (grille) and Ford (side lights). Some of their concept accessories were a bit over the top, like D-pillar mounted tool kits, but it’s clear that Kia takes the American market very seriously.

Though I don’t like Lexus’ predator grille, I understand its need to stand out in a crowded luxury market. The grille notwithstanding, I think the LC Convertible concept-in-name-only is a very attractive automobile. They’ll never make a crossover that looks this good. The number of Lexus customers who track their cars can’t be a large number, but for those who do, Lexus showed the RC F Track Edition.

The big news at Lincoln was the Continental Coach Door Edition, but it was also the first time I’ve gotten a chance to look at the Aviator, which I think looks pretty good for a SUV/CUV.

In general, I think Lincoln has done a good job making its high-riders look like luxury vehicles and, while we weren’t looking, managed to fill out its portfolio of non-sedans with the MKC, Nautilus, Aviator, and Navigator. I asked David Woodhouse, who heads Ford styling, if it is difficult to make a SUV look elegant. He nodded and smiled broadly.

“But Bentley set a very low bar with the Bentayga,” I said.

“And Rolls-Royce too,” he added.

The most interesting vehicle at the NAIAS this year is in the Mahindra booth.

Mahindra has a couple of R&D facilities in southeastern Michigan, and the company recently opened up what they are calling the first new automotive assembly factory in Michigan in decades to assemble their Roxor off-road vehicle. When I first read about the new factory, perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but I got the impression they were going to build some kind of ATV four-wheeler.

Instead, the Roxor is a direct descendant of the Willys military jeep that Mahindra was first licensed to manufacture in 1948. Of course, by now everything in the Roxor has been designed and engineered by Mahindra, but the Roxor still shares a strong family resemblance to the Jeeps currently made by Fiat Chrysler. Its dimensions are also that of a passenger vehicle, not an ATV. It’s literally easy to see why FCA has started litigation, though I think that, as with the Hummer, Mahindra will prevail.

It wasn’t the Roxor that I found most interesting, though; it was the Indian market minivan, the Marazzo, that Mahindra designed in Auburn Hills, Michigan. What’s so interesting about a MPV? The Marazzo is likely the only body-on-frame, front-wheel-drive passenger vehicle in the world. Indian roads are even worse than Michigan’s, and many Marazzos will be put into severe service as commercial taxis and jitneys. Mahindra didn’t think a unibody structure would be up to local conditions.

Mahindra also showed a couple of electric two-wheelers, a bicycle and a motor scooter, marketed under the GenZe brand. The scooter is assembled in an Ann Arbor facility.

Subaru introduced an S209 high performance edition of the STI. It has a 341 hp engine, the most powerful production motor Subaru has ever built. Nearby were a couple of Subaru’s other performance cars, painted a rather light pastel blue. It’s a very pretty color. Too pretty for those cars. It made them look plain, not aggressive at all.

Volkswagen introduced what it is calling an all-new Passat, though it’s not a new platform. I’m not a VW hand so you’d have to put it next to the old one for me to tell the difference. VW was also showing the Final Edition of the New Beetle. It has these chromed and white painted wheels that I suppose are supposed to reprise the look of the white enameled steel wheels and chromed hubcaps adorning the very nice ’64 Beetle they had on display.

Cadillac put its heritage car, a 1959 convertible, upstairs. Perhaps it thought its fire engine red paint would look gaudy amidst its current, more reserved, vehicles, or maybe steal attention from them. I wonder if millenials know that thing in the armrest is an ashtray.

Guangzhou Automobile Group still hasn’t learned that GAC won’t fly as a brand name in North America, though this time around you weren’t knocked over by the fumes from the off-gassing plastics, as happened during an earlier visit to Detroit.

The company is still pushing forward with plans for the North American market, though they weren’t mentioning how China’s current economic doldrums might affect those plans. GAC also hasn’t yet learned to hire native English speakers, not Google Translate, to write their English language ad copy.

[Images: Ronnie Schreiber]

Ronnie Schreiber
Ronnie Schreiber

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, the original 3D car site.

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2 of 16 comments
  • Jatz Jatz on Jan 23, 2019

    Marazzo me, baby! It's a giant Fit and it's built for sh*t roads just like ours!

  • Blackcloud_9 Blackcloud_9 on Jan 24, 2019

    My favorite pic was of the 1958 Cadillac. No, I'm not going to wax poetic about Cadillac days-gone-by. I just remember as a kid, it was the sign of a true luxury car when every passenger has their own ashtray - and even higher luxury when each ashtray had a its own lighter. Of course, that was also the time when Dad, Mom and just about every adult I knew as a kid smoked.

  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.
  • Big Al from Oz Musk and Trump are of the same ilk, except Musk's IQ is a damn site higher than Trumps. Musk like Trump is only into himself. Musk doesn't care about Trump only Musk. Musk sees more dollars if Trump wins.Hey, I'm Big Al again!3
  • Rover Sig We have a car with two fake exhausts in the bumper, but a large shiny muffler visible hanging down on one side, not aligned with the fake exhaust exits. Horrendous. I had to paint the shiny muffler with high-temp black paint to make it less visible. Exhaust pipes were meant to be round and hang below the bumper, and they can be made quiet or loud as the engineers like. But fake exhausts rank down there with fake intake vents on the side of that old Buick.
  • EBFlex Of course it does. What a silly question
  • Buickman Elon is a phony.