2022 North American International Auto Show – Detroit’s a Vibe, Alright

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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2022 north american international auto show detroits a vibe alright

The North American International Auto Show, aka the Detroit Auto Show, can be very weird.

Cattle once ran through the streets. A Jeep once drove through glass. There was the funereal atmosphere of 2009. The legendary booze fests at the old firehouse. The, uh, Train concerts.

This year may have been the weirdest yet. There’s the background of just how effed-up the automotive industry is at the moment (supply chain woes, lingering effects of the Covid pandemic on the business, yada yadda yadda), of course. Add to that mix a large number of no-show brands and the appearance of the president of these United States and the vibe was just, well, odd.

Don’t get me started on the gigantic rubber ducky or the dinosaur replicas dotting the floor.

Yeah, it was that kind of media day.

Whatever one’s political ideology or opinion of Joseph Robinette Biden, or his job as POTUS, one could not deny the buzz that preceded his appearance. I suspect even the die-hard MAGAs among the media*/dealer/engineer/OEM crowd wanted to see him – after all, it’s not every day you can see the sitting president.

(*Contrary to popular belief, not all of us in the media are raging liberals. Yes, it’s true that journalists are more likely to lean left, but in my experience, there are plenty of moderates/anti-Trump righties/MAGAts/libertarians and indifferent apolitical types fighting for free coffee at whichever show stand has the best lattes.).

Conversely, I suspect even the happiest Biden voters were annoyed to have the show effectively shut down for two hours. You usually only hear that kind of grumbling when the open bar becomes a cash bar at the same time that the restaurant runs out of shrimp.

The presence of the president wasn’t the only bit of weirdness. Not by a long shot. Indeed, even after he’d left and the show started to feel more “normal”, I couldn’t help but notice that the Detroit of old was gone – and according to some industry vets, she ain’t coming back. Cue country-song lyrics about pickup-truck taillights.

The rubber duck should’ve clued me in. Walking over from the hotel, I spotted the giant version of toy waterfowl hanging out just down the street from Huntington Place. Following that, I got the lovely experience of a Secret Service patdown – a reminder that POTUS was inbound.

That caused me to miss Jeep taking the wraps off of two minor trim updates. That would normally earn a yawn, but the Jeep presser was, along with Chevy, one of the two “big” ones on the day. Ford’s big unveil of the Mustang is set for tonight.

Still, it’s an auto show. That means there were lattes with Lincoln logos, a cool-looking Ford Bronco, flying cars, and a DeLorean for some reason.

One ink-stained wretch said this year’s show was as sad as 2009, but trust me, it was not. 2009 felt like the death of an industry. 2022’s feeling was one more of happiness and confusion – it’s good to be back in Detroit (and really good to not be freezing to death) but where does NAIAS go from here?

That said, a boatload of brands were missing. Only the Detroit three, Subaru, and Toyota seemed to have show stands (it appears a local dealer represented BMW and perhaps Kia and Volvo). No Nissan/Infiniti, Hyundai/Genesis, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and so on – though I saw PR folks from some of the missing brands wandering around.

I don’t think auto shows as a whole are dead – as I’ve said, they’re still worth it for consumers – but the media day might be done. A lot of people think the Internet killed the auto show media day, or perhaps Covid did. Personally, I think the OEMs are killing the show by scheduling unveils ahead of the show. Doesn’t matter if they’re live, remote, or some combination thereof. If OEMs are scheduling debuts on their own, ahead of auto shows, it obviously takes the thunder out of the shows.

I’ve written that before, so I won’t rehash it further. That’s big-picture stuff anyway.

That said, each auto show is part of the bigger picture. And the snapshot from one day in Detroit is, well, a little blurry (and not because of any show-stand champagne – I’m as sober as the Pope as I type this). Next year might be busier, or it might be more dead. It’s really hard to tell.

I have a feeling it will still have ducks and dinos, though.

[Images © 2022 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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Yes, I had a pumpkin spice. I am basic.

Joe Biden sat in this.


Who ya gonna...yeah, you know the rest.

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 10 comments
  • Peter E. Puffington IV Peter E. Puffington IV on Sep 15, 2022

    Man that Bronco looks good. Let me check out that Blazer now!

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Sep 16, 2022

    Other than getting a chance to talk with editor Tim in person and seeing some other folks I only see once or twice a year, the 2022 NAIAS media preview was nearly a complete waste of time for me. Hanging around the Mustang II fans waiting for the 7th gen Mustang reveal was probably the highlight of my day.

    While we were standing outside the show floor after the media was kicked out of the media preview so that Pres. Biden could get a private tour and drive a Cadillac crossover slowly on the carpeting (about as slow as Joe's cognitive functions), a veteran auto journalist said to me, "Back in the day, the show would have never let the White House get away with something like this." Sure, 15 or 20 years ago there was a press conference and genuinely new product reveal every 45 minutes for the 2 1/2 days the media preview used to run.

    Still, can you imagine how the companies that rented expensive trade show floor space and scheduled press conferences felt about wasting that money because a POTUS visit interfered?

    As for politics, I've been doing this for 20 years and my perception is that while there are right leaning folks working the automotive beat, if someone's working for a mainstream or legacy news organization there's a very good chance that they've never voted for a Republican in their lives. TDS is virulent among them. They'll say the previous administration was fascist because Trump criticized the media (can anyone really trust anything Associated Press runs?), while they cheer on the FBI's harrassment of Project Veritas and their associates to protect the Biden family, and ignore the documented fact that the White House has coordinated with social media companies to censor people, which is close to a textbook defiinition of fascism (capital can exist but it must do the willing of the state).

    They live and work in a left wing bubble. I once listened to the Beijing correspondant for Automotive News tell me that she hates cars and capitalism and that, ironically in my eyes, she was only working for AN to position herself for a better job covering business.

  • 285exp If the conversion to EVs was really so vital to solve an existential climate change crisis, it wouldn’t matter whether they were built by US union workers or where the batteries and battery materials came from.
  • El scotto Another EBPosky, "EVs are Stoopid, prove to me water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius" article.It was never explained if the rural schools own the buses or if the school bus routes are contracted out. If the bus routes are contracted out, will Carpenter or Bluebird offer an electric school bus? Flexmatt never stated the range of brand-unspecified school bus. Will the min-mart be open at the end of the 179-mile drive? No cell coverage? Why doesn't the bus driver have an emergency sat phone?Two more problems Mr. Musk could solve.
  • RICK Long time Cadillac admirer with 89 Fleetwood Brougham deElegance and 93 Brougham, always liked Eldorado until downsized after 76. Those were the days. Sad to see what now wears Cadillac name.
  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.