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May 23, 2024

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Detroit Auto Show 2019:
News and Views

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit is an event  where the global automotive community comes together to catch up on the latest news and events.

Every January, thousands of people from around the world come to Cobo Hall to attend the auto industry’s most substantive annual event.  And this year was no exception. In addition to some of the automotive world’s most eagerly anticipated new vehicle premieres, attendees also gained an unprecedented access to some of the industry’s top leaders and thinkers! 

2019 Automotive News World Congress

Prior to this year’s auto show was the Automotive News World Congress.  As they have done for more than 40 years, automotive leaders took to the stage and shared their unique perspectives on what the future holds for their companies, and for the industry at large. 

Key speakers included Mary Barra, Chairman and Chief  Executive Officer of General Motors Company; Jim Farley, Executive Vice President and President  from the Global Markets in the Ford Motor Company; Roger  Penske, Founder and Chairman of Penske Corporation and Jim Lentz, Chief Executive Officer for Toyota Motor North America and Senior Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation.

Media and Industry Previews plus Charity Gala

As always, the auto show starts off with Media Preview Week which was held on January 14th & 15th (over 4000 journalists from all over the world came to Cobo this year), followed by Industry Days on January 16th & 17th, as well as the Charity Black Tie Gala on the18th. This Charity Gala on average raises over $4M that goes to the local children’s charity!

Even though the 2019 year event was a bit smaller than previous years, you could still see great exhibitors such as:  Acura, Aisin, Alfa Romeo, Buick, Cadillac,  Chevrolet, Chrysler, Denso, Detroit Grand Prix, Dodge, Envy Auto Group, Fiat, Ford, GAC, Genesis, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, KIA, Lexus, Lincoln, Mahindra  Automotive NA, Michelin, Mopar, Nissan, Ram, RK Rally, Roadshow By CNET, Subaru, T- Mobile, Toyota, Volkswagen and ZF.

The big European names like Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Masserati, Lambhorgini, and Mc Laren were crowded in the small area called “The Envy Auto Zone”. At this place you could purchase a car with price tags ranging from $160K to over $600K. 

However, this year the usual strong German presence was lacking and it showed.  But regardless of their decision not to participate in the 2019 show, the show itself was still every bit as interesting and innovating to the press and the public alike. Domestic companies like GM, FCG (Fiat Chrysler Group) or Ford had quite a few good models to show and their expos impressed many with their new models. Korea’s KIA or Chinese automotive group GAC prepared a spectacular launching of their newest models with some high ranking executives at hand.

Also important political figures like Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford, newly elected Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer (D) or Elissa Slotkin (D) US Representative, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford, and Mayor  of Detroit Mike Dugan visited the auto show during its first couple of days.

Governor Whitmer also announced the final round of pilot projects to receive funding under the $8 Million Michigan Mobility Challenge that addresses core mobility gaps for seniors, persons with disabilities and veterans across the state of Michigan. Their projects range from Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, the Central Upper Michigan Peninsula to Southeast  Michigan.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford came to Detroit on the first Media Day as GM continued to plan to close its Oshawa, Ontario plant and four plants in the U.S.

On the second day of  the show,  Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen announced that they would team up to produce pickups and commercial  vans for certain global markets and would commit to explore ways to  collaborate on  the development of self-driving cars. The two automakers said the alliance plans to deliver its first medium pickup trucks for global customers in 2022, followed by commercial vans in Europe in 2023.

In addition, Volkswagen and Ford have signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and electric vehicles and, have started to explore opportunities. Both companies said they were open to considering additional vehicle programs in the future.

Eyes On Design Awards
As usual, this awards session takes place on the first day of the show and raises money for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology (DIO). The awards are given by a panel of three Chief Judges: Joel Piaskowski, Paul Snyder, and Stewart Reed, plus 20 judges and 20 docents (one of the docents  was Tom Obertynski – Michigan Glaucoma Specialist).

The DIO aids the visually impaired and facilitates research into visual prosthetics and the role the eye plays in transportation.

Awards received:
2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 – Best Production Vehicle
Infiniti QX Inspiration concept – Best Concept Vehicle
Infiniti QX Inspiration concept – Innovative Use of Color, Graphics or Matl’s
Infiniti QX Inspiration concept – Best Interior
Lexus LC Convertible concept – Best Exterior Lighting

Car, SUV and Truck of the Year
Another body of jurors looked for the Best Car, SUV and Truck of the Year. To be precise, 54 jurors, who are independent automotive journalists from US and Canada, chose the following recipients:
Car – Genesis G70 (ahead of Honda Insight and Volvo S60/V60)
SUV – Hyundai Kona/Kona EV (behind was Acura RDX and Jaguar I-Pace)
Truck – Ram 1500 (ahead of GNC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado)

The awards are intended to recognize the most outstanding new vehicles   of the year. These vehicles are benchmarks in their segments based on factors including innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar. Again, during NAIAS these prestigious awards were given to the best. Congratulations!

The Detroit News’ Readers’ Choice Awards
These awards were announced at the Detroit Economic Club luncheon at NAIAS, with the 2020 Lincoln Aviator taking Best-in-Show honors. The Lincoln Navigator, Ford Mustang GT 500, Infiniti QX Inspiration, Jeep Gladiator, Hyundai Sonata, Chevy Bolt, Cadillac CT6, Ram 1500 and Kia Telluride were also recognized.

Futuristic visions and ideas…

How about “Self-driving race cars”? Not to be outdone, Rod Chong, Deputy CEO, Roborace, predicted that the world of automotive racing will change just as much as the automotive industry over the next decade. Roborace was the first-ever autonomous race car to complete the hill climb at Goodwood Festival of Speed held last summer in England.

During the Industry Preview, Cobo Hall floor was filled with more than 15,000 engineers, designers and auto executives. They took the opportunity to tour NAIAS before opening to the public so that  they could closely evaluate the new vehicles revealed by their competitors.

Soft demand for electric vehicles and an unclear regulatory future were among the challenges facing the automotive industry debated during a variety of panel discussions at the section AutoMobili-D, located in the lower level of Cobo Hall. AutoMobili-D was also aimed for job seekers and car enthusiasts. They could meet there with the leading employers and professionals in the automotive sector.


Finally, on Saturday, January 19th, the doors were open to the public. Public days lasted for over a week, and the Auto Show 2019  was visited  by 774,179 car enthusiasts. The attendance, however, was about 70,000 less than in 2018 (same admission: $14 and $7 students/seniors)

Below you will find a few car descriptions, but, regardless of my choice, all cars presented at  the auto show were great!

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, 5.2L, V8, 700 HP, 3,5 sec 0-60 mph, avail by the end of 2019 (GT500 is the rival of Porsche 911 GT3)

Lincoln Navigator, Twin Turbo 3.5L, V6, 450 HP, 16/23 mpg, price $70K+ 10 speed Auto, tows 8.6K Lb, SirusXM, Sync3, 4WD nice luxury car

Genesis G70, 3.3L, V6, turbo, 365 HP, wireless charging for cell phone and price $40K+ and AWD sport model over $50K

Chrysler Pacifica plug in hybrid FWD, 28 mpg, base price $27K and $40K for the hybrid model, fuel savings per year $950 it takes 13 years to catch  up … Fiat 124 Turbo, 6 speed manual 23/35 MPG starting price $30K

KIA Telluride SUV ,  3.8L, V6 w/ 291 hp, tows 5K Lb, 8 sp. Auto. Trans. Electronic Parking Brake, Rev. Park Distance Warning, price $30K

GAC Motor (Guanzhou Automobile Group ranked 202 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list and was the No. 1 Chinese Brand in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study) presented quite a few lines of cars : sedans: GA4, GA6, GA8, SUV: GS3, GS4, GS7, GS8 and Van GM 8. All those cars had a pleasant design and were equipped with many useful and modern gadgets. In Detroit on Jan 14th the automaker GAC Motor also held the world premiere of its Bullet-inspired ENTRANZE , concept  van, emphasizing the automaker’s human-centric approach to family vehicles.  This ceremony was attended by many VIPs, over 30 GAC engineers, media, suppliers and partners.

Lexus NXH 300 with 2 L diesel motor, over 235 HP, 39MPG. This deluxe crossover vehicle will be avail. Early 2020 with basic price well over $30K


Future Auto Shows in Detroit

Michael O’Callaghan, executive vice president and CEO of Detroit Metro Convention Visitor’s Bureau, stated that the NAIAS is the biggest single event  that takes place in Michigan. “The show as we know it will not take place in January as we go forward.” They are changing with the auto industry. Next year’s event will follow the Detroit Chevrolet  Belle Isle Grand Prix, which O’Callaghan said brings in tens of thousands of people to the region. Also some of the 2020 Auto Show events will take place outside Cobo…. O’Callaghan said the exposure of being outdoors will get more attention.  And I am adding that hopefully the next time we attend, the weather will be more joyful as well.. 

By Arleta Sziler, Windsor, Ontario