The guys at Cadillac frequently dismiss Lincoln, saying that it is not really a competitor for them. The Blue Oval guys are determined to prove them wrong. They are making progress and the new MK C compact crossover, which debuted at the Los Angeles show, and was featured at Detroit. It is a step in the right direction. Certainly compact crossover vehicles like the MK C were much in evidence with several manufacturers including Mercedes, Audi, and Porsche. The MK C styling is robust, but elegant, with a 360-degree feature line, a wide stance and a large tailgate opening that includes the entire taillights. Anecdotally, there are 4 different ways to release the tailgate.
The premium domestic brands fought for attention with GM choosing to have a completely separate display area for Cadillac far away from the rest of the corporate brands. Cadillac featured a two-door coupe version of the ATS, as well as the production version of the ELR. The design of the CTS coupe and the ELR are very strong and visually arresting, the ATS coupe – well, not so much. We wonder who is going to buy all these coupes. They might look good, but are the looks worth the loss of utility.
The big news at Chrysler, apart from the fact that the company is now fully owned by the Fiat Group, was the introduction of the all-new Chrysler 200. Built on the CUS-Wide, Alfa Romeo derived platform, this mid size sedan must play in the highly competitive, mid-size segment against cars like the Toyota Camry and the Ford Fusion. The design is certainly attractive enough, with a fastback greenhouse, clean lines, a sculptured hood and, of course, the LED running lights that are de rigueur these days. The interior is well executed, with good use of materials and loaded with features. The bad old days of Cerberus and Daimler cost cutting are a distant memory. How could they have got it so wrong???
Ford shocked most industry observers with the reveal of its next generation F150 and the news that it will have an all-aluminum body. The 2015 F150 has bold ‘chunky’ styling inside and out and will be available for sale in the 4th quarter of this year. The dramatic weight saving of around 700 pounds (318 kg), combined with better dent resistance and improved corrosion resistance is a real game changer in the segment. If everything works out as planned, this technology leap could put Ford as much as 8 years ahead of the competition in the race to meet future fuel economy mandates. What has everyone scratching their heads, however, is the economics. With annual volumes in the 800,000 unit range, will the increased material cost and infrastructure changes required for aluminum pay off for Ford.
Ford’s other big news at the show was the new 2015 Mustang. Although exhibiting some styling cues from the Evos concept, there is no doubt that this car is all Mustang. The nose is higher and bulkier than we would like — most likely for pedestrian impact reasons. This, plus the relatively high belt line, makes the roofline look artificially low and the greenhouse on the small side. The three vertical tail lamps on each side are pure Mustang and they flash sequentially — of course. One other facet of the design is the bodyside feature line that is interrupted by the rear wheel arch flare, but then continues for just a few inches in the rear quarter panel. Just like the Taurus and just as strange……….. We would like to have seen tighter gaps between the tyres and the wheel openings, especially with the bigger wheel/tyre combinations. The interior maintains all the right Mustang features with the double brow, large round gauges and now huge toggle switches in the centre stack. It is well executed, but lacks the finesse of a typical European interior.
GM, now fully independent of Government ownership, was generating some heat with the recent announcement of Mary Barra as the company’s first woman CEO and its success in winning both North American Car and Truck of the Year. The Corvette Stingray was voted Car of the Year and the Chevrolet display featured the new Z06 model with 625 hp ‘on tap’. There are just too many black scoops and vents all over the car for my taste, but it cannot be ignored – visually or technically.
The whole GM full size pick up truck and SUV range has been renewed for 2014. These are vital segments in the US and represent a huge commitment of resources and investment. Visually and technically these trucks are an evolutionary tour de force, joined in the market share battle by new mid-size Colorado and Canyon pickups. The contrast with Ford’s direction is striking.
The Polar Vortex that had driven freezing air to Detroit and huge swaths of the North American continent just a week before had now become a fading memory. In contrast, journalists arriving in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show were greeted by almost balmy weather with temperatures around 4 degrees C. They were also greeted by a rekindling of the American love affair with the automobile. Styling and luxury were keynotes of the show with exciting coupes everywhere and very attractive compact SUV’s and crossovers for every taste and wallet. With the economy growing, industry sales roaring back and fuel prices lower, consumer confidence is back. The emphasis on electric propulsion and cheap transportation is gone. Yes, customers want fuel efficiency, but they want it without any compromise to style or excitement. And the manufacturers are ready to deliver…
stay tuned for a show review…!