NAIAS 2018 | Episode 2 : GM

General Motors has now completely evolved its show presence from one giant stand to four individual and distinct display areas, one for each brand.  Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.

The big news from Chevy and GMC was the new full-size pick up trucks.  This is a key market in the US of course, with Ford as the clear market leader.  The Chevy/GMC share of segment has been slipping recently and the resurgent Ram trucks from FCA have been gaining ground, largely at GM’s expense.  The new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pick-ups will be key to maintaining or growing share in this lucrative segment.

The new trucks are lighter than their predecessors, using aluminium for the doors, hood and tailgate, but remain heavier than the all-aluminium bodied Ford F150.  A wide range of body and powertrain options is retained and the interiors have become increasingly luxurious and feature laden.  The battle continues.

Buick is fast becoming a significant global brand, largely because of its significant footprint in China.  With the addition of the Avenir premium sub-brand, Buick is also moving up-market and into Cadillac territory.  The product range is modern with new Enclave SUV, LaCrosse and Regal sedans introduced in 2017.  The Regal, in either Sportback (fastback) or TourX (wagon) configuration show a fresh, more European approach to the US market.  The TourX has an interesting and distinctive bright trim moulding that extends up the A-Pillar along the roofline and all the way down the D-Pillar to the taillamps. The prominent plastic wheel arch extensions, fascias and sill mouldings convey the required ruggedness and are reminiscent of the Audi Allroad and the Volvo Cross Country.

For Cadillac it was a quiet year, nothing new on display.

NAIAS 2017 | Episode 2 : General Motors Group

This year, most of the companies elected to separate their premium brands from the core high volume products. The Lincoln stand was located away from Ford; Alfa Romeo separate from Fiat/Chrysler; both Buick and Cadillac on individual display areas.
Not much new at Buick or Cadillac this year, but Cadillac did display the Escala concept previously debuted at Pebble Beach. This bold flagship product is quite striking and would be a welcome addition as an aspiration car at the top of the brand. Let’s hope that it will become a commercial reality one day soon. The Escala is quite a large car, with a long, pillarless greenhouse giving an “open”, clean look. There are some strong body feature lines, but this concept shows some welcome evolution from the present brand styling ethos. The large front grille is perhaps rather lacking in brightwork for the brand, (especially alongside the very small headlights) and the interior rather simplistic, but these are just details. All in all, the car is elegant and commands a presence. An interesting small feature is the bright trim at the lower leading edge of the front door that mirrors the wider greenhouse moulding at the C pillar. With the addition of a full height B Pillar; a reduction in the trunk lift-over; some larger mirrors (unfortunately) and few other minor changes the Escala probably could be a viable production offering.

Needless to say, SUV’s and Crossovers continue to be a major factor in the US market. GM is clearly working hard to blanket this very broad market with a wide range of products covering every size category. Chevrolet replaced two key products in this market with an all-new compact Equinox and an all new mid sized Traverse. These products fit between the smaller Trax (also freshened) and the larger, body-on-frame Tahoe. The Traverse and Equinox are not exceptional in terms of design, but they are competent products tailored for their particular role in the line-up.

NAIAS 2016 | Part I : The American brands

As usual, the snow and the cold weather arrived just in time. After a very mild December, Mother Nature remembered that all the international journalists were due in Detroit for the auto show, so she turned on an icy blast and just enough snow to be a nuisance.  The show itself was one of contrasts.  After very strong sales in 2015 where an all-time US sales record of almost 17.5 million units was set, you would expect an almost euphoric atmosphere.  Instead there were some notable companies missing from the floor, a good deal of space was dedicated to suppliers and for some reason there was a very large Rob Report stand.  Another contrast was the record low fuel price at local filling stations, juxtaposed with the tremendous effort that almost every manufacturer has devoted to electric, hybrid and fuel cell propulsion.  But…  enough of this introspection.  Let’s look at the cars.
Starting with the domestics, Ford had its usual large stand — lots of cars and trucks, but not much new or exciting. The Fusion facelift should help maintain the great momentum that this well designed mid-sized car has earned, but frankly it was hard to spot the differences without one of the old models alongside.
Two of the more interesting vehicles were hidden away on a mezzanine floor.  The new, even bolder version of the Raptor Off-Road pick-up truck and alongside, the Focus RS, which is new in the US market in 2016.
The Lincoln stand was remote from the parent company this year and featured the return of the Continental as a full size four-door sedan. At least Ford has come to realize the power of the classic model names from the old glory days, so maybe they will get rid of the ‘alphabet soup’ on the other Lincoln models too — MKC, MKX, MKZ  etc, etc.  Alas, Cadillac is probably too far down that road to go in a similar direction and they are too hell bent on chasing the German manufacturers.  The design is not as bold as the original concept, but it is clearly a Lincoln and presents a fresh look.  The strong belt moulding incorporates the ‘fixed’ door handles and integrates the door mirrors. The door latches are electronic and just require finger contact to release.  Similarly on the inside the doors are opened with just the push of a button.  Some points of contention: The grille looks like a cross between a Jaguar and a Kia and the taillights are pure Dodge ‘racetrack’.  Why?  The 5 small, rectangular headlights on each side are cool, but they look rather like an Acura.
General Motors had little in the way of new mainstream products, but they did show the production version of the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt. Some people said that the styling is similar to the BMW i3, but if so, I would say the Bolt wins hands down.
The Cadillac stand featured the new XT5 SUV. This is an evolutionary replacement for the SRX (more alphabet soup confusion) and clearly follows the Cadillac design theme.  Arguably not as attractive is its predecessor, it is further let down by a mediocre interior.
It was left to Buick to provide some flare and excitement for GM. Evolving from last year’s Avenir 4 door concept, Buick displayed the Avista concept.  The Avista is a large 2 door, 4-seat coupe that is even more striking than the Avenir.  Its dark blue paint job appeared to be inches deep and accentuated the sweeping lines and bold features.  The shape of the DLO* was gorgeous and it was highlighted by tasteful bright trim.  This is the kind of car we would all like to see built, but how big is the market for large two door cars???  Quel dommage!
*DLO: This is an acronym for ‘Day Light Opening’ and is used to describe the graphic appearance of the vehicle’s side glass. The DLO is the most important graphic element of the vehicle’s design and provides a major contrasting surface to accentuate a form.  Further emphasis may be created by outlining the DLO with bright trim. By concealing the A-Pillars and/or rear-most pillars with flush glass or other treatments, the DLO may be extended to include the front and/or rear screens. This design treatment works best with a light coloured car, dark tinted glass and blacked out pillars.



GM is doing some good work in the design studios; the new Buick LaCrosse just a few feet away from the Avista is a very nicely executed full size car. Nothing extreme or extravagant, just a really nice car – perfect for the Buick customers.
For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles the main event was the introduction of the new Pacifica minivan. Chrysler invented the segment back in 1983 and has dominated sales ever since.  Ford and GM dropped out of the market, but Toyota and Honda are close on Chrysler’s heals.  The all-new people hauler, available with a hybrid powertrain, is planned to replace both Chrysler and Dodge versions of the prior model and consolidate FCA’s position in the segment.  In the short term the Dodge Caravan will be continued to fully assess the potential ongoing demand for the old model.  The new design is strong with a front face reminiscent of the 200 sedan.  It also comes laden with features, including foot-actuated sliding doors, touch screens in the back for kids video games and even a built in vacuum cleaner!
Also new on the FCA stand was the Fiat 124 Spider. From certain angles you can clearly see the shared Mazda MX-5/Miata underpinnings, but overall the design is fresh and should attract some new customers to the Fiat stores.  We like it better than the Mazda!
There was a relatively large Alfa Romeo presence on the FCA stand with four Giulia Quadrifoglio models on display. The car certainly looks great (especially this model), but it is going to be quite hard for Alfa to penetrate this highly competitive segment with a brand that is essentially new to the market.  It will also be hard for Americans to master pronunciation of the full name!



As usual the General Motors display covered a vast area, plus there were two separate stands for Cadillac and Buick.  Trucks and SUV’s abounded in every shape and size, including the new mid-size Chevy Colorado pick up and its twin the GMC Canyon.  Unremarkable from a design standpoint, these trucks, along with the new Toyota Tacoma, mark a resurgence in this smaller (but still quite large) pick up truck category.
Chevy featured a facelifted version of the Volt which, although smoother and cleaner than the original, remains somewhat unremarkable.  It is, however, probably distinctive enough to continue giving Volt owners the “green image” they desire.  Also revealed at the show was the Chevy Bolt concept, a 5-door hatchback battery electric car that most likely will be in production in a couple of years – oil prices permitting!
The Buick display proved to be much more interesting, featuring the Avenir concept – a large 4-door sedan that might be a good fit for China, but surely encroaches on Cadillac territory in the US.  This relatively large RWD car made a powerful statement with a long front end, sweeping feature lines on its flanks and a unique boat-tail rear.  With the present emphasis on aerodynamics, there has been a tendency for the rear quarters/decklids/rear ends of many sedans to follow an increasingly similar look – with the Avenir, Buick has struck out on its own and we like it!  Also on display was the Cascada mid-sized 4-seat convertible – a Buick version of the Opel Cabrio.  The North American market for this kind of convertible has been steadily declining over the last few years, so it will be interesting to see if this pleasing design can drive some incremental sales for Buick.  Personally I like the proportions much better with the top up!
Cadillac introduced a new V-series version of the CTS, joining the recently announced ATS-V.  Although their horsepower figures have been pre-empted and overwhelmed by the Dodge Charger/Challenger Hellcat models, these Cadillacs are all business, so we should give GM full credit for going “head-on” with the Germans.