This has been quite a big week for the auto industry, as manufacturers unveil the first lines of their 2016 portfolios at the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The annual auto show has a long history of being one of the most pivotal events of the year for auto manufacturers. This is the time of year to get excited. This is when we begin to have a sense of what is to come in the next 11 months of automobile production and when we get to see in what direction the industry will head. This is one of the biggest events in the auto industry for a reason.
It’s the beginning of January, and that can mean only one fantastic thing: the 2014 North American International Auto Show is right around the corner. While kids all over the world were sitting up last month waiting for Santa, we were sleeping soundly, knowing Santa probably didn’t have the ability to bring us the things on our wish list.
My, how the tables have turned. Now we’re the sleepless ones, waiting impatiently for Detroit’s auto show to kick off Monday (for the press, at least—the general public can’t go until next Saturday). This year looks to be a particularly promising one, with cars like the 2015 Subaru WRX STi, 2015 GMC Canyon and 2015 Lexus RC F set to make their debuts. We could go on for hours about what we’re excited to see in Detroit this year, but we thought it would be more fun to take a look back at our favorite cars that had their big coming-out parties at the North American International Auto Show in years past. (Don’t worry—we’ll have plenty to say about the 2014 show in a few days.)
The SEMA show is chock-full of cars painted in matte finishes of all colors. There is no accounting for bad taste. Although some people think these cars look keen, there is of course the maintenance problem.
When asked about the pros and cons of matte black, one forum member (niky) responded: “Matte black paint looks awesome when it’s new and kept clean… but give it a few weeks, let it get dirty, and no matter how you clean it, it looks old and crappy.”
I think such owners want to make their cars look stealthy, like the B-2 Bomber with its radar-absorbing paint. They don’t realize their cars may become just as obsolete.
You can’t use wax on it, scratches are impossible to get rid of, special detergents and frequent washing are required, and a matte paint sealant is a good idea. Every defect will show (primer paint is flat—remember?—to show defects).
If you want to make a statement with your car, vinyl wraps (see the camo TT above) are a much better idea.
Ford received a small bit of good news recently – sales of its Focus compact car (pictured above) were up 24 percent for the month of March 2008. Honda saw sales of its Fit subcompact increase as well, by more than 73 percent. Sales of the Nissan Altima and Honda Civic also were up, by 14 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
Those were among the few bright spots in auto sales over the past few months. Sales of trucks and SUVs tanked, as car buyers continued to migrate away from larger vehicles to smaller, more fuel-efficient sedans and coupes. It’s easy to understand why, with gas prices soaring into the stratosphere. And it naturally leaves some automakers (such as Honda and Toyota) in better positions than others.
This shift in car-buying patterns has automakers scrambling to rejigger their fleets, and some are doing that more successfully than others. Ford, for instance, actually posted a profit for the first quarter of 2008 (due in part to the fact that the company has trimmed its workforce substantially and has plans to shut down some shifts at truck plants). And all automakers are eyeing smaller, more efficient cars.
Ford, for instance, has plans to expand its fleet of small cars in 2009 with the addition of the new Fiesta, which Ford calls its first “global” small car. Recently unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show, the Fiesta will be powered by a range of fuel-efficient engines and bring “big car features to the small car segment,” according to Ford.
That’s a trend we’ll be seeing more of in the years to come, as automakers add luxury-oriented features like innovative sound systems to their smaller cars in an effort to attract new buyers. For instance, Ford has added its new Sync feature to some Focus trims, and upcoming trims of the Chevy Cobalt are expected to come equipped with audio systems that include USB ports, so drivers can plug portable thumb drives into their car stereos, adding a new functionality that will make it easier for drivers to take their favorite songs with them wherever they go.
Don’t expect automakers to completely abandon SUVs, but you can expect SUVs to become smaller and more efficient. Audi, for instance, just unveiled its new Q5 SUV at the Beijing Auto Show (although to us it looks more like a crossover vehicle or a hunky wagon than an SUV). Powered by a range of fuel-efficient engines and featuring permanent all-wheel-drive, the Q5 will measure about 15 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 5.4 feet high, giving it a smaller overall footprint than many other SUVs. Audi calls it “an SUV of all-new proportions,” and notes that it will be “sportier than any of its competitors.” Whether it will prove a hit with buyers seeking smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Although they made their official world debut at the Geneva International Motor Show earlier in March, the MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop and MINI John Cooper Works Clubman took their U.S. bows on Thursday, March 20th at the New York International Auto Show. The two new performance-oriented trims, which will be available this summer, feature upgraded powerplants as well as suspensions, exhaust systems, manual transmissions, electrically power-assisted steering, and high-performance brakes developed by British-based John Cooper Works and inspired by the shop’s fifty-year racing history.
In the 1940s, John Cooper, who was trained as a toolmaker, teamed up with his father Charles to create the Cooper 500 Formula 3 race car and form the Cooper Car Company. As a result of his success on the racing circuit, Cooper was tapped to create race-oriented versions of the British-made Mini, starting in the early 1960s. Mini Coopers, as they were dubbed back then, proved popular for decades. Today, the relationship continues, as John Cooper Works, now under the direction of John’s son Mike Cooper, has recently merged with MINI and will create high-performance versions of the popular sub-compact car. The two new MINIs just announced are the first to appear under this relationship.
The John Cooper Works Hardtop and Clubman both pack a 208-horsepower, 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine under their hoods. The engine can drive the Hardtop from 0 to 60 in just 6.2 seconds, while the larger, cargo-oriented Clubman takes 6.5 seconds to reach 60 mph. Both trims top out at 147 mph.
The engine in both trims links to a specially modified six-speed manual transmission, and both the John Cooper Works Hardtop and Clubman ride on a sport-tuned suspension and exclusive 17-inch light alloy rims with high-performance tires. In addition, both come equipped with a Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system that incorporates Dynamic Traction Control, the first for a MINI. When the driver deactivates the DSC system, Electronic Differential Lock Control kicks in, providing enhanced stability and cornering ability during aggressive driving. This latter feature is exclusive to the John Cooper Works trims.
Both trims will be created at the factory rather than at the dealer using kits. Of course, the enhancements will boost pricing for both trims by a few thousand dollars, when compared to the standard trims on which they’re based.