Detroit Auto Show Dazzles with New Look

Those organizing Detroit’s crowning automotive event, the North American International Auto Show, say 2012 was great -“ and they promise 2013 will be even greater.

Scott LaRiche predicts this year’s show will draw 800,000 car enthusiasts to Cobo Center in downtown Detroit Jan. 19 through 27. That could surpass last year’s successful tally of 770,932.

One of Detroit’s best assets, its waterfront, will be on display along with hundreds of impressive vehicles at Cobo Center this January. Photo Courtesy Cobo Center

LaRiche, president of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association and vice president of Lou LaRiche Chevrolet in Plymouth, says one of the highlights for show-goers will be Cobo’s newly completed Atwater Street entrance. Its three-story glass atrium lets visitors look out -“ at last -“ on the Detroit River from Cobo’s main meeting room. The crowds also will see special celebrations during this 25th international show.

The show is what 2013 NAIAS Chairman Jim Seavitt calls a “must-attend” industry event and one of the top five auto shows in the world.

“We pull from the entire area, and thousands of people travel here to see the worldwide product introductions,” Seavitt says. “This year, we expect 50-plus (exhibitors) based on responses from manufacturers we met during the Paris Motor Show.”

He agrees that if the weather cooperates, the region may see greater public attendance than NAIAS 2012.

Chairman Seavitt predicts more auto manufacturers will participate this year. Jaguar Land Rover is returning, and it will have several Chinese brands, including Guangzhou Automobile Group Corp. and some new, emerging brands.

As for what’s on view, again this year manufacturers are introducing cars that use alternative energy to meet the federal standard of 56 miles per gallon by 2025. Automakers are also stretching the reach of four-cylinder engines, making them more popular. Some vehicles with four-cylinder power plants are achieving up to 46 miles per gallon.

Seavitt, who owns Village Ford in Dearborn, predicts that local media coverage will generate interest around the entire state of Michigan as well as Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Canada.

The sights will be substantially different this year as well for the working media. Sponsored by Michelin Tire, the Media Center will expand from its former third-floor headquarters to a more convenient and larger well-equipped area in Michigan Hall. Last year, LaRiche said 5,265 members of the press attended the show, representing 58 nations and 40 states.

“It’s the best media room of all the auto shows in the world,” claims LaRiche. It will be available beginning with press preview days Jan. 14 and 15.

The Center also is expected to host 13 radio stations. Detroit’s TV Channels 4 and 7 will be on hand and reporting from the Charity Preview event Friday, Jan. 18.

That night, more than 12,000 people are expected to dress up for the festivities and contribute $3 million or more to children’s charities. Hundreds more interested in the car business will attend industry preview days Jan. 16 and 17. By the end of the event, the auto show is expected to add $350 million to $375 million to the Detroit economy.

The show’s management is making it easier for members of the press to travel to Detroit by offering a discount airfare program. It is provided by auto show sponsor Delta Air Lines.

Members of the press and show-goers again will be able to test drive show cars on an indoor course. This year’s Ride and Drive, labeled “The Aisin Green Drive Experience,” is sponsored by auto supply firm Aisin. The popular event will feature electrics, hybrids and high-miles-per-gallon vehicles and the sponsors’ demonstrations of their automotive technology. Last year, show-goers took more than 30,000 rides during press and industry preview days and the public show.

“Manufacturers believe this is the show to introduce their product because it draws the largest concentration of media. We’re expecting more than 5,000 auto writers, compared with the Los Angeles show’s 4,000,” says LaRiche.

The electrics
Most of the hybrids on view are pairing electric and gas for power. Virtually every car make will have a hybrid version eventually as automakers work toward meeting the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard of 56 miles per gallon by 2025.

The 2013 model of the hybrid Chevrolet Volt, which went on sale in August, goes three more miles (38) on an electric charge than the 2012 version.

“We are sold out of the Volt, and trying to buy some from other dealerships,” says LaRiche. “Volt buyers are saving a lot of money on gas. One young customer has gone 19,000 miles and put only 52 gallons of gas in his vehicle.”

LaRiche also noted the popularity of the gas-powered Chevrolet Spark minicar, launched in July after importing from South Korea.

“We’re selling a lot more Sparks. It’s a young person’s vehicle,” he said, noting that it is offered in 18 markets thus far and moves nationwide at year’s end. Its base price is $12,995, and $14,495 for the ILT trim level including MyLink infotainment system. Its 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine hits 83 horsepower with a five-speed manual or automatic transmission.

There’s also a navigation system, via a $50 smartphone app displaying on a 7-inch touch screen. According to observers, this is Chevy’s way of providing features of a more expensive navigation system at tremendous value. An electric version is due soon.

The Chevrolet Spark all-electric vehicle will feature an advanced, nanophosphate lithium-ion battery pack. It will be produced in 2013 for select U.S. and global markets, including California. Photo courtesy GM Co.

Multiple companies will be introducing new concepts at the show, including BMW. It will have its i-Series city car and roadster to display, coming to NAIAS before its debut at the end of next year. The German automaker is also showing off the newest version of its popular midsize 3-Series at the Detroit show.

Cadillac is revealing its ELR plug-in hybrid at the show. Plans are to begin production by late 2013 on the sporty coupe. Its powertrain is based on Chevrolet’s Volt, but GM promises the ELR will have bolder styling, bigger wheels and more precise steering.

A redesigned Malibu midsize sedan also goes on sale in early 2013. It offers the fuel-saving GM eAssist stop-start technology. It shuts off the engine when the vehicle stops, and starts it up again when the driver hits the gas pedal. Three engine choices include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is available in an eAssist hybrid version, and a 2.0-liter turbo version.

Ford’s new midsize sedan, the Fusion, offers a variety of engines, including a regular hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. Ford says the hybrid is the most fuel-efficient in its class with 47 mpg in the city and 47 mpg on the highway. Price for the entry-level Fusion is $22,495. The Energi plug-in goes into production in December. It stickers at $26,380 with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, rated at 29 mpg and a start-stop system.

Ford is offering its new C-Max compact hatchback as a hybrid only: the gasoline-electric arrived in September and a C-Max Energi, a plug-in hybrid, is due in early December with an EPA rating of 108 mpg-e. The four-cylinder C-Max Hybrid can cover 570 miles before it needs a fuel stop. Its equipment includes MyFord Touch infotainment. The price for the hybrid is $25, 995. The C-Max Energi stickers at $33,745.

The redesigned, midsize Honda Accord arrived in September with a new direct-injection engine, continuously variable transmission, change in the front suspension’s design and a new crash structure. It’s a shorter four-door sedan; there’s also a two-door coupe. A plug-in hybrid model is expected to go 10-15 miles on battery power.

The redesigned Lincoln MKZ sedan will be on view after hitting showrooms in mid-November and launching at the LA auto show Nov. 26. An MKZ hybrid is achieving 45 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Its base price is $36,800.

A new model of Nissan’s Sentra compact goes on sale late this year. The hybrid should arrive in 2013. German car maker Daimler plans to offer an electric version of its two-seat Smart soon. Also, Audi is bringing its RS 5 convertible to the show and Volkswagen should display the all-electric Golf, its first venture into the electric vehicle market.

A touch of luxury
Some of the luxury vehicles to be on display are beyond most show-goers’ pocketbooks, but people enjoy drooling over them. Most of the cars reflect more aerodynamic design, sculpted body surfaces and smaller grille openings, lowered hoods and lighter weight tires, all for fuel-saving purposes.

Engines with six or more cylinders are going the way of the dinosaur as automakers strive to meet tough fuel economy standards. Use of four-cylinder engines is predicted to increase by 74 percent in the next 10 years. The new four-cylinder engines produce as much power as sixes and eights but use less fuel and pollute less.

Many of the new vehicles feature continuously variable transmissions, which use a system of belts and pulleys to select the most effective gear ratio for road conditions. They deliver a 5 percent improvement in fuel economy. Also on view at the show will be cars and light trucks with sporty black wheels replacing traditional metals for an intriguing new look.

The hot BMW M5 sports a 4.4-liter turbocharged engine that hits 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, and gets up to 155 miles per hour with a seven-speed transmission.

The Cadillac ATS compact, which arrived in late summer, comes as a rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The RWD version is available with a manual transmission. The automatic achieves fuel economy of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for its 2.0 Liter turbo direct injection engine with variable valve timing.

The 2013 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Coupe Photo courtesy GM Co.

A new lighter Corvette is expected to be a crowd-pleaser with a longer, narrower wheelbase and an all-aluminum frame. It debuts at the Detroit show and goes on sale the second half of the year.

Chevrolet is presenting other new vehicles: a Traverse crossover, a diesel version of the compact Cruze and an electric version of the Spark.

Chrysler’s 2013 SRT Viper sports coupe is what Automotive News calls “blinged out.” Its 8.4-liter V-10 generates 600 pounds feet of torque. It boasts an around-the-clock call center connected via the Sprint network. Its front track is wider, the front grille is jazzed up and prominent side exhausts dominate the hood. Stickers are expected to reach $100,000 or more.

The 2013 Escape crossover SUV with front wheel drive is also at the Ford display. With sleek new styling, its base S model starts at $22,470 and gets a rating of 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. The generous array of extras includes a power tailgate with a switch under the rear bumper. You can operate it with your foot if you’re loaded down with packages.

The Hyundai Santa Fe, a redesigned crossover, comes in two lighter, more fuel-efficient versions. The five-passenger Sport is on sale now, and the longer seven-passenger Santa Fe arrives the first of the year. The vehicles feature an Active Cornering Control System that applies braking and traction control in understeer situations. The base price is $25, 275.

Jaguar’s first pure two-seater since the E-type ceased production in 1974 is the cigar-shaped 2014 F-type convertible. It offers three engine choices, including a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8. Starting price will be about $86,000 when it goes on sale in late spring.

Nissan is also showing its redesigned midsized 2013 Pathfinder SUV. Its best-in-class fuel economy reaches 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway and 19/25 for its all-wheel-drive version. Some new features include a continuously variable transmission, and an added 8 cubic feet of interior space. The base price is $29,095.

Buick’s compact-size crossover with an upscale interior, the Encore, arrives in early 2013, as does Fiat’s 500L, a larger four-door. Acura will show its redesigned RL flagship after introduction at the Los Angeles Auto Show in late November. It goes on sale in early 2013.

A new F Sport version of the full-size flagship Lexus 460 sedan arrives in November. It offers all-wheel-drive, an eight-speed transmission and a 386-horsepower V-8. Show visitors also will see the redesigned versions of the Lexus GS, RX sport utility and Lexus ES, which adds a hybrid. A breathtaking LF-CC concept was a show-stopper at the Paris auto show.

In September, Mercedes-Benz began shipping its new GL, a seven-seat unibody SUV, made in the U.S. Mercedes will show its new A-class, first revealed in March in Geneva. The car’s radical redesign and sporty look is intended to attract young and female buyers.

The redesigned 2014 Mazda6, which first arrived at the Paris Auto Show, shows off its U.S. version in Detroit. It gets a 2.5-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine and a sportier look. Its new technology package boosts power and fuel efficiency.

Light trucks
There are also new light trucks. Two new versions of GM pickups will appear at the auto show after debuting in Detroit on December 13. The first is Chevy’s Silverado 1500, which is GM’s bestselling vehicle in the United States. The second is the GMC Sierra. Silverado gets a pair of rear doors for the convenience of backseat passengers and several inches more rear seat legroom. Production starts in 2013, the year the pickups are expected to hit showrooms.

The 2013 Dodge Ram 1500.

Dodge begins production in January on its reworked 1500 heavy-duty pickup. The vehicle will offer three engine choices: a 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel and its standard 5.7-liter hemi V-8 gasoline engine produces 350 hp. The truck also will get a new high fuel-efficiency six-cylinder. It offers stop-start technology and fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon in the city. The vehicles will offer Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system and a cellular connection. Rear camera systems can help with hooking up a fifth wheel or trailer. The starting price: $23,585.