Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The 2012 North American International Auto Show draws attention from all over the world. Photos and coverage from the NAIAS floor in Detroit

When you think about all the old cars that we normally look at here, do you ever wonder if today's cars will be looked upon in the same way in 40, 50, 60 years? What are tomorrow's classics? What will people be driving to the local car cruises?

One of the biggest new car shows in the world is held every January in Detroit, Mich., where the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) previews the newest and hottest offerings from most of the major auto makers. The actual show doesn't even open until next weekend, but I was there this week for the exclusive media preview days, and I brought back pictures and news straight from Detroit's huge COBO Hall.

Print, broadcast, and Internet media from all over the world make it to the NAIAS Press Preview, and you'll see coverage of this show everywhere. CNN, FOX News, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Motor Trend, Car and Driver; you name it, and they had people there. If you're used to the laid-back atmosphere of Kansas City's auto show, you may not be prepared for all the insanity in the Motor City.

I've always been partial to concept cars, and there were several of them at the NAIAS. Chevrolet introduced two new concepts; the Code 130R and the TRU 140S  (By the way, I was there when they were unveiled, and I still had to go back and look those names up again to write this). The Code 130R was a bright red rear-wheel-drive coupe that I think sort of looks Cruze-sized. It has a pretty good looking lower part of the body, but sort of a dorky short, tall top. The idea is that it would have a turbocharged engine with regenerative braking. I liked it, but I didn't love it. The fact that it had the Corvette's cross flag emblem on the front fender was a bit of a stretch.

The Chevrolet TRU 140S concept was much sportier. It really is built on the front-wheel-drive Cruze platform.  Chevy said it was supposed to look like an exotic Italian sports car. During the press conference they mentioned that 40-percent of young people are interested in cars (what's wrong with the other 60-percent??!!), and the TRU 140S, as well as the Code 130R, were meant to appeal to them.  Naturally, they were crammed full of connectivity gadgetry, 'cause that's what the kids like.

Of course, they also had a Corvette 100th-Anniversary ZR1 and a Camaro ZL1 Carbon on display. They won't be featured in any news stories about the auto show, but I found them immensely interesting.

Cadillac had a couple of notable entries, including the previously introduced XLS and the freshly introduced ATS. Personally, I really like the XLS, which is a replacement for both the DTS and the STS large sedans. The ATS is a little guy, meant to compete with the likes of the BMW 3-Series. I actually thought it was a CTS when I first saw it, so don't expect to be knocked over when you see one come down the street. All of Cadillac's cars look pretty nice to me now, and hopefully they'll sell a lot of their newest models.

Ford's biggest splash was the introduction of the 2013 Fusion. Now this isn't a concept; they're really going to sell these. I actually saw a few of these tooling around the Ford Proving Grounds when I was there last summer, but was prohibited from taking pictures. The ones at the auto show were much prettier than the camouflaged test vehicles. Ford has been building a lot of good-looking cars lately, and this is no exception.  Of course, they also load them up with technology which adds to the price, and hurts them in reliability studies. How this car will compete price-wise remains to be seen.

Shelby American had a booth at the NAIAS, and they introduced a brand-new 800-hp "Super Snake" Mustang at the show. I actually didn't get a picture of it, because they were covered up when I was there. The covers were neat, though, so I took a picture of those.  They had a couple of their current 750-hp versions there, and what's under the cover is actually pretty similar-looking.

Lexus unveiled the LF-LC concept, which looks a lot like the current LF-A, and Acura came out with the NSX concept. So apparently, the market is demanding high-priced Japanese two-seat sports cars. At least everything that comes from Japan isn't a stodgy eco-sedan, although both of these concepts are high-powered hybrids.  By the way, I really had to battle my way in there to get that Acura picture right there.  The photographers were mobbin' that thing!

Dodge's big thing was the 2013 Dart. Now, with a few rare exceptions, the name "Dodge Dart" doesn't exactly conjure up visions of high-quality to me, so much as wheezy slant sixes and piles of rust. But at least they tried to pull from their history, I suppose. The platform of this car is already in service beneath Alfa-Romeos in other parts of the world, but the design is all-new for Dodge. The taillights are a lot like the current Charger. The nose has a pinched-off, rabbit ear headlight thing going on. This is a competitor for cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus. I think they'll make excellent rental cars.

So what was the coolest car in the building? I have to give the honor to something that was built 78-years ago. The sleek 1934 Model 40 Speedster that was build for Edsel Ford graced Lincoln's hospitality area, and let me tell ya' it is a very special car. Three years ago, this exotic and beautiful custom sold for $1.76-million, and there it was, not more than a foot from me. The new cars are nice, but it's hard to beat the Classics.

So what kind of new cars do you like--sports cars, luxury sedans, economy vehicles? Check out the slideshow below to see cars from all over the 2012 NAIAS show floor.  You may just be looking at tomorrow's classics.


  1. Wow !

    C in a "B" car !!

    "Basehor Boys"

  2. There are no 'new classics' imho. Not only are the current crop of cars hideous to look at, you cant work on them. When they break, its call the tow truck and take it to the dealer to plug it in to some $50,000 machine to tell you what anonymous black box to replace. So 50 years from now, we'll be drinkin' our Pepsis from what used to be our company car as opposed to restoring and driving them. New cars are throw away. None of the new cars have any character - they all look alike and that look is ugly. And speaking of look...can that tarted up h***a nee acura be any more of a Lambo/R8 copy? I would sue them for trademark/patent infringement were I Audi. [Of course, it wouldnt do any good - the entire asian car industry is based on , uh, 'borrowed' design and each time suit is brought they merely ignore it. At least there is SOME justice, as the koreans and chinese are 'borrowing' from the japanese now...what goes around comes around]
    But Chevrolet doesnt appear to be any better - as the photos scrolled thru I thought "Hey, Lotus has a stand there this year? Man that new nose on the Evora [or is it the Evoque - they all look alike] is even uglier..." Then I see the car has a bowtie on it...
    Hate to sound so grumpy, but every year, the Auto Shows just depress me more and more. New cars can do AMAZING stuff - they handle, stop, and go fantastically. A friend's new Corvette has over 400 horsepower, will push your eyeballs back into your head under acceleration, sling 'em out your ears in the corners and toss 'em back out thru their sockets under braking. All the while delivering 28 mpg on a recent short road trip without trying TOO hard. But even it has NO character. Open the door, a light comes on. Must be a refrigerator...
    But man, that Ford Speedster IS cool!

  3. Craig:
    Fantastic slide show...
    But, I have to go with JOHN here...nothing really jumps out and makes me want to buy it.
    (maybe that's why I still have my 1983 Firebird - with LESS that 60K on the odo-1st time around!)

    I will say this:
    You can SURE see that FORD owns Aston Martin.

    The new crop of FORDS have a damn near indentical GRILL as the Astons, and the tail lights aren't that far off
    Guess someone wants to "trick" us car enthusiasts.

    Not much in REAL style these days...more show than go.
    Don't need nor want all the technocrap on board, either.
    Like John, I prefer something I CAN WORK ON.

    Don't get me wrong...the new cars can park themselves...but I'm a more hands-on kinda driver who LEARNED to park...that's MY job...MY responsibility.
    (plus, I can still READ a road map...it's just damn hard FINDING One...LOL)

    Excellent coverage.

    Roll safe out there.

  4. Bob G is correct - the Aston-esque grille is the first thing I noticed on the Fords too. One minor point tho ; Ford actually sold Aston Martin a year or two ago to Dave Richards [of ProDrive WRC and BAR F1 fame] and a guy from Texas, whose name I cant remember. But we see the design DNA from Aston in Jaguar and now trickling down into regular US spec Fords. And those design cues are the only part of 'em that arent offensively ugly!
    And why on earth would one need [or want] all that 'sync' crap in a car? If you want to play on the computer, do it at home. We seriously dont need ANOTHER gadget to distract people from driving! The lawsuits that such will create will be 'interesting'...
    Bob is also right about the great coverage. Forgot to say thanx earlier. But in my defence, I hadnt had my chocolate milk yet... :)