Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 Detroit Auto Show - Day One

As far as I'm concerned, the big news this year is the relative lack of actual news. Many of the reveals were either anticipated, leaked, or simply rehashes of vehicles that we've already seen in some form or another; even the massively cool Buick Regal GS Concept, which is simply a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder version of the existing (turbo V6) Opel Insignia OPC that it is heavily based upon.

Chrysler in particular had primarily content and trim changes to announce - the Chrysler-badged Lancia Delta "Concept" seen above is pretty much the single most substantial item, an Italian model apparently hoping to "reignite the American Dream". The other noteworthy vehicle on the Chrysler show floor is a battery-electric version of the will-it-be-a-Fiat-or-will-it-be-a-Chrysler 500. The company's display area did provide such unusual sights as a ceiling-mounted Ram pickup and a Grand Caravan parked next to a Maserati.

Unlike the past couple of years, there were no bag inspections, sniffer dogs, or twenty-question security officers to gain access to the display halls. Getting in to the Ford presentations in the attached Cobo Arena still required a process just short of body cavity searches.

The expected proliferation of hybrid and electric vehicle concepts continued unabated. I'm waiting for the industry to finally realize/recognize that hydrogen internal combustion is the best mid-term solution in terms of maturity and cost of the technology and its implementation, and the use of exotic and costly materials (like lithium for batteries and the rare earth magnets used in high-efficiency electric motors). In my mind, hybrids and electrics are an answer, not the answer.

Lots of otherwise vacant floor space in the Cobo Hall basement is being used for a further expansion of last year's indoor hybrid/electric test track. I wonder how green the eventual composting of most of the plants and (massively smelly) mulch that is used in the several thousand square feet of fancy landscaping really is.

The Chinese once again have a presence, though Geely is conspicuously absent. BYD seems the only serious Chinese attendee (with three vehicles on their stand today - two of which were identical F3 DM plug-in hybrid models, the third a concept all-electric E6 crossover). Tomorrow's press conference may flesh that lineup out a bit. It will be interesting to see if the eventual production vehicles that result come anywhere close to BYD's present range claims.

The C T & T (China) booth next door has plenty of vehicles, many of which are comical-looking versions of their two low-speed electric models, the C Zone (a fancy golf cart) and the E Zone (intended for places like gated communities or parks). A sports car and a concept amphibious 4 seater are to be shown tomorrow. In a throwback to times not so long past, C T & T also had three rather provocatively-attired representatives on stage with their vehicles - a policewoman for their E Zone patrol car, a postal worker (who I promise you looked like no postal worker I've ever encountered) for their E Zone delivery van, and a black PVC-clad dominatrix (for lack of a better description) whose role was decidedly less clear. Ironically, however un-PC, it's "mission accomplished" for C T & T - look at how much print they got here! I'm just waiting for some automaker to have the guts to put male models around one of their female-oriented models (like a V6 Mustang Convertible, for instance).

Speaking of Ford, it won both Car and Truck of the Year awards for the Fusion and Transit Connect respectively. I'd have expected the Chevy Equinox to take T.o.t.Y., even if I do really like the T.C.

Stay tuned for more North American International Auto Show to come...

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