The biggest buzz at the North American International Auto Show on the second day of press previews was the introduction of the Atlas concept for the next generation of Ford F-150 and the debut of the 2014 Cadillac ELR electric car. Acura presented the 2014 RLX luxury-performance sedan and unveiled a prototype of its 2014 MDX mid-sized SUV; Nissan showed a redesigned Nissan Versa and a jazzy SUV concept called the Resonance; and Kia aimed for a more upscale clientele with its Cadenza sedan.
Live Updates EndedPlease read below for an archived view of this event.
Visitors to the North American International Auto Show will likely be as impressed with the redesigned Cobo Center as they will be with the redesigned automobiles.
The convention center is getting a $260 million makeover, which will expand the display space and convert the old Cobo Arena into a 40,000 sq. foot ballroom.
Work is ongoing, but enough is done to give good evidence that the new center will be fabulous.
Visitors will see the new atrium, with its Tara-like staircase that opens up to a wall of windows giving a beautiful view of the Detroit River and the Windsor skyline.
Meeting rooms will also have river views.
The hall has an airier feel, even in the basement. It’s a much more modern look.
After years of complaining about the inadequacies of Cobo, the makeover is turning it into a nationally competitive convention center that should more than meet the needs of the auto show.
Facing some increasingly tough mileage mandates, automakers are desperately looking for every opportunity to improve fuel economy and opportunities are appearing in some unusual places – like paints and coatings.
As anyone who’s ever been dinged in a parking lot can tell you, it doesn’t take much to scratch through the paint on a car. Yet the average vehicle carries with it a full four gallons of paint and undercoating which adds up to as much as 14 pounds.
A new technology from PPG Industries can remove a layer of paint and save a couple of pounds per vehicle, the chemical supplier explained during a news conference at the North American International Auto Show. That may not seem like much, but it can quickly add up.
Another new process from PPG, noted Cindy Nickamp, a senior vice president of automotive coatings, can eliminate the need for the pads many vehicles use to reduce noise coming from a vehicle’s wheel wells. That’s a potential savings of another couple pounds.
PPG has become one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive paints and coatings. The company’s auto show appearance coincides with the 50th anniversary of its breakthrough electrocoat process, a technology that markedly improves the quality of the vehicle paint process and also helped automakers reduce corrosion.
“We decided not to bring a cake,” to mark the occasion, joked Nickamp, instead pointing to a steadily updated counter that illustrated the number of vehicles being prepared worldwide with the e-coat process. By mid-afternoon it had already topped the 51,000 mark for the day.
Though chemical makers like PPG often take hits from environmentalists, the firm has been trying to give itself a greener image, in part by using more earth-friendly materials but also by showing how new paints, coatings and processes can save energy, water and waste.
“Sustainability doesn’t mean you have to have ugly cars,” suggested Nickamp. “Quite the opposite.”
A number of the developments shown by PPG at Cobo Center are designed to reduce mass – lightweighting, in industry terms. A rough rule of thumb is that every 100 pounds shaved from the weight of a vehicle translates into an extra mile per gallon fuel economy.
One of the materials the supplier showed off is fiberglass, versions of the familiar material available for such applications as mufflers and under-hood noise insulation.
Another new material, dubbed Agilon, won’t necessarily save weight but could yield the “golden triangle” that automakers and their tire suppliers desperately seek – improved fuel efficiency, better traction and reduced treadwear, boasted Kevin Braun, who oversees silica product operations for PPG.
A version of silica, Agilon can replace some of the carbon black normally used in tires, particularly those formulated for either performance or high-mileage applications.
Asked how much fuel a tire using the material might save each year, Braun answered in a way consumers might most readily understand, suggesting “a consumer could save about $300 to $400 a year,” or a large chunk of the money that a set of replacement tires might cost.
Cadillac’s ELR snagged the annual EyesOn Design award for the best production car at the Detroit auto show.
Two vehicles, the Ford Atlas and Nissan Resonance, tied for the award for best concept car at the show.
The finalists for the production car award included the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Audi RS7 and Chevrolet Corvette.
Among the concepts, the other finalist was the Lincoln MKC.
The EyesOn Design Awards honor the best production and concept cars making their North American or worldwide debut at the North American International Auto Show. The judges are active and retired design heads of automotive OEMs, transportation design chairs from top art schools, and designers from other fields.
Prior to the awards being announced, Bob Lutz was honored with the first annual EyesOn Design Catalyst award.
Introducing the award, former GM design chief Wayne Cherry, said “I cannot think of a better person to win this award. Bob changed the paradigm. He broke the rules and he is known for his passion for design.”
Two commercials for Honda were judged the best and runner up as the top automotive ads in the last 25 years, according to the One Club.
The One Club describes itself as the world’s foremost non-profit organization devoted to recognizing creativity in advertising.
The award was judged by 73 creative directors and journalists, and announced at an NAIAS press conference. It considered 60 entrants from around the world before whittling down the list to 10.
The winning ads were both made in London for Honda. The second place work showed an endless progress of small bolts and objects nudging wheels into levers which finally switch on the object of the commercial, a Honda Civic. Fascinating, until you have to watch it for a second time. The winning ad showed bunnies and birds apparently thriving in a world of clean diesel. Since the commercial was made in 2003, diesel is still an also ran compared with gasoline.
Both these commercials were appealing and funny, but probably did little to promote the object of the films, selling more automobiles or persuading more people that diesel was good. In fifth place was a commercial for Saturn in 2002, and GM dumped that in 2009.
These commercials do prompt the question, just how many extra car sales were made because of these advertisements, and how much did they cost?
Active as ever, Detroit’s ultimate car guy, Bob Lutz, has launched a new luxury sedan called Destino that pairs the body of a Fisker Karma with a Corvette ZR1 powertrain.
Lutz has teamed with successful Detroit industrialist Gilbert Villareal to form VLP, the company that will build the new car in Auburn Hills.
Villareal hopes the Destino, which competes with the likes of the Porsche Panamerica, will be the first four-door luxury sedan to exceed 200mph.
“We are America’s smallest, most expensive car company,” said Lutz.
The Destino will cost between $180-200,000 depending on options, explained Villareal, who worked for Boeing and General Motors before starting his own automotive manufacturing company.
The company plan involves importing Finnish-made Fisker Karma body shells, minus the battery pack and electric motor, into the US and then installing the GM LS9 V8 powertrain at the 150,00 sq ft Auburn Hills facility.
VLP’s conversion also involves a newly designed hood (to clear the V8 engine) as well as new front and rear fascias.
The first two Destinos are already sold and VLP hopes to be produce as many as 500 per year.
Shelby American Inc, legendary creator of souped-up versions of standard sports cars, announced a new version of its Ford Mustang based GT500 Super Snake with 850 hp, and said it will also give the hot rod treatment to the humble Ford Focus.
The company’s creator, racing driver Carroll Shelby, died last year, but according to John Luft, president of Shelby American, his legacy lives on.
“Carroll Shelby’s innovative and aggressive hot-rodder spirit lives on at Shelby American today. His Cobra redefined the sports car genre and then Shelby turned what some called a ‘secretary’s car’, the Mustang, into the fire breathing GT350. This year we’re returning to our roots with a pair of game-changing cars that will rewrite the rules for American performance,” Luft said at a press conference at the NAIAS.
The new Shelby GT500 Super Snake takes the basic top-of-the- line Mustang output of 662 hp and boosts it to 850 hp. The previous Snake produced 800 hp. Despite the extra power, the company said it is legal in 50 states for emissions, and uses 91 octane gas.
If will cost you $28,995 to buy the basic Shelby GT500 Super Snake, after you’ve provided the company with a Ford Mustang GT500; price about $54,000. For $14,995 more you get the wide-body option, which includes bigger tires and other handling improvements.
If you want a hot Ford Focus, you first buy the ST version for $23,000, then give it to Shelby for the treatment which will cost an extra $14,995. The Shelby Focus GT has front-wheel drive and a turbocharged four cylinder motor. Shelby wasn’t revealing more about performance and power, but the Focus GT has lowered suspension, bigger brakes and a Shelby/Borla exhaust. Shelby will make a maximum of 500 versions a year.
Gary Patterson, vice-president operations at Shelby American, didn’t go into details about the Focus, but had this to say.
“This baby rocks,” said Patterson.
Sometimes a wish to expand a car company globally starts with a small step. Take Guangzhou Auto Group Limited, known as GAC, and its first venture to the North American International Auto Show: “We had a misunderstanding how to get a booth” at the show, said Vice President of Research and Development Huang Xiang Dong. That means the company’s three prototype vehicles are now displayed in the front hallway at Cobo Center, instead of on the show floor alongside the veteran carmakers’ offerings as GAC wanted.
GAC’s chief engineer Xu Jihan explained that the Chinese carmaker has only recently named its first stand-alone hybrid and two concept electric vehicles as the potential future offerings under the Trumpchi brand, which means “legends” in Chinese. “We are here to generate interest,” Jihan said. So far, the company is showing a hybrid that is part of a “first fleet” of 200 cars, as well as two electric prototypes. None of these vehicles are planned for the U.S. market.
The “production” hybrid is called the Trumpchi 4WD Hybrid, features a unique electric rear drive axle, and a full hybrid gasoline engine/electric motor powertrain in the front. GAC builds a version of the Dodge Dart (Fiat Viaggio) for the Chinese market, and has just made an agreement to build an unspecified Jeep model, too.
The second concept sedan GAC is showing is the sleek-looking NEV E-JET, which uses a 95 kW electric motor and a 13 kWh lithium ion battery electric car. GAC says it will get to 50 mph in about 4.5 seconds and has a range of 60 miles on electric only power. It also has a 1.0-liter gasoline engine and a 30kW generator acting as a range extender, which adds another 350 miles of range.
Finally, an all-electric SUV called the Trumpchi GS5 boasts 200 hp and a 0-62 mph performance of 8.5 seconds with a 100-mile range. This model was introduced to the Chinese market with a conventional gasoline engine in March, 2012.
In China, GAC is known for building previous generations of Toyota’s Camry and some Honda models, and sells them under license, said Huang Xiang Dong, vice president of research and development. Guangzhou is the city near Hong Kong where GAC originated, and also has been called the origin of the Silk Road that runs west through Asia.
Topping a successful 2012, Kia revealed the Cadenza, a new upscale sedan addition to its U.S. lineup designed to appeal to a more affluent audience.
Tom Loveless, executive vice-president of sales, said Kia sold more than 557,000 vehicles in 2012, up 15 percent on the year before, and the 18th consecutive year of growth.”No other brand can make this claim,” noted Loveless.
The expansion was achieved without the introduction of new models in 2012, but this year Kia will be debuting seven new vehicles in the US. One of these will be the new Cadenza
. “It is the most advanced Kia yet,” said Loveless, “with the most luxurious cabin and the most powerful engine. It signals a new era for the brand.”
According to Kia product planner, Orth Hedrick, the Cadenza comes with a 3.3-liter V-6, producing best in class 293-hp output.
Inside the Cadenza boasts leather seat trim and an eight-inch high definition screen as standard. “Cadenza helps move our brand upmarket while remaining true to our value for money formula,” added Loveless.
One test will determine the success of Cadillac’s new Volt-ish electric 2014 ELR coupe: Will the valet at Lucques in West Hollywood park it on Melrose out front, or hide it a few blocks away when the owner is eating dinner?
“The ELR is no compromise in luxury, high design and style. The car’s gorgeous,” said Cadillac Marketing Manager Sabin Blake at the unveiling of the ELR at Cobo Hall Tuesday morning, “Buying a Prius is a compromise.”
The slick and bedazzled ELR is about nine inches longer than a Chevy Volt, and uses a slightly modified version of the Volt’s electric driveline with gasoline-powered recharging engine. It also boasts about 35 miles pure electric range, with a 300-mile electric-and-gas range.
The electric motor offers 295 lb. ft. of torque–”as much as BMW’s M3,” said Mark Adams, executive director of Cadillac global design–so performance is not a concern of GM’s. Like the Volt, however, the ELR is a front-driver, while all other Cadillacs are rear-drive, including the new ATS sedan, which is four inches shorter than the ELR.
Insiders guess the ELR will run about $65,000, and Cadillac’s Bob Ferguson, vice president of the division, says it is expected to begin production in the fall of this year, and go on sale in early 2014. “It’s uniquely a Cadillac,” added Blake. “We are very happy that we can deliver this car looking almost exactly like the Converj,” the 2009 concept coupe that won design awards and critical praise at its launch in Detroit four years ago. “The interior is like no other Cadillac you’ve been in,” added Blake, “The leather, wood, and splashes of carbon fiber.”
Blake said the company has gotten good feedback from potential customers in Los Angeles, the expected top market for the car, and also the largest electric car market in the country. “This is a date night car.”
Acura took the wraps off its all-new 2014 RLX luxury-performance sedan, unveiled a prototype of its 2014 MDX mid-sized SUV, and titillated the audience with more promises about the introduction of the Acura NSX super-car.
The NSX concept was first unveiled here in Detroit last January, and a production version is promised soon.
Acura is the upmarket subsidiary of Honda of Japan.
The flagship RLX has a new direct injection gasoline engine, a lightweight body, and the first application of Acura Precision All-Wheel Steer to deliver what Acura calls a new and dynamic driving experience unlike that of any other luxury performance sedans.
The next-generation cloud-based connected car system makes its debut on the new RLX, offering a broad range of convenience, entertainment and security features.
“The 2014 Acura RLX heralds the introduction of a number of new signature Acura technologies that provide the driver a feeling of connection to the product, to the road, and to the world from the very moment they enter the vehicle,” said Jeff Conrad, vice president and general manager of Acura Sales. ”
The 2014 RLX is powered by a 310-hp V-6 engine, which Acura says should achieve 24 mpg combined fuel economy.
A hybrid version of the RLX producing 370 hp with expected fuel economy rating of 30 combined, will debut later in 2013 after the standard version is launched this spring.
Prices start at $48,000.
Acura also unveiled the MDX prototype SUV, slated for sale later this year.
The latest version of the NSX concept was shown, but no firm promises were made for an introduction date. The latest NSX was shown last year at the NAIAS as a concept, which might be ready three years from then.
The NSX is expected to be powered by a mid-mounted, direct-injected V6 engine, with all-wheel drive. The new NSX is being developed by Honda in Los Angeles, California, and Raymond, Ohio. It will be manufactured at a new factory in central Ohio.
Most automotive suppliers are content to remain in the shadows of their customers, but a rare few parts companies have established a brand presence powerful enough to actually lend credibility on their own.
So it is with German transmission and chassis component manufacturer ZF, a firm that has been hitting its stride helping an impressive range of automakers such as Chrysler, Cadillac and BMW both boost performance and improve fuel efficiency.
ZF’s importance to the industry was underscored when Fiat/Chrysler singled it out during the unveiling of the updated Jeep Grand Cherokee at this week’s North American International Auto Show. The German firm is providing the sport-utility vehicle’s new 8-speed automatic gearbox – and will again make headlines later this year when Jeep introduces the world’s first front-wheel-drive 9-speed on the replacement for the smaller Liberty model.
While transmissions have always been an important subject among the performance crowd, the critical components have become a serious topic among an even broader audience these days, as well as among industry planners and engineers. That’s because few of the typical vehicle’s thousands of parts can do more to improve its fuel efficiency.
During a news conference at the NAIAS, ZF CEO Stefan Sommer estimated the new 9-speed automatic will be able to reduce fuel consumption by “nearly 13%” compared to older-style 6-speeds.
The benefit of adding gears is that this permits an engine to operate at lower RPMs more of the time. From a performance standpoint, it’s more likely to be in the sweet spot, delivering maximum wheel-spinning torque to the pavement.
There is a downside, cautioned Sommer, acknowledging transmission companies like ZF are likely approaching the limit of how many more gears they can add. The problem is one of mass, inertia and friction, eventually overcoming any potential advantage. Too many speeds can also result in constant “hunting” as an automatic gearbox switches from gear to gear, something studies reveal can disrupt customer comfort.
But, for now, ZF is positioned in the proverbial catbird seat as one of the best-known and most widely respected transmission suppliers. With manufacturers facing a sharp increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard for 2016 and an even more challenging bump to 54.5 mpg by 2025, the potentially huge benefits offered by the newest gearboxes serves as a siren’s call.
The German firm has been booking new orders at a rapid pace, 2012 revenues jumping to a record $23 billion and Sommer confident of even further growth this year. A measure of its success is the fact that it not only posted a 35% increase in North American revenues in 2012 but an 11% increase in Europe where the automotive market plunged to the lowest level in more than a decade.
ZF currently operated 24 plants in the NAFTA region and is preparing to open a new 8- and 9-speed transmission manufacturing plant in South Carolina capable of producing 800,000 million of the components annually. And it will receive licensing fees from Chrysler which will produce some of the new ZF-designed transmissions on its own.
While the transmission revolution is clearly a plus, Sommer stressed that ZF isn’t putting all its gears in one housing, to mash an old metaphor. It also is pushing to grow some of its other business lines, such as transmission, chassis and steering components.
It is already seeing big gains with its advanced electromechanical steering units which also promise measurable mileage advantages, Sommer forecasting, “For passenger cars, we think (conventional) hydraulic steering will soon be completely replaced.”
Further out, ZF hopes to come up with drive and transmission systems that could take advantage of the industry’s push into batter power — though the CEO cautions that the time-tested internal combustion engine still has plenty of life left. That’s good news for ZF’s biggest line of business.
Nissan of Japan has redesigned its Versa hatchback and added Note to the name, as it ratchets up a sales drive for compact and sub-compact cars.
Nissan also unveiled a new SUV concept, the Resonance, and remained silent about its Leaf electric car, which is not selling well.
The Versa Note hatchback will arrive at dealerships in the spring. The sedan version continues, and Nissan now hopes to appeal to a wider group of buyers. Nissan sells a similar hatchback vehicle in Europe and Japan, known just as the Note.
Prices for the Versa Note start at $13,990, about $2,000 above the sedan, with a 109 hp 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine with either a 5-speed manual gear change or continuously variable automatic. Nissan claims 40 mpg highway fuel consumption for this engine.
At a press conference at the NAIAS, Nissan said the new Versa Note will offer technology that allows a 360 degree view of the area around the car to help parking.
The Versa has become a big contender in the subcompact market, rivaling the Hyundai Accent, Kia Soul, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Ford Fiesta.
Along with almost every other manufacturer at the show this year, Nissan said the Versa Note will have enhanced internet communication ability, including hands-free text messaging.
Nissan also unveiled a concept SUV at the show called the Resonance, unveiled by executive vice president Andy Palmer.
Palmer said the Resonance would raise SUV standards, with its startling body design, improved interior, and advanced hybrid gas/electric engines.
Resonance was produced by Nissan Design America, San Diego, CA,.
Palmer said the Resonance’s interior was more like a VIP lounge than a car, the headlights were a unique “boomerang” design. And of course it broke new ground in connectivity to smart phones and the internet.
Nissan, in a statement, expanded on the VIP lounge idea.
“With the interior, the designers imagined what the future of first-class space travel might be: welcoming yet exclusive and high-tech yet premium. The resulting “VIP lounge,” with its light, buttery leather and premium-stitched seats, exudes genuine sophistication,” Nissan said.
In his speech, Palmer didn’t mention the slow-selling Leaf battery-only car. On January 14, Nissan cut the base price of the Leaf by 18 per cent or $6,400, to $28,000. In 2012, Nissan predicted Leaf sales of 20,000 but sold less than half that.
Ford highlighted a major focus on new global commercial vehicles with new versions of the Transit Connect, Transit and a concept preview of the next F-series pick-up. According to Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, the Atlas concept showcases “innovations in the future of pick-up trucks. It pushes the limits of what a full-size pick-up truck can be.”
Among features of the new truck are the next generation Ecoboost engines, aerodynamic details such as active wheel shutters and front chin splitter plus trailer assist systems. “We are committed to setting the agenda in the pick-up truck market,” added Hinrichs.
Underscoring the importance of the worldwide commercial vehicle market, Ford’s top executives, Bill Ford, Alan Mulally, Mark Fields, Raj Nair and Joe Hinrichs, all took part in the presentation of a new wave of trucks and vans in Cobo Arena. Opening the show, Bill Ford pointed out how Ford launched 25 new vehicles globally in 2012 and created thousands of new jobs. In 2013 the company will be hiring more salaried employees than in the past decade in the US and doubling the number of salaried Ford jobs in China.
Alan Mulally reviewed the implementation of the company’s One Ford global vision with the success of the B-segment Fiesta, C-segment Focus and Fusion in the C/D segment. Mark Fields turned to commercial vehicles which account for 29 percent of global sales. “Our E-series vans have been the market leader in the US for 34 years and the Transit van has led the UK market for five decades.”
Introducing the new Transit Connect and Transit vans, Raj Nair, vice-president of global product development, said the new van platforms “offer more choices for America than any competitor.”
The Transit Connect provides 2000 lb towing capability, 1600 lbs payload capacity and 1.6-liter ecoboost engine capable of returning more than 30 mpg. The new Transit, said Nair, will come in multiple engine variants, two wheelbase and three overall lengths. The new models involve a $1 billion investment in the Kansas City assembly plant and 1600 new jobs.
It may be Japan’s largest luxury brand but Lexus has always had an affinity for the Motor City, having made its debut at the very first North American International Auto Show more than two decades ago. Toyota’s upscale marque is back again, this time rolling out an all-new version of its entry-level IS line.
When it made its first appearance at Cobo Center, Lexus aimed to undercut its Western rivals with a formula that balanced low prices and high quality. These days, while it remains the quality leaders, according to most owner surveys, the price gap has largely vanished and it’s struggling to redefine itself in the increasingly competitive luxury market.
“Passion” is the word that defines the brand’s new direction, according to Toyota Motor Co. CEO Akio Toyoda. That word translates into products that are both visual enticing and dynamically exciting, a new direction first seen with the GS sedan that debuted two years ago, and continued with the launch of the all-new Lexus LS flagship for 2012.
Now it’s the entry-level IS that gets a makeover.
“I adopted an entirely different approach to the development of the all-new IS,” said Junichi Furuyama, IS Chief Engineer. “Specifically, it was to make an entertaining driving experience a major premise behind all aspects of performance.”
According to Furuyama, the traditional Lexus product development process was “flipped on its head,” with a more aggressive design and a “pleasurable driving experience” the top priorities.
The traditionally bland sedan now boasts a longer wheelbase and is wider than the old car. The 2014 Lexus IS also borrows the so-called “spindle grille” first introduced on the GS, family it with L-shaped Daytime Running Lights, and other, more sporty cues such as the wide flare of the wheel arches.
The 2014 IS features a more aggressive beltline and larger tires intended to make it appear more solidly planted. There’s also a crease line that rises from front to back, spearing through the back wheel arches before linking to the taillights.
The new model will now be offered in both rear- and all-wheel drive while offering both 2.5- and 3.5-liter V-6s in the IS250 and IS350 models, respectively. The new IS introduces the new G force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) control in Sport mode, automatically selecting the optimal gear with the 8-speed automatic to improve cornering.
“The IS has always been precise and fun to drive,” said Mark Templin, Lexus general manager. “The all-new IS kicks it up a notch with true sport sedan driving dynamics, state of the art onboard technologies, and an all-new design that makes it look fast even when it’s standing still.”
“Capacity is coming back to North America,” said Terry Helgesen, senior vice president for industry relations at Denso, a Japan-based global parts supplier with regional offices in Southfield. Denso announced at the North American International Auto Show Tuesday that it plans to sink up to $1 billion into North American manufacturing, three-quarters of that in the U.S.
One specific example of that Investment is Denso’s June launch in building more specialized so-called “stop-start” starter motors at its growing Marysville, Tenn., assembly complex.
These heavy-duty starter motors mean soon a car that’s stopped and idling will be a thing of the past. Denso’s senior vice president of engineering, Doug Patton, said that the technology will likely be on all new cars within the next five years, although execution of stop-start systems will be critical. How smoothly and “transparently” a car’s engine turns itself off and back on will be key for carmakers.
“I see start-stop going everywhere,” said Patton. “It’s going to be driven by fuel economy, whether the public speaks out for it or not.” The relatively simple technology of turning a car off when it’s not moving favors city drivers who are stuck in traffic. “Driving across Montana, it’s not going to help that much” with fuel economy, said Patton. “In Manhattan, that’s a different story.”
Generally associated with hybrid cars, stop-start technology is a relatively inexpensive way to raise fuel economy — when a car is not moving, the engine is shut off. Higher capacity starter motors, alternators and batteries to support this technology are part of the increase in manufacturing in the U.S. and North America, said Denso’s Jack Helmboldt, executive vice president of manufacturing for North America.