Every January, Detroit hosts its Cobo Hall to dozens of automotive brands to release their latest and greatest new products.
This year was no different and featured a whole new large focus with concepts and production vehicles, autonomous and alternative fuels.
This year marks a large change in the industry as automakers roll out new autonomous technology in production vehicles, and full autonomous driving ability through prototypes and concept vehicles. These concepts focus on the shift to the next generation of what automakers think millennials may want to drive but also with increasing safety and crash avoidance technologies. This year also brought a bunch of new alternative fuel vehicles such as a large shift back to diesel powertrains for North America to follow in Europe’s footsteps. Hydrogen and full electric production vehicles were also on display and have moved from concept to production.
With autonomous technology on the rise and having a growing popularity, automakers have released some new technologies as well as concepts to prepare the next generation for the future. Chrysler presented one concept at Detroit, designed in Detroit by a team of millennials at FCA Tech Center. This Portal concept previews the future of minivans and the future of autonomous technology. This van presents what Chrysler thinks millennials want in a vehicle and turns the minivan into a social hub with rotating seats, integrated technologies for infotainment and much more. Volkswagen also previewed another concept, a retake on the retro VW Microbus which features autonomous technology and yet again integrates infotainment and a layout to encourage socializing within the cabin. Ford presented a different take on this new autonomous technology. Their vehicle is actually a running and driving prototype based on a Ford Fusion Hybrid fitted with plenty of sensors and radar and actually drives itself on a test track and test city built by Ford. This full autonomous technology will soon be starting to appear on roads testing throughout Ontario and is already testing in Michigan and some other states on a small scale. This technology is being launched in some production vehicles, such as Cadillac’s Super Cruise this year and as crash avoidance technology in others. Whether it be concept or prototype, these vehicles share a similarity far beyond the controls, but also a shift in propulsion from gasoline.
Detroit also previewed some new alternative fuel vehicles at many companies that are now production and ready to hit the road, but also a shift towards a larger use of diesel powered vehicles alike Europe. General Motors released the new 2018 GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox crossovers and both feature new styling, new construction and optional diesel powertrains. The Chevrolet Cruze also gains a 1.6L diesel again, the same as in the Terrain and Equinox. GMC and Chevrolet also showed off their new Duramax powertrains for the HD trucks and have the Canyon and Colorado also available with a diesel. Ford also joins this diesel shift with a new V6 diesel available in the ½ ton Ford F150 which has undergone a facelift and features more handsome styling and new technology as well. Automakers also showed off their newest Hybrid and Plug-In Electric vehicles. Hyundai had their full line-up of Ioniq hybrid and electric vehicles to compete against the Prius, BMW showed off their new plug In 7 Series and i Lineup and Chevrolet had their North American Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Bolt full electric vehicle on hand and ready for sale. Almost every automaker at the show has a hybrid or electric offering now and ready indicates this great shift towards better fuel economy for future CAFÉ standards and reducing our carbon footprint.
Among the latest technology and coolest concept cars, new production cars also grace the show floor to show what everyday buyers can purchase and drive. These production cars feature some of the technology of the concepts, but are not quite ready for full integration just yet. Along with the redesigned F150, Ford also released the new Ecosport to take on the Trax and Encore and is being brought up from South America. Ford also released a facelifted 2018 Mustang, which features new grille, lights and fascia and new rear fascia as well as no more V6 option. This facelift has had mixed reviews as of yet but it may have to be left up to the viewer in person. Lincoln was showing off the new Continental which it is relying on heavily to bring them back as a competitive brand in this tough luxury segment and the Navigator concept was on hand to preview the next generation of this full size SUV. Chevrolet brought the new Traverse which has increased in length and features a whole new look, fitting better between the Equinox and Tahoe. The new Equinox was also present showing off its all-new look and powertrains. The Colorado ZR2 was also present to show off the trucks off road capabilities and sporty looks. GMC released the all-new Terrain which marks a large shift from the last generation and is quite stunning in person. GMC also showed their Denali brand which is one of the highest rated for brand retention and features a unique display with modern touches and vehicles. Jeep launched the new Compass at the show which has changed and is all-new featuring handsome Grand Cherokee-like styling in a compact size. Dodge also brought their new Challenger GT AWD to the show which fixes the problem of trying to drive a rear wheel drive muscle car in the snow. Many other automakers focused on new crossovers and minivans. Honda released the new Odyssey and Volkswagen released the new Atlas 3 row crossover and the Tiguan which has grown to accommodate a 3rd row. Nissan launched their new Qashqai (Rogue Sport) and Infiniti previewed the next generation of EX with a stunning sculptural concept. Alfa Romeo also added to this with their new sport crossover, the Stelvio.
Lastly, one of the biggest shocks come from Korea and China. This year marked the first year that Hyundai has separated their display entirely from their Genesis brand. On this note, this incredible move was smart and well-executed with handsome cars, a sophisticated display and they seem to have ravaged an Italian modelling firm for their staff. Everything in this display was well-appointed and even more impressive than BMW or Lexus. Kia also shocked showgoers with the new Stinger GT sports sedan. This beautiful design looks more German and Italian than Korean and features a low, sleek profile and even Brembo brakes on a Kia! The artistic direction of Peter Schreyer really is shifting this company around towards a new audience. At the show, a Chinese company was also present, GAC. They presented their “Trumpchi” line-up that they hope to import to the United States in the next few years. The name may not be the only issue with their vehicles however and they were surprising but not in a good way. Their vehicles lack a unique look and identity and they also lack in build quality. Their luxury sedan was laughable at best and its compartment doors feel similar to a 1998 Buick Regal’s cupholders after decades of use and abuse, but this sedan is brand new.
As a wrap-up, the 2017 show was another great year and featured a huge turn in technology and how we may drive our vehicles in the future. While this may be interesting to many people, it also presents many challenges and fear in some others. Look for more autonomous technology in the future and in the years to come, many vehicles released will feature these new smaller powertrains with alternative fuel and autonomous technology as this becomes more of a normality. The future looks bright and the great look of these cars present that. The Toronto Auto Show follows in a month’s time and we will see many of these cars, including a few additions at our show. So be ready to see the future of the automobile for the Greater Toronto Area.
Written by David Murphy