Tuesday January 22 And Wednesday January 23, 2019
The Detroit Auto Show is really called the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). NAIAS announced before the show that the 2019 show would be the last auto show held in January. Auto shows 2020 and beyond will be held in the summer. The auto show is open to everyone who buys a ticket.
More pictures taken at the auto show can be found on Flickr.
The Detroit Auto Show is the most important auto show in the USA. Ford announced the return of the Ford Ranger for 2019. Ford also had been talking at length on a 2020 reintroduction of the Ford Bronco. The Bronco, it was rumored, would be based on the Ranger platform. My first goal was to decide which I would prefer for off-road use: Ranger or Bronco. This didn’t work out as Ford announced late in 2018 there would be no Bronco introduced this year. All was not lost. I was able to see multiple Rangers for the first time and I was able to sit in both the extended cab and crew cab Ranger versions.
I also wanted to ask a Super Duty product specialist some questions about my F-450:
- Is the extra-large factory provided hitch receiver able to handle towing a 5,000 pound vehicle four-down on a four foot extension bar? We are considering replacing our Lance 850 with a larger camper. Most larger campers (e.g. Lance 1172) have a 4 foot or less overhang off the back bumper. We plan to continue towing a 4X4 four down and would need a hitch extension. Many other trucks require adding something like a SuperHitch to be able to extend a hitch back 4 feet. I want to be able to use the hitch that came with my truck.
- How can the SiriusXM Satellite and GPS antenna be moved from the roof of the truck cab to another location where the signals won’t be blocked by the truck camper? All of the parts are listed, cable and antenna assemblies, in the online parts catalog for the normal location. I need more of a relocation how-to.
More on the questions later.
The auto show was held at the Detroit COBO Center, a convention center located in downtown Detroit on the Detroit Riverwalk.
In the winter, the first thing to do on arrival at the COBO Center is to check coats. Auto show attendees were allowed to bring coats, handbags and backpacks into the show but it is just easier to check coats.
To find the ticket office, attendees had a large hall to walk though. Dodging the timeshare salesmen literally jumping in the way, attendees may have felt they were walking a gauntlet.
Next stop was the ticket counter. Actually, two types of ticket counters.
The ticket counter shown above only takes cash for tickets. To the left of those ticket counters were the credit card only ticket kiosks.
There were ticket takers and security guards at each show entrance. The security folks hand searched larger bags and backpacks. Show attendees may keep their ticket stubs. On the exits, attendees got the back of a hand stamped if they intended to return to the show that day.
The Greatest Show On Earth
In terms of lighting, noise, special effects, crowds, clanging, commotion, order and disorder, entering the convention center was like stepping onto the main floor of the biggest Las Vegas casino imaginable.
The COBO Center is so large. There were so many international vehicle manufacturers showing full car and partial truck lines.
There were floor shows. Dance routines. Multimedia extravaganzas. Test drive tracks. Cars dropping from the ceiling. HUGE!
Pretty Women Still Sell Cars
I always thought the Chevy Corvette was inherently sexy. This woman, wearing business appropriate clothing, was describing the car’s features in a smooth and reasoned voice. She sounded like a Vice President.
GAC Motor used a dance troupe to get attention. The dancers consisted of both men and women. The dance routine was too artsy for the crowd. Not at all a Vegas style dance.
After the dance troupe completed their routine, a man came out, again dressed appropriately for business, to describe the large electric GAC Motor concept car.
GAC Motor is a Chinese automaker looking to enter the USA market. According to Wikipedia, GAC Motor’s parent company isn’t the largest Chinese automaker. The GAC cars on display in Detroit appeared to be very similar in styling to its best-in-class competitor in each category. The only uniquely styled vehicle displayed at the show was the concept car.
This presenter was no bimbo although the blue shoes didn’t exactly flatter the black evening dress. Was she dressed to appeal to older men?
Ford had the best floor show. Every half hour or so, 200 attendees would gather in four levels of bleachers facing a boring looking stage.
Looking around, waiting for the show to begin, I saw this mattress box looking thing suspended from the ceiling.
Since it looked like it had louvers, I assumed that it contained something imaginative like the balloons dumped on delegates at national party conventions.
As the show began, the three stage walls became display spaces. The sound was a little too loud. The bass was enhanced and could really be felt through the bleachers. Interesting effect.
Story telling is an important aspect of sales. The presentation began with tales of heroism centered around Ford vehicle usage. First responders, puppy dogs, children and doctors.
Next, the casually dressed presenter stepped to the side of the stage as the entire stage was transformed into a winter glacial landscape.
A door opened at the rear of the stage and out popped the new 2019 Ford Ranger. Even the stage floor was transformed into snow and ice.
With the presenter standing next to the Ranger, animations choreographed with the movement of the truck and the speaker started. Cool effect. Once the Ranger portion of the show was completed, the Ranger moved off stage to to left front.
The next car through the hole in the wall was an Explorer. As the Explorer driver moved the car around the stage, it appeared as if the car was driving down a street with the presenter dodging animated cars and bicyclists. These visual effects seemed like Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR). Very cool. When done, the Explorer moved off stage to the right front.
The finale was the opening of the mattress box looking thing on the ceiling. A Ford Mustang dropped from the ceiling as if from heaven. Again, the backdrop animations choreographed with the presenter were amazing compelling believable.
The coolest aspect of the Ford presentation was the realism. The animations on the stage floor and walls make it look as if a stationary car centered on the stage was moving within a moving landscape. Cool.
Test Drive on Test Track
KIA is introducing a new SUV this year – the Telluride.
In addition to the simulated waterfall spilling over the “TELLURIDE” letters in the above picture, KIA built a test track inside the COBO Center.
Only it wasn’t really a test drive track. It was more like a test “ride” track. Riders would register at a table manned by folks that took personally identifiable information.
Once they strapped wrist bans with barcodes on each rider, riders got in line for the next available SUV. After each of the maximum of three riders was buckled in, the KIA supplied driver began the sedate (boring) ride around the test track. The test track was pretty. Nice layout. Pleasant.
At the end of the ride, each rider stopped at a kiosk on the way out. At the kiosk, the wrist band was scanned and the kiosk asked a few survey questions.
The test drive turned out to be a tame amusement park ride.
Factory Representatives and Experts
My first contact with a factory representative was a Ford one. I asked about towing a car four-down behind a 2017 F-450 with a mounted truck camper. I described how the camper overhangs the bed by 4 feet. How the hitch needed to be extended so the hitch would clear the camper. None of this made any sense to the rep standing by the Super Duty trucks. I was referred to the Super Duty expert. Truck campers? Overhangs? Towing four-down? Hitch extenders? Instead of answers, I was given a Ford 800 number to call. Apparently, Ford has an answer line for questions relating to its products. I’ll call the number when I’m bored.
I decided not to ask any more hard questions. I hardly think they would know how to move the antenna location for SiriusXM and GPS.
After the test ride, at the main KIA display, I asked the KIA rep if the Telluride could be towed four-down. I had to explain what that meant. He said it couldn’t. On the other hand, he hardly had any specific information or documentation on the Telluride. Was he flying from the seat of his pants?
At the Subaru display, I asked if the Subaru Forester or CrossTrek could be towed four-down. I still had to explain what that meant. The answer? No. This credible answer was delivered after looking the answer up in a binder they had.
Key Learning: Factory representatives and experts are just glorified sales reps.
Both Chevy and Ford had Lego Movie cross promotions going on.
With Chevy’s promotion, there was a line to pass through where at each of 12 stations instructions told builders how to build the next bit.
Each step had simple clear instructions to follow. Below, the completed end of build Chevy Silverado model is ready to go. Step 12 is to put the little truck onto a Lego stand for display.
On the way out of the build area, a Chevy rep handed out tiny tote bags to carry the tiny Silverado in.
There was even a full sized Lego reproduction of the Chevy Silverado for the precious photo opportunities. Definitely a Kodak moment.
Ford’s promotion was somewhat simpler but no less entertaining. Like Chevy, there was a full-sized something. Instead of a vehicle, Ford chose a race car driver. Instead of 12 build steps like Chevy, Ford had four. However, Ford’s builds required more discernment on the part of builders.
Ford’s four parts bins, or build stations, consisted of
- Torso with arms and Legs
- heads which came in two flavors – with and without eye lashes
- baseball caps in black or tan
- hair in red or blond
The heads would only support a baseball cap or hair. Not both.
Below is a man and a woman Lego person on a handy Ford provided tiny photo opportunity set.
The first day’s set of little Lego people was intended to look most like us, Larry and Linda.
On the second day, the build switched hair and hat colors for an entirely new effect.
Back at the hotel the full ensemble was staged for a photo shoot.
The tiny Lego Movie tote bag forms the background.
We came to see the new Ford Ranger and Bronco. No Bronco.
At some urging, I got Linda to sit in one of the two unlocked Rangers. I’ve bought four new vehicles since we were married. The two full sized trucks she wouldn’t drive. The 1993 Ford Ranger stick shift and clutch were too far away for her to effectively drive that. The 2013 Jeep, which we still have, gives here visibility trouble seeing over the hood. I really wanted to make sure she could and would drive a Ranger if we got one.
There were a number of souped up Rangers shown to highlight an overlanding or 4X4 lifestyle. The above is an example of 4X4 lifestyle. Below is an example of an overlanding lifestyle equipped Ranger. Note the tent camper on above the rack.
There were too many amazing cars to count. Here are just a few of the ones that made the shock and awe cut.
The GMC snow cat is an interesting adaptation but how well does it really work?
At 16, I learned how to drive two vehicles. One, like the above, was a 1966 Ford three on the tree manual transmission. Loved that truck.
The above classic Bug is much nicer than the 1966 VW I drove in high school. It sure is a beauty.
Classic big fin Caddy. People would sure look good touring down the road in one of these monsters.
Good advice for people driving 4X4s in the wilderness.
GMC bravely showed a medium duty truck. Looks like it would make a good platform for a class B motorhome.
I took over 1,000 pictures while in Detroit. The photos from above are just a sample. More pictures taken at the auto show can be found on Flickr.
The Detroit Auto Show is a good venue for seeing all major US car brands. I was a little disappointed by the lack of big trucks like mine. It is as if they auto show is completely disconnected from the RV industry. Perhaps that can change in the future.
It was an honor meeting the Michelin Man. Isn’t he considerably taller?
Hope to see you on the road ahead!