The View From Detroit (and why it matters NOW!)

Did you hear that?  It sounded like a sonic boom!  And the sky lit up!  Was it the meteor or was it the kick off of the North American International Auto Show?

Unlike other auto shows throughout the country and the year, the Detroit show is a full two weeks long because it is the showcase for the manufacturers to present their latest on the World’s Stage.  Week one of the event is dedicated primarily to the press.  From releases to sneak peeks to full-blown reveals, it is the time when the media gathers their facts, figures and high-rez assets and race to the Internet to be the first to publish.  It’s an exciting (and scary) time for auto dealers, supplying vendors, engineers and designers.

And CEOs.

It’s no secret that technology has presented us with transportation options that we couldn’t have dreamed of a mere decade ago.   Lightweight components, better crash protection, power-per-liter that is mind-numbing and all the while holding price points that are for lower than what the technology should garner. So, how will the OEMs align the cost of all this technology with pricing that is acceptable to the consumer as well as offer value to the company and its shareholders?

A few observations from week one of the show:

WHY IT MATTERS

Trucks.  Trucks.  And more trucks.  New (or at least highly updated) offerings from General Motors and FCA (generally Dodge/Ram in this case),

Ford’s worst kept secret ever hits the stage in the form of the all new Ranger.  The Bronco is still on the horizon and when/if it arrives it will be based on the Ranger.  That should be interesting with all the push-back on EcoBoost technology by “purists”.  The rumblings of a “real” car, truck, SUV needing a ‘Murican V8 will continue.

In spite of the fact that these are the latest and greatest truck offerings in history, the Big 3 are already deeply discounting vehicles or financing or both.  What happened to the days of exciting, new cars and trucks driving consumers into showrooms with stars in their eyes and their wallets straining to burst open with cash?  Great for the potential consumer, not so great for everyone involved with selling cars for a living.

Electric Avenue.  In case you haven’t noticed, Elon Musk has set the automotive industry on its heels.  While the Model 3 is experiencing major teething problems, both on the manufacturing and consumer sides, it has put the other OEMs on notice that this technology is not only real, but it’s already here.  And if they’re not already deeply inside the circle, they’re playing catch up.  And if you think convention is balking at EcoBoost technology, just wait until Ford teases the rumored Mustang Hybrid.  There was quite the buzz this week about an electric or hybrid SUV adopting the Mach 1 moniker!  In any case, electric is here and it’s going to be put into overdrive in the next five years. That’s great news for new life in the industry, a hard pill to swallow by the masses and presents an entirely new set of challenges (read: OPPORTUNITIES!!) for the automotive aftermarket. Shameless plug time; If you’re in the automotive aftermarket and you haven’t thought much about how you’re going to capitalize on this quantum leap, we need to talk.  Venomous Consulting can help you navigate these new waters.  They’re vast and they hold many treasures.

OTHER STUFF

From across the “pond”.

The truck-fest continues as does Mercedes-Benz’ model of blessed excess, the 2019 G-Class SUV.  From its size that allows it to stand toe-to-toe with a Hummer to the interior cavernous enough to hold a high school dance, M-B has taken this aging beast back to finishing school.  Since far more of these babies cruise suburban streets than do spend a minute offroad, the focus was on creature comforts like a video monitor the size of a small laptop.  Oh, and there’s a new droptop version (sort of) that looks from the side looks like a mutant Subaru Brat.

The 2019 Acura RDX offers a yet another ransom note of angles with a new front end, yet a smoother, more pleasing side view.  Loaded with high tech, it will no doubt be another top choice of the “you’ll never find me in a mini-van” crowd.  Connectivity is king as an Android-based system is on board. Has the Apple lost some of its luster these days?

The bulk of the other import offerings, at least thus far into the pre-stages of the show, are centered around sporty, edgy, high tech coupes.  Infiniti, Hyundai, BMW and more are sticking with the high zoot tactic, whether visually or virtually.  BMW touts its new Apple-based system as a multi-function gadget but the question is, will they force you into an annual Apple subscription to use all it’s capabilities?  We shall see.

SIGHTINGS

We can’t help wondering if Ford took a page from the iPhone Book of Missteps when they introduced an iconic flashback (the Bullitt, complete with a showing of one of the long, lost Mustangs from the movie and Steve McQueen’s granddaughter piloting the newest incarnation).  Then, within 48 hours launched a CGI video of the Unicorn itself, the new Shelby GT500!  Just yesterday it was released that both sellers and suppliers have deep concerns about orders of the iPhone 8 and 8+ going into 2018.  Why?  Because no sooner did they release it than they unveiled the iPhone X!  It is the zenith of shoot your self in the foot marketing strategies.  So, could Ford perhaps given this some forethought?  The GT500 is an exercise on paper at this point.  In fact, rumors had it dead in the water as recently as a month ago.  But, a new deal with Shelby American allowed the marque breathing room, at least for another year.  While the excitement of 700+ horsepower, coupled with the promise of a corner-carving chassis is appealing (and it most certainly took the torch out of the hand of the Bullitt), the price of admission will likely separate the two quite nicely.  Estimates have the Bullitt in the 50k range and the GT500 north of 70k.  Makes sense as a loaded Mustang GT will sticker for $50,000 all day long.

On the polar opposite side of the Blue Oval, we congratulate Lincoln (yep, Lincoln) for scoring the North American Truck of the Year for 2018 with it’s all new Navigator urban assault vehicle.  It’s a whopper but it’s a beautiful one.

We’ll have more from the North American International Auto Show throughout the weekend.  The Black Tie sneak is tonight and we’ll have fun poking around with pinkies out.

ONE FINAL NOTE

I spent 20 years of my life in Chicago.  90% of it in the Loop.  It’s always fun to watch movies and tv shows being filmed there.  It’s just as much fun to watch them on the screen.  It was very cool to watch the Bullitt hauling down Lower Wacker and across the lower bridge levels over the Chicago River.  My office was literally blocks from there as was my residence.  I’ve driven or walked those routes hundreds of times so the Bullitt video gave me a double-shot of nostalgia. Just like McQueen….timeless cool.

bj

 

 

 

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