Detroit’s auto show kicks off
The Chevrolet booth at the North American International Auto Show is under construction.
Photo courtesy of NAIAS

Detroit’s auto show kicks off

Last January North American International Auto Show set to begin Monday morning.

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January 14, 2019

Detroit, Michigan – Media days for the last January North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit kick off this morning at 8 a.m., so come back to this site for updates throughout the day on news and vehicle launches.

Next year, the show moves to the summer, and many automakers have pledged big displays for the final winter show at Cobo Hall.

Toyota, Ford, General Motors, China’s GAC, and several other companies are promising major new production announcements. Coverage on www.todaysmotorvehicles.com should begin early with the announcements of the North American International Car of the Year and Truck of the Year.

10:15 a.m. update, Jan. 14, 2019

Hyundai had never won a vehicle of the year award at NAIAS despite having had several competitive offerings throughout the year. That dam broke on Monday with North American Car of the Year Honors for the Genesis G70 luxury sedan and North American Utility of the Year honors for the Kona crossover.

FCA took North American Truck of the Year honors for its Ram 1500. It beat two offerings from General Motors -- the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado. Ram had a monster year in 2018, growing 15% in a very competitive market for full-size pickups. Later in the morning, the company unveiled its Ram Heavy Duty lineup, a vehicle that can produce 1,000 lb-ft of torque and tow more than 31,000 lb. 

Two sports cars got their debuts on Monday. Ford went with drama, lowering its Shelby GT500 Mustang from the ceiling. The car is set to top 700hp thanks to a 5L V-8 coupled to a massive Eaton supercharger. As Ford President of Global Markets Jim Farley put it, "It's time to embarrass some super cars at a Ford price."

Toyota on Monday officially announced a new 2020 Supra, a storied sports car that has been out of the U.S. market for 21 years. CEO Akio Toyoda said his designers were geniuses to get the car included in the video game Gran Turismo 6. Having driven the car virtually, it was much easier to green light production on the finished vehicle. 

Unlike earlier generations of the Supra and Celica/Supra, such as the highly popular mid-1980s models that featured wedge shapes and sharp angles, the new vehicle sports rounded edges and lots of difficult-to-stamp body shapes. Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America, told TMV that the harsh edged that made the vehicle easy to produce in the 1980s wouldn't cut it today.

1:30 p.m. update

Lots of electric vehicle (EV) talk at the show led to real EV action with Volkswagen announcing plans to invest $800 million at its facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to build a new generation of vehicles by 2022. The investment includes 1,000 new jobs and makes Chattanooga VW's North American manufacturing site for future EVs.

The plant now makes the Atlas sport utility and the Passat sedan. VW spokeswoman Jessica Anderson says the automaker will import EVs from Germany starting next year with Tennessee production set for 2022.

"2020 is when things will change remarkably in EVs for us. We expect it to be an exciting time for the entire industry," she says.

Also on the electric side of the business, Nissan showed off the IMs concept, its look at an electric car that can be driven by a person or autonomously. Design chief Giovanny Aroba says features such as a 3D-printed lattice structure that replaces traditional heating vents on the instrument panel are playful looks into how technology could influence future vehicle designs.

"This is a serious look into what sorts of vehicles we expect to be on the market in the very near future," Aroba says. He adds that Nissan expects some versions of autonomous or cars that have fully autonomous modes to be available by 2022 or soon after.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 18 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net