For the past couple of years, the decay of Detroit has cast a pall over the North American International Motor the city traditionally hosts, playing right into the hands of its more glamorous motor show cousins in Los Angeles and New York. However, fuelled by a more upbeat US auto industry, this year’s Detroit Motor Show reflected a return to form. By DEON SCHOEMAN.
It would seem that, after years in the doldrums, the US automotive industry has found some momentum again. Sales are up, balance sheets look better, and a raft of new and exciting new models are due for arrival on showroom floors.
The Big Three – Ford, General and Motors and Chrysler – all unveiled important newcomers at Detroit’s intimate Cobo Centre in downtown Detroit, giving the home crowd plenty to boast about.
But major automakers from Japan, Europe and Korea prevented it the show from becoming a Stars And Stripes benefit, revealing sufficiently important new models of their own to underscore the Detroit expo’s continued global significance.
At the Cobo Centre, the biggest stages belong to the Big Three, and Ford’s sprawling display was no exception. From a US perspective, pride of place went to the all-new Ford F150 pick-up – or bakkie, as they’re called in the South African vernacular.
Not that you’d want to call the F150 a bakkie: it’s big enough to be classified as a small truck and on SA roads, your code B passenger car licence isn’t good enough: you need a code C1. In the US, it’s one of the Blue Oval’s all-time best-selling nameplates.
But there are more compelling reasons than size for the Ford F150’s importance: it features an aluminium body on a steel frame to save weight, and in addition to V8 power, there’s also a choice of V6 engines, with Ford promising V8 power with V6 economy. There’s even a 360-degree camera to make parking the beast easier …
Much more compact, and also relevant to SA fans, is the debut of the all-new Ford Mustang – a model that has epitomised the America muscle car genre for five decades. The 2015 Mustang will be offered in coupé and convertible forms, and will be built in left-hand drive and right-hand drive, opening the door to availability in SA for the first time in many years.
Detroit was a big show for General Motors – and not just because of the size of The General’s stand in the Cobo Centre. In an historic first, its Chevrolet brand won both the car and the truck (read bakkie) categories of the North American Car of the Year Awards with the Corvette C7 Stingray sports car and the Silverado truck.
The Corvette is another quintessential America sports car, and also represented one of the most significant debuts in Detroit. In Corvette Z-06 form, it now produces 465kW and an astonishing 942Nm of torque from its 6.2-litre supercharged V8. It sprints from 0-100km/h in well under 4sec, and has a claimed to speed of 328km/h.
With Italian auto giant Fiat confirming the purchase of the remaining shares in Chrysler only weeks before the Detroit expo, it came as no surprise that the most Eurocentric of debuts from an US auto maker should be the mid-sized Chrysler 200C sedan. And it’s also not surprising that the US media didn’t like it much, considering that it’s based on Alfa Giulietta mechanicals.