DETROIT — Even with few European automakers present, the final January North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) had a sizable yield of first-rate introductions — more than a dozen if you count cars also shown the previous week at CES 2019. Highlights this year included the new Ram HD (heavy duty) pickup truck, the sixth-generation Ford Explorer, and the 700-hp Mustang Cobra. It wasn’t exclusively Team USA cars. Toyota unveiled the 2020 Toyota Supra sports car, a joint venture with BMW, which did not show off the BMW Z4 on account of BMW was not exhibiting.
Detroit’s auto show hit bumpy roads the last decade, which is an appropriate metaphor given the state of Michigan highways. This is the last year NAIAS will hold its preferred January slot. Undone by the defection of most European automakers and some of the Asians, not to mention bitterly cold weather many years, NAIAS moves in 2020 to June and a format that includes more outside events for the public days. Meanwhile, here are our 10 favorite introductions.
The show went off in spite of concerns of snow (it didn’t), a TSA airport-screener sickout and missed flights in or out (in Atlanta, Dallas and elsewhere but not Detroit), and infrastructure failures (a downtown water main break Saturday led to low water pressure and advisories to boil drinking water). The majority of European brands were missing: Audi, BMW, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Porsche, and Rolls-Royce. Fiat and Volkswagen did take part, as did the majority of Asian automakers.
Along with light attendance by the media, the dearth of new car intros upset the 10-day auto show tradition of two nearly full days of press conferences followed by an industry/dealers day, a charity gala, and then 10-12 days for the public. There were still two days of press conferences Monday-Tuesday but the last automaker new car announcement, by China’s GAC, went off at 1:40 pm Monday. That left the rest of Monday plus Tuesday for announcements by Michelin that it was again sponsoring the IMSA sports car/sedan racing series, a Ford-VW update on its alliance (it’s on), and various keynotes and design awards.
North American Car, Truck, and Crossover of the Year
This was also the last time the January Detroit show was the site of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards, arguably the most significant automotive awards focused on the US/North American market. For 2019 the winners were:
Car. Genesis G70 by a significant margin over the Honda Insight and Volvo S60/V60.
Utility. Hyundai Kona/Kona EV over the Jaguar I-Pace and Acura RDX.
Truck. Ram 1500 over the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500.
The award for crossovers/SUVs was added in 2017. It’s the third time since 2010 that an automaker has won two awards, Genesis being an offshoot of Hyundai. The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Silverado won in 2014, the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford Transit Connect in 2010.
The NACTOY awards, chosen by a panel of 50-60 auto writers and broadcasters from multiple publications and websites, date to 1994. NACTOY is examining its affiliation for 2020 and later when Detroit moves to June. Auto-related shows early in the year include CES, already a huge event, followed by two mid-majors: Washington, normally in late January but in April this year, which also brands itself a public-policy show; and Chicago, in early February, with its McCormick Place the best auto-show exhibition hall of any US venue and a huge public days turnout. The New York show takes place halfway through the new model year, starting the week before Easter.
- The Best Car Tech of CES 2019
- Oddball Cars and Car Tech of CES 2019: Some of Them Make Sense
- 2020 Ford Explorer: Performance, Cop Car Packages, Tesla-Like Display