January 6, 2010
Welcome to Detroit Auto Show 2010: Blue-sky pipe dreams with a side of whimsy, and Nancy Pelosi, too, oh my!
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 1/4, 5:00pm) Detroit. Ah, yes, another January in Detroit. As I write this the temperature is 21 with “light” snow (this after a particularly nasty cold snap blew through that slammed this region with single-digit temps). No, I didn’t join The Weather Channel during the break, but if we’re talking temperatures, I figured it would be a good time to take the temperature of the auto industry as it prepares for the first big international automobile show of this brand-new year, which fires up with the Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall next week.
Things are – how shall I say - mixed to put it mildly. There is a shred of optimism lurking about because December car sales were more upbeat than expected. In the Ford Motor Company’s case this is very much a good thing because it continues to underline the positive sales performance and palpable product momentum that the Dearborn faithful delivered all last year. And 2010 is only going to get better as Ford launches a newly energized Mustang, the Fiesta, heavily reworked Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers, and more good stuff – a much anticipated high-performance package for the standard 305HP V6 Mustang, for instance - throughout the year. I expect the big “MO” to continue for Ford in 2010.
So if you’re looking for optimism and positive vibes, rest assured you will find it at the Ford display down at Cobo Hall next week, especially with the much-anticipated global introduction of the all-new Focus, which will hit showrooms here a little over a year from now.
But speaking of those same kinda-sorta upbeat December sales numbers, they were not so great for the Government 2 (GM and Chrysler) because there was big cash money being strewn about by these companies that jiggered their results. In GM’s case it meant huge sums spent on closing out its Pontiac and Saturn inventories, and they spent heavily to move the rest of their product lineup as well. So despite having one of the most competitive new product lineups in the industry, GM still has to resort to cash money incentive marketing to keep things afloat. That will have to change if GM is ever going to get out of the gate in 2010.
But the good news for enthusiast consumers when it comes to GM? They will take the wraps off of the sensational Cadillac CTS-V Coupe next week, which I predict will become one of the most desirable high-performance automobiles of this new decade and an instant classic. And in the continuing renaissance of Buick, GM will also unveil a high-performance sedan concept, which - judging by GM Design’s supercharged performances of late under Ed Welburn’s tutelage - should be well worth the wait.
556-hp (415-kW) 6.2L V-8, a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with paddle shift control, Magnetic Ride Control and Brembo brakes, we expect the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe to be one of the most desirable high-performance automobiles of this new decade and an instant classic. Even better? It will be available early next summer.
As for the Segio Marchionne-led Chrysler, reality is hitting home hard for the Auburn Hills bunch. As I’ve said repeatedly in this column it’s the short-term future of this company that will ultimately determine its long-term fate. Marchionne can talk all he wants about the glowing future of Chrysler for 2014 and beyond, but if the company can’t survive the next 24 months it won’t matter.
Case in point? Chrysler is playing with fire by jettisoning almost half of its inventory into fleet sales, and dumping big cash on the hood for the rest of its sales gains. This is a strategy that just cannot continue if this company plans on being around in 2014. Look for Chrysler to go completely low-key at Cobo next week, as they really don’t have anything to talk about. (I’m hoping they’ll pull a surprise concept out of their hat for old times’ sake, but in lieu of that we’ll have to amuse ourselves by looking at the Ferrari and Maserati part of their display.)
Next week’s Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall – oh, yes, I forgot, the North American International Auto Show – will, of course be a hotbed of Green activity as well. Every automaker – both real and imagined – will have its green goin’ on in some form or fashion in order to placate the Green Horde. You can bet that everything from real, substantive efforts to blue-sky pipe dreams with a side of whimsy will be on display.
Honda will proudly roll-out the production version of its two-seat 2011 CR-Z hybrid in Detroit. I hesitate to use the words “sports car” around the new little Honda because I don’t think Honda quite got that memo, as it is said to be quite leisurely in its performance. Let’s hope there’s more to it than the early reports have indicated. And not to be outdone, of course, Toyota is said to be readying a two-seat, sportier version of its Prius to counteract the CR-Z in Detroit as the “We’re Greener Than Thou” pissing contest cranks up to full volume.
And make no mistake - the national media will be all over the Green aspect of the Detroit show, especially when Nancy Pelosi tours the show on her bike. Okay, so maybe the Madame Speaker won’t be touring the show on her bike, but you can bet the headlines will be heavily green-tinged surrounding her visit, even though most of the products on display will not make a damn bit of difference to the bottom lines of any of these companies anytime soon (except in the severely negative direction, of course).
As much as our newly-minted auto “experts” in California and Washington want to believe that the kind of game-changing seismic shift in our nation’s transportation fleet is only a finger-snap away due to electrification and the populace’s mass adoption of glorified rickshaws, etc., the reality is that we’re still going to be driving predominantly piston-powered vehicles for decades to come, no matter what the P.T. Barnums, er, I mean Fiskers and Teslas of the world would have you believe.
On that note I’ll stop right here. As bad as 2009 was I do believe there’s a pinpoint of fiberoptic light at the end of the tunnel for this industry and its future. Brilliant, adventuresome designs, new technologies and an economy that’s lurching back to life are all signs that 2010 will be a better year for everyone concerned. And hopefully next week’s show will add to my burgeoning sense of optimism.
I’ll report back next week with The Good, The Bad, and The Not So Much from the 2010 Detroit Auto Show.
Thanks for listening.
See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and friends this Thursday evening, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.
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