What a difference 7 years makes. With the industry teetering on collapse in 2008 and the subsequent managed bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, things looked pretty grim in Motown. However, three years of booming sales culminating in 2014 breaking the 16 million mark has all but erased the memories of bad times. Or at least that is how it seems as the auto industry gathers in Detroit to show off new trucks, performance cars and luxury offerings.
Helping to put distance on that bad history is the plunge in fuel prices to below $2 per gallon for regular in many parts of the country. Along with an economy that posted a 5 percent gain in GDP during the fourth quarter, you can see why automakers, if not outright dancing in the streets, have a bit more spring in their steps these days.
So, the decidedly upbeat atmosphere at this year's show is reflected in a rekindling of the truck wars across brands and segments, with an all-new Nissan Titan bowing to take on the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150, and the Toyota Tacoma benefiting from a redesign to challenge the reconstituted Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon in the mid-size segment.
High performance is also in high dungeon at the show. Ford unveiled a new mid-engine successor to the limited run GT, the Raptor performance version of the new F-150 pickup, and a motorsports version of the Mustang called the Shelby GT350 R. Acura, after showing several concept variants of its new NSX sports hybrid, finally treated us to the production version. Mini launched the John Cooper Works version of its new Hardtop model and Alfa Romeo touted the U.S. launch of the Spider version of its 4C two-seater. Lexus and Cadillac flexed their performance muscles with their respective GS F and CTS-V sport sedans.
Speaking of luxury, BMW unveiled its face-lifted 6 Series, including the M models, and Mercedes-Benz introduced an answer to the BMW X6 dubbed the GLE Coupe. Mercedes also announced a new line of AMG Sport versions that bridge the gap between the standard cars and the full-on AMG models. Infiniti pointed the way to its new design direction and luxury positioning with the Q60 coupe, and Buick introduced its first convertible in 25 years.
While automakers continue to work on range-extended EVs, fuel cells and hybrids, the only action on this front is the introduction of the redesigned Chevrolet Volt, the U.S. debut of Honda's FCV fuel cell car and the launch of the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Mercedes-Benz C350 plug-in hybrid.
The 2015 North American International Auto Show will mark the industry's comeback, but given the cyclical nature of the business, the question is for how long this time?
Previous Detroit Auto Shows
The Detroit Auto Show remains one of the biggest and most anticipated auto shows in the world and draws more visitors to kbb.com than any other auto show. Also known by the loftier North American International Auto Show or NAIAS, the Detroit Auto Show is held annually at downtown Detroit's Cobo Center, with a public opening date around the middle of January. Not just the home auto show for the American auto industry, the Detroit Auto Show is also an important show for automakers from around the world as the key car show in one of the world's largest car markets.
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