Editor's note: Emmet County residents Douglas Marshall and Michael Derry submitted the following guest column about their visit to the North American International Auto Show Press Preview last week in Detroit. They were representing Media Development Corp., Derry's marketing and advertising consulting firm geared toward manufacturers. Marshall is a former chief executive officer of the Little Traverse Historical Society and spent about 17 years working for General Motors Corp., primarily in positions relating to corporate strategic planning and international operations.
For the Motor City, the North American International Auto Show is a signature event
It is attended annually by more than 5,000 media representatives, more than 23,000 industry professionals, and nearly 771,000 (as of 2012) who visit during the public show days.
This year's show is estimated to bring to Detroit a much needed $400 million boost from outside sources spent primarily in the hospitality industry.
And Cobo Hall, headquarters for the show since 1965, is looking good with a $300 million renovation. Just don't make arrangements to meet someone at the brass mail box or under the Coleman Young statue -- they're gone!
Walking onto the show floor, it was surprising to see that Ford and General Motors exhibitions that once shared the entire north wall were now separated by five Japanese and Korean nameplates. Of course, with the number of brands cut by GM and Ford in recent years -- including Saab, Hummer, Pontiac, and Mercury -- the huge exhibit footprint is no longer needed.
Readers interested in new vehicle previews will not be disappointed. A popular vehicle in Northern Michigan is the Subaru's all-wheel-drive Forester SUV. In 2012, some 76,347 Foresters were sold in the United States and another 7,156 in Canada. The 2014 version has many upscale improvements and is handsome and affordable.
No question, it was a big year for high performance and luxury cars. The all new Corvette Stingray was introduced. Thirty years ago, the Stingray nameplate was retired. Powered by a 6.2 liter V-8 with direct injection delivery system, the new version is not for those overly concerned with fuel economy.
For the first eleven years of the 21st century Lexus was the top selling brand in the U.S. luxury category. In 2012, it was a jump ball between BMW, who finished the year with 281,500 sales, and Mercedes-Benz, with more than 274,000.
Both companies revealed new models at this year's Detroit show. The BMW 3-series sedan is designed to start at a price of about $33,000.
The Mercedes E-Class deserves mention because at least one configuration will target a U.S. sales price of just under $30,000. Introduced at the auto show was a five-car E-Class line-up that included a sedan, a coupe, a cabriolet (convertible), an extra good-looking wagon, and the E-63 AMG with up to 585 horse ower.
Audi, the No. 6 luxury brand in the United States, introduced a successor to the Q5 SUV, named the SQ5 with an impressive 3.0 liter gasoline engine rated at 354 horsepower.
Cadillac, now the No. 5-selling luxury brand, displayed the ELR luxury coupe --a plug-in hybrid using a lithium-ion battery with a range-extending gasoline engine that kicks in when needed. Production is scheduled for late 2013 with North American sales to start in early 2014.
A "lux" car you will not want to miss at the show is a concept car from the new Lincoln Motor Co. This brand is currently No. 8 in the category, with 2012 sales at 82,000 and down from palmier days of the 1990s when 200,000-plus vehicles were sold annually. Ford is now allocating millions of dollars to resuscitate the volumes and to assist those dealers who remain franchise distributors.
You may have heard the woodsman's lament on the only two things you need to live Up North -- a working truck and a working wife.
The truck requirement was addressed at the auto show with the introduction of a new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It will offer a 3.0 liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine with the four-wheel-drive version, which is expected to get 28 miles per gallon on the highway. This should bolster Grand Cherokee sales, which stood at 155,000 in 2012.
The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 are the first renovations to this series since the previous versions were released for 2007. The front-end body work has a more heavy-duty look with a larger grille and evolutionary design. Available engines are based on the EcoTec3 V-6 and V-8 series. All have cylinder deactivation. The vehicle interiors include a few refinements and better ride quietness but the instrument controls can still function with a person wearing heavy work gloves. Both should be at dealerships in early 2013.
What began in 1907 as a local car show with 17 exhibitors is now a major source of industry promotion -- and for this year, 50 new vehicle introductions. Until 1987, this effort was a regional event, much like the auto shows in Chicago and Los Angeles. But that year, the board of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association created an international program that today draws media representatives from 58 countries.
Two visionary members of that 1987 board have connections to Northern Michigan. The late Bob Thibodeau, a Ford dealer, enjoyed vacation property in Vanderbilt. Mark Snethkamp, a Detroit-area dealer of Chrysler products, has a second home in Pleasantview Township.
The 2013 show is open to the public 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily through Saturday, Jan 26 (no admittance after 9 p.m.), and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 (no admittance after 6 p.m.).
E-tickets for the show can be ordered at www.NAIAS.com. Tickets for adults are $12, Seniors 65 and older pay $6, and children 7-12 are admitted for $6. Children younger than 6 are free if adult-accompanied.