The 2015 NAIAS

Below is an account of some of my experiences at the 2015 NAIAS. I would have to right volumes to really do it justice and cover every car in the show.

Entering Cobo Hall from the opposite side of the Detroit River you will pass a large bronze statue of Joe Louis, the world heavyweight boxing champion in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The statue is a symbol of Detroit’s strength and grit as a city, an industry and also as a people. Today is very reflective of those qualities as Detroit is now poised to assume new greatness as it retains its creative and industrious qualities and seeks to expand them.

Buy your ticket…. $12 ($7 for seniors) and you are in. Upon entering you are immediately struck by the massiveness of the room and bright colors, the boundaries unseen by the multitude of brightly lit and elegantly designed exhibits and displays that soar high above you, into the black ceiling.

Every major manufacturer in the world is here, and they have spent millions on their exhibits and displays. As you walk through the show, on wide carpeted aisles, you can scan the space to see iconic symbols of the world’s greatest auto manufacturers, GM, Ford, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Dodge, Ram, Lexus… on and on a collection of brands not seen anywhere else in North America, at a scale that is breathtaking. You are pulled here and there, trying to proceed in a logical direction which is impossible as the visual and emotional attractions are too compelling. This show is pulled in three related directions. They are:

  1. High fuel efficiency
  2. High performance
  3. New technologies, electronic in particular

At this stage, I can only tell you what attracted me the most partly related to my work history and special interests in the industry. Of special note to me is always Cadillac first, then Chevrolet; brands where I’d spent a lot of time designing cars. Cadillac displayed their new CTS-V, the only high performance sedan in the world that can achieve over 200 mph. Sitting quietly over to the side of the exhibit was an amazing Cadillac ATS-V engine display, a 3.6 L engine producing 455 horsepower and 455 foot pounds of torque. Amazingly, it is so small it can literally fit in a bushel basket.

Then, on to Chevrolet showing two new electric car concepts as they move their electronic technologies forward: the BOLT, an all-electric, highly functional small SUV with a 200-mile range and a new more utilitarian VOLT sedan concept. Also on display was a white Camaro Z28, the car that has bested Porsche in handling.

Buick was nearby and stopping there revealed a concept car called the Avenir which was the sedan highlight of the NAIAS. A large car, it is sweepingly elegant in light blue pearl with a look that could only be a Buick, and a strong one at that. Alongside of it was a small light silver blue four passenger convertible that will go a long way to compete against the best in the world. It will go on sale this spring. Buick is filling out its portfolio as a global contender.

Then to Ford to see the new GT, preceded by one of the LeMans winners in dark red, and the newer white and blue street version that has been very successful and looks great. Beyond that, circling on a turntable, is the new GT.

It is a genuine stunner painted in the new Ford Blue, a pearly middle value color that shows very subtle touches of red, turquoise and gray. The trim is done in a middle neutral gray, most of it carbon fiber. The design is dramatic but it is detailed and trimmed in a very understated, elegant way. If you want to benchmark a design hit, use the Ford GT at the 2015 NAIAS. The design leaps above all super cars in the world. It looks like a new Ford GT even though it has jumped several design iterations beyond the last car. Pictures do not do it justice.

The new CFA exhibit, the former Chrysler and FIAT car group, had some great cars including the new Dodge Hellcat which had a lot of lookers. As well, the Jeep concept, the Renegade Trailhawk, is a wonderful small SUV that will get a lot of buyers. The new Alpha Romeo was there, a small exhibit that included some race cars from the 1930s. I am not a fan of the new small mid-engine car’s design, I think the design is lumpy and disconnected and it smacks of “committee.” Because of the strength of the Alpha Romeo name and the enthusiasm for the return of the company to North America, it has gotten a pass. Road & Track called the design “Ferrariesque,” I do not agree with that. By the way, the new name, CFA, is a very disappointing name for two historical manufacturers that have both had many admiral products throughout the years.

On the luxury side there are many wonderful cars, a Mercedes-Benz self-driving fantasy concept that supposedly predicts the future of the automobile as a self-driven people pod. It has to be viewed with a certain amount of disbelief.

Acura showed a new NSX, a mid-engine all-wheel drive super car. A beautiful design, it is just too nice and lacks that mechanical aesthetic that American performance cars have. The old car was also lacking in mechanical emotion. I am sure it has a great driving experience but the design is too reflective of the rest of the Honda product line that thrives on fuel efficiency and luxury.

The Smart Car was there, with new colors, and there were lots of new Minis.

Conclusion

All-in-all it was a great show that represented the industry very well.

This year the Detroit show was noted for its enthusiasm and showed off the city very well, happily the snow held off. Cobo Hall has one more year of development before it is finished; there will be more space next year and maybe an added press day. I am sure there is plenty on the internet about the 2015 NAIAS so take advantage of that. My opinions are not the end of the world.


[Epilogue, by Mike Rosa: Many thanks to Mr. Ruzzin for sharing his experiences with insightful and colorful detail, and for lending a hand to the cause.]

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