Episode 37 starts with introducing this weeks guests Zane Merva from AutoInsane.com and Adam Barrera from HighMileage.org. This week we find the garage filled with an Infiniti QX56 that is in Zane’s garage for the week. I had the Mitsubishi Outlander GT and currently have a MazdaSpeed3.
We skip the major news of the week and dive right into our main topic. This week we have a roundtable discussion surrounding the major reveals at the Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) show.
2012 Audi A6
2012 Chevrolet Sonic
2012 Buick Verano
Porsche 918 RSR
Cadillac CTS-V Coupe race car
2012 Toyota Prius V
2012 Ford Focus Electric
2012 Volkswagen Passat
2011 Chrysler 300
2011 BMW 1M Coupe
2012 Ford C-Max
2012 Honda Civic Concept
We finish up by discussing our winners and losers of the show.
While Detroit has been down in the dumps for a while, this years auto show definitely shows things might be back on track in the D. Of course it had to snow while everyone was in town, but it gave those from the warmer climates a chance to see what us snow belt state peeps live through on a daily basis.
Some of you will remember that last year I wanted to differentiate myself. I started tweeting pictures of cars with the models and tagged them as #EyeCandy. This quickly became a hot topic. A few of my followers mentioned this year that I was not really tweeting any #EyeCandy and asked why not. The simple answer, there wasn’t any. Few booths had the babes that were in attendance last year. Though Chrysler group and Ferrari still pulled through.
But lets get down the to the product. The new Chrysler 300 looks terrific. In reality, many wondered when they saw the pictures if it can recapture the market that the 300 once had in 2005. Upon seeing the car in real life, I am happy to report that it looks much better in person. The interior really does deliver on the promise that the 300 made back in 2005. American luxury. From the great new Pentastar V6, to the growling Hemi V8 in the 300C, this is American luxury in a rear-wheel drive car.
Another car I was anxious to see in real life was the new Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic is Chevrolet’s new B-Segment car which will take on the likes of the new Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and many others. I have to say, while I think the new Sonic is a home run from a styling perspective, I can see how many will not. It will be either a love it or hate it vehicle. From the exposed barrel headlights to the ridiculously short rear overhang and really long front overhang, the styling is nothing short of eye catching. The interior gauge cluster is also interesting, as they actually put into the production model the Aveo RS concept’s gauge cluster. With a racing like analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer, the gauge cluster is more reminiscent of a race car or motorcycle than that of a sub-compact car. Going on sale later this year I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see how the driving dynamics compare to the competition.
The new A6 has already won a design award without even leaving the show floor. In my opinion the new A6 takes everything that is right with the new A8 and A4 while dropping everything that is wrong with them. Smashing all the good together to make a great looking Audi. The design language has really come together for this car. The interior is terrific and the exterior is eye catching. The optional LED headlights are very intricately designed when inspecting them up close. You will see the new A6 on the road later this year.
I’m not going to really cover the CTS-V Coupe race car but I wanted to make mention of it. Two words come to mind when you walked past it on the turntable, menacing and awesome. Ok, moving on.
Toyota has finally unveiled a larger Prius. The model is called the Prius V. This is especially confusing to some since the regular Prius has trim level packages that are in roman numerals. Right now if you go buy a Prius in the top trim level you are buying a Prius V. Wait, that can’t make sense. So when you buy a top trim level Prius V will you be buying a Prius V V? This is clearly not well thought out. I wonder if Toyota realizes this yet. Maybe someone should send them a note. Regardless, I heard many people comment on how the Prius V rear end has a lot of Honda Fit in it. I can see that. The front, well it looks like a third generation Prius with a few slight tweaks. You’ll still know it’s a Prius. You will see the people mover Prius at a dealership near you in the Summer.
Ah the Honda Civic Concept. Honda waltzed Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy on stage to talk about the new Civic Concept. Here’s the problem, either Wentz was drunk or he really could care less about being there. He enthusiasm was worse than the new Civic’s styling. He barely stumbled through his words off the teleprompter. Note to Honda: make sure your spokesperson is somewhat excited about your luke warm product.
But getting back to that product, the new Civic Concept looks as if a new Odyssey and the current generation Civic got it on in the back room. That, or a designer of the current Civic got wasted one night, and just took the current Civics lines and tweaked them a little. For a mid-cycle refresh, I am not sure how this will be competitive until 2016 with new competition from Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet. We will have to wait and see when the new Civic comes out, but I am not holding my breath.
Mercedes had its SLS E-Cell electric car on display. In a word it is blinding. The paint job on this car can literally sear your retinas. Beyond the paint job, it looks fairly identical on the outside to the current SLS. The interior changes a little as most of the gauges and center stack are now LCD screens. This car will go into production, but if you have to ask range or price, you can’t afford it.
I don’t really want to spend much time on the Passat as I’m not sure it deserves it. I’ll reserve final judgement until I drive one. Until then, I’ll say this, Volkswagen is going downmarket to sell more cars. Is that really a good idea? Why alienate all your current customers. People that buy current Passats pay more because they expect to get better quality materials. Cheapening the car for a lower base price is going to hurt your brand image. This is no longer just German engineering, it is German engineering to a price point.
While I skipped Porsches press conference to eat breakfast at my hotel (it was at 6:30 AM), I will say looking at the car in person, it is stunning. Seeing that huge flywheel in the passenger seat, yea. This is how you build a hybrid. It is good to see Porsche looking at new technology for racing. If this car does go into the racing circuit it could change the game. With less fuel stops needed and more power on tap for instant bursts, it could be a whole new era of racing.
At the end of the day I was exhausted. Most journalists were up at 5 AM and didn’t leave the show floor till nearly 8 PM. I ran to nearly every press conference and went through approximately 6,600 milliamps of battery power for my iPhone4. It was a good show with some great product. Not everything was great, but it was a good to see where each automaker is going in 2011.
Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations are being provided by General Motors
The holidays are over and winter is in full swing, that can only mean one thing, it’s time for the Detroit Auto Show! Sunday I’ll be packing my gear and flying out to Detroit to walk under the bright lights and sip on Monster Lo-Carb.
The High Gear Media crew (myself included) will be invading COBO bright and early (5 AM CST) to bring you the latest coverage. We have a Detroit Auto Show hub that will pull in all the latest news, videos, pictures and more from the show floor. We will also be live tweeting and posting to Facebook through out the day. So make darn sure to bookmark our Detroit Auto Show hub and also become a fan and or follow our sites on Twitter, of course some information will also flow here as well. Now where did I put my pony keg of Monster Lo-Carb…
GM announced that they will be the first U.S. auto manufacture to build its own electric motors in house. This will lead to the next generation rear wheel drive 2 mode hybrid system. That should be hitting the market sometime around 2013. GM says they realize that we need to lessen our dependence on petroleum and that they have a wide array of alternative energy solutions in mind. Those solutions include-
Mild Hybrids- GM hybrid system
Full Hybrids- 2 Mode hybrid system
Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV)- Modified 2 mode hybrid system
Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (EREV)- Voltec system
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) was recently shown on the Cadillac XTS Concept vehicle at NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show). This system is scheduled to hopefully debut on the production XTS in 2013.
GM says they plan to invest a total of $246 million in electric motors and electric drive facilities. $2 million will be spent in Pontiac, MI for the electromagnetic computational facilities while $26 million will be spent for the development and validation dynamometer facilities. Indianapolis will be receiving $10 million for development and validation dynamometer facilities. Torrence, CA will receive $6 million for characterization and development dynamometer facilities. Another yet to be disclosed U.S. location will receive money for a high volume electric motor manufacturing facility.
GM says that since 2003 they have “quietly” been testing, designing, and validating their capabilities in house to develop and produce the electric motors themselves. Using suppliers means relying on someone else. They like the mantra “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” Personally I am a huge fan of this saying. Also mentioned was the fact that they will work with “their best suppliers” to produce the best product possible.
Click read more for the full press release after the break.
It is widely known that General Motors paid for my travel and accommodations for the Detroit Auto Show. In fact they even asked me in writing to disclose it on anything I write about the show. This was part of the new full disclosure rules the FTC has imposed on all bloggers beginning at the end of last year. General Motors was quick to mention that by them paying for my travel and accommodations I was in no way obligated to write about them or anything for that matter.
I was one of over 10 bloggers brought to NAIAS as press by General Motors. Most manufactures bring certain people but General Motors put a specific emphasis on bringing social media people. Both General Motors and Ford have been the “poster child” automotive companies in the social media industry. Sure Honda made a “splash” when they did the striptease of the Crosstour on Facebook. Most would have called that a colossal failure when the burn it with fire comments started pouring in. As I mentioned Ford and General Motors in general are really using social media though they are taking vastly different stances with it. General Motors does have it’s social media team on Twitter but really it is the brands and products that have accounts.
It was very interesting to witness how the “traditional media” reacted to all the social media people being around. I am fairly certain the game is changing and they are not exactly happy about it. Traditional media people have yet to figure out how to play nicely with social media types. The funniest part is many of the traditional media will write their information once back at work yet the article and or pictures will not be published for days/weeks/possibly a month. Yet they must get that picture before me or anyone else there for social media. Social media buffs are publishing this stuff live on the spot using our phones and laptops. We are connected (when we have signal) and are reporting live and on site.
That leads to another issue that has cropped up with the use of social media at an event such as NAIAS. Live and on sight I was reporting the information as it was literally being spoken. People on Twitter following me were getting the information as I received it including pictures. The challenge was that the ten other people sitting around me are tweeting the information out at the same time. How do I differentiate myself from these other people. Sure we all took different pictures and different angles, but the information, specifications, general information, is all the same. Social media types run in similar circles, many people that follow me also follow the people I was with. Realizing this early on I had to differentiate myself on Twitter while I was there. I could report what others were sure, but I had to have something else. I realized how lucky I was to have been afforded this opportunity. I decided I would try and make it so others that were not there could get whatever they would want. I tweeted numerous times asking what people wanted to see. When requests came in I obliged and took the corresponding photos. Some other blogs actually asked me privately to take photos for them and I did. Many people asked me to take a look at certain things and report back which of course I did. Then something else happened. General Motors set us all up with small round table sessions with some of the executives. I instantly saw an opportunity and tweeted out who I would be meeting with and when. I told my followers that if they had any questions for these people to let me know, and I would be happy to ask. I took video of all the round table sessions and have already up loaded this. Of course I asked the questions that came in off Twitter.
On Monday evening I realized that many pictures I had taken included the models posing with the cars. I decided to tweet out a bunch of the photos and hash tag them with the keyword #EyeCandy. This quickly turned into a “series” and people loved it. The last thing I decided to do was simple. There were plenty of models posing with cars and at the Fiat stand they had two girls to go along with the two 500’s. On the second day the two girls in the morning appeared to be twins. When I over heard someone saying they were I tweeted this. Soon I heard Jalopnik saying they were not in fact twins. Seeing that my eye candy series had been such a hit I decided to go and put an end to this debate. I walked up to the “twins” and simply said there was talk about whether they were in fact twins and asked if they were. They immediately said they were and I tweeted “BREAKING- The Fiat twins are in fact twins!” Of course this tweet started a whole new discussion. I also happened to learn that the twins live in Minneapolis about 15 minutes from where I live. After having a conversation I left them to continue modeling and went back to the business of walking the show. All of this gave me personality. It was something different then just reporting the specifications/information about the cars. When I got into the Lotus Evora I tweeted about how it felt like a glove when sitting in it.
The Ford area was one of the best consumer booths of the show. They have everything from interactive computer simulations to transmissions torn apart, just about anything. The booth itself is utterly huge. Ford also had some customized Fiesta’s strewn about so people could get an idea about the level of customization these cars will have.
It is clear to me that social media is making an impact both in how manufactures are advertising and how they are handling themselves at autoshows. It says something to me that the two auto manufactures most involved in social media are Ford and General Motors. The point of all this is embracing new ways to communicate is something that forward thinking companies are doing and we should all take note.
Phil Colley, Nicole Carriere, Me, Chris Barger (from left to right)
Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations were provided by General Motors
The current Aveo is pretty much less then competitive. Seen as the joke of the line up, no one really wants to like the current Aveo, which it is not hard to fault them. GM is serious about the next generation Aveo, and the Aveo RS concept gives a glimpse of what we will be getting. Of course the show car stuff, neon lights, center exhaust, huge wheels and brembo brakes probably will not make production. I suppose the center exhaust on the Cadillac CTS Coupe concept made it to production, so who really knows. Hopefully an Aveo RS model will come along with the normal, “plain Jane” model. This is something a “tuner” could enjoy and maybe even have it be fun to drive.
I had the opportunity to look at the concept Aveo RS on stage up close. I was somewhat impressed with the details. The interior did have a “leather covered” dash though we will all be realistic knowing that it definitely will not make production. The seats were very well bolstered, and I am not sure that those particular seats will make production either. The gauge cluster will definitely make production and the center stack is more then likely the real deal. I actually had the opportunity to see the production exterior at the product technology event last August. The front facia on the Aveo RS Concept is very close. The exposed headlight bezels, dual port grill and sharp front clip are all there. The neon lights and other extras are more show than go and probably will not be in the production model. I will note, when we spoke with Ed Welburn it was asked if the RS model would get the show cars neon halo’s around the headlights. It would make sense for them to make it to production on the RS model due to the Camaro RS model having neon halo’s. It was suggested to Ed Welburn that all RS models should have the halos. I personally think this would be a great idea. We will see as the production Aveo should hit the sales floors in late 2010.
Buick Regal GS
The new Regal is not even on sale yet but Buick knows it needs to be a ringer. The LaCrosse started bringing in lower age customers and GM is hoping the new Regal for Buick will continue that trend to an even further extent. The new Regal will be hitting show rooms this spring, and this is certainly a preview of a production Regal GS to come. This is merely a rebadged Opel Insignia OPC, but with a different engine (according to the paperwork). I got some seat time in the Regal GS concept and the Recaro seats were phenomenal. The back seat was not quite as spacious as I thought it might be. I was comfortable in the car, but getting in and out was not an amazing experience. The C-pillar in the rear was quite close to my head, and I would have easily whacked my head upon exiting the rear had I not been paying attention. The rear has just enough head room with a fast roof line that cuts it close. The interior roof is sculpted out so you are not hitting your head. The front was very nice with the aforementioned seats, a flat bottom steering whee, and the six speed manual transmission, which felt like short throws.
GM is saying the GS model of the Regal would come with the optional 2.0 liter engine from the CXS trim variant but with more boost going through the turbo. GM is pegging the numbers at 250 hp and 295 ft-lb. This is all very interesting because the Opel Insignia OPC has a 2.8l turbo charge V6 putting out over 300 hp and 300 ft-lb. The problem with that engine is it is thirsty for gas. I think GM is trying to gauge the publics reaction to maybe a I4 instead of a V6 in the Regal GS variant. I asked if I could open the hood and was instantly told no! The press photos of this car showed a V6 engine cover which was the same engine cover in the Opel Insignia OPC. My guess is this was an Insignia OPC with swapped out badges, so the V6 was still under the hood. While we really do not know what engine will come, one thing is for sure, the Regal GS variant will probably be coming sooner then later. I for one am definitely ready to see if this can be a budget Audi S4 because that would really help stick Buick on the map. Afterall, that is what the Regal GS is supposed to do anyways.
2012 Ford Focus
The embargo was up and the pictures/specifications were, for the most part, out in the public view. That did not stop Ford from throwing one heck of a reveal for the upcoming 2012 Focus. Coming in both hatchback and sedan form, the new Focus gives us style and class, things the current Focus is sorely lacking. Let us not forget the awesome technology that will be available in the new Focus. That latest generation of Microsoft powered SYNC will be onboard and the new MyFord interface will of course be an option. Ford had one sedan and one hatch on display. I was given the opportunity to see the interior of the sedan up close. The quality of materials was terrific, though I was told this was a hand built one off vehicle. They are not even in preproduction, so I was not allowed to sit in it. The hatchback was off limits, so I was not able to touch that either. The wheels on these two at the show were 19 inches, but I would be surprised to see something that large even as an option. Interesting note about the gas cap on the hatch back, it is well integrated with cut lines and it somewhat blends in. That is just one example of how Ford stressed about the small stuff on this car. The new Focus will go into production late this year and hit dealerships in early 2011.
2011 Lincoln MKX
The refreshed 2011 Lincoln MKX made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show and it was truly a great spectacle. Ford had the woman who sings the song in one of the most recent Lincoln commercials on stage signing as the MKX came on stage. Of course the rest of the current Lincoln line up rolled onto stage with the exception of the Town Car. That was not a real shock, but notably absent nonetheless. The updated MKX gains the split wing grill that is quickly becoming Lincoln’s signature mark again. The rear has new tail lights and finally a back up camera is along for the ride. I note the back up camera because on the last generation it was not even an option! The interior materials get a major upgrade as does the design. The technology is all new with this being the first vehicle to get the now standard MyLincoln. This is the same thing as MyFord with the dual 4.1 inch screens on either side of the speedometer and an 8 inch touch screen on the center stack. The luxury crossover market is heating up and this is just another player that is helping to change the game.
Cadillac XTS Concept
Cadillac rolled out a concept they are calling the XTS. This vehicle foreshadows what we will see from GM as a replacement for the aging (not gracefully I might add) Cadillac STS and DTS. Riding on a stretched Buick LaCrosse platform, the XTS would come in both front wheel drive and all wheel drive. The concept is a dual mode plug-in hybrid featuring a direct injection V6 and an electric motor. It is supposedly putting out 350 hp and 295 ft-lb. There is definitely a good chance this powertrain, along with a regular gasoline engine, will make production for this vehicle. Technology is a high point for this car and it is very well connected. The center stack is essentially void of most buttons and mostly touch. The gauges are all virtual and everything is “connected.” The interior was gorgeous, and I am definitely interested to see what details from the concept make it to production. Speaking of production, we should see the XTS in showrooms for 2012/2013.
Honda released the first hybrid in America to have a manual transmission. Many were hoping for a remake of the CRX, and to be frank, many have said they are disappointed. I think the main thing people are not happy about seems to be the lack of rear seats. The car itself does not even post amazing mileage numbers. The power will be provided by a 1.5 liter making 122 horsepower while estimated to get 36/38 mpg. This is all mated to the CVT (continuously variable transmission). The manual transmission seriously kills the gas mileage, taking it down to an estimated 31/37 mpg. The CR-Z will come in two trim levels and will probably have a base price around $18,000 when sales start later this summer.
Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S was there along with two Roadster Sports. The Roadster Sports start their lives as a Lotus and get gutted by Tesla to receive the battery pack and electric drivetrain. The Model S is the next production vehicle we will see from Tesla. This four door “sedan,” the Model S, has a rear hatch instead of a traditional trunk which allows room for the optional jump seat. This would make it so the sedan can seat seven, though the extra two in the jump seats will be small children only. The interior has almost no buttons or switches. The center stack is one large touch screen with virtual switches to flick and swipe. The door handles are flush with the car and slide out when you touch them. The whole thing is quite impressive. Some call this car vaporware, meaning it will never see production or be on sale. The honest truth is those same people said that the Tesla Roadster was vaporware and that car has been on sale and is already in the hands of many happy owners. Tesla says the Model S should see production in the next few years.
Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations were provided by General Motors