NAIAS 2017 — The Calm Before The Storm
By Jason Kerluck – This year’s “North American International Auto Show” (NAIAS) in Detroit (January 14 to 22) was a quieter event from years past. It wasn’t because of the lack of flashy screens, beautiful models and shiny cars — all were present and accounted for — and spectacular as always. It was more a result of simply not much new being revealed this year.
There were a number of major announcements obviously, and we show off some of the highlights in this article. Reading between the lines, it’s clear the real story seems to be what’s to come . . . there’s a lot of new technology and advancements just around the corner. So it would appear the NAIAS wasn’t really “quiet,” but was more like the calm before the storm.
Now we invite you to come along with us for the ride and check out the latest and greatest in the automotive industry from the NAIAS 2017.
2018 Ford F-150
It seems like we just had a new F-150 yesterday, with its revolutionary aluminum body. But, if Ford has been known for anything lately, it’s been a relentless push forward. This new F-150, which will be available in the fall of 2017, offers a host of new technologies. New engine options feature a new start/stop system to save gas, adaptive cruise, pedestrian detection, in-vehicle WiFi, LED bed lights; mirror mounted spotlights, and a sweet Bang & Olufsen sound system that features B&O PLAY. This isn’t your basic work truck, but it’s still tough as nails. Not pictured, but still relevant, was the announcement of the long awaited return of the Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco. Based on the same platform, they will be available by the end of the decade.
Ford’s Chariot Ride Sharing Service
(photographed is Mark Fields, Ford President and CEO at the press conference on the acquisition of Chariot as part of Ford’s Smart Mobility business outlook).
Similar to Uber only in the fact that it is app based, Ford’s Chariot is something in between ride sharing and public transportation. It’s expanding to eight cities in the U.S., and can be part of the solution in gridlock prone cities around the world. Using route planning technology it adjusts routes in real-time based on pick up requests from app users. At this point, Chariot uses Ford Transit vans driven the old fashioned way, but the hope is to get to a place where they will become autonomous soon.
2017 Chevy Bolt: “North American Car of the Year”
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric car was the winner of the NAIAS “Car of the Year Award.” The Bolt offers a 100% gas free range of more than 380 kilometres on a charge and should start in the mid to high $30,000 range. The Bolt received 364 points from the NAIAS jury. The Genesis G90 sedan from Hyundai’s new luxury brand (more on that later) was second with 105, followed by the Volvo S90 sedan with 101. Small and compact, it’ll be challenging the upcoming Tesla Model 3 for the title of electric car for the people.
2017 Honda Ridgeline: “North American Truck of the Year”
Unveiled at last year’s show, the Ridgeline was re-engineered on the same concept that its predecessor was . . . to offer a pickup bed for cargo on a car-style chassis that delivers a smoother ride than most pickups. It offers unusual features like a “trunk” under its cargo bed’s floor and a double-hinged tailgate that opens down or from the side. The previous Ridgeline sold fairly well, and this recognition will certainly help this new model in showrooms. The Honda Ridgeline midsized pickup received 364 points. The Ford F-series Super Duty earned 193, and the new Nissan Titan scored 72.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica: “North American Utility of the Year”
This was the first year that this category was offered, given the massive range of vehicles that are neither car nor truck. It includes sport utility vehicles, crossovers, and minivans. The Pacifica minivan is replacing two models in Fiat Chrysler’s line-up, the venerable Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan twins. New with the Pacifica is a plug-in hybrid model that can go 35 miles on a charge, enough to cover daily driving for most minivans. With plenty of family friendly technology inside, it’ll be interesting to see if this single van will have the same success as the previous duo. The Chrysler Pacifica minivan earned 300 points, beating the 135 won by the new Mazda CX-9, and the beautiful but pricey Jaguar F-Pace at 125.
Audi Q8 Concept
The Q8 is the first proper car for Audi Design Chief, Marc Lichte, even though some class it as an SUV. You can call it an SUV Coupe, in many ways similar to the controversially styled BMW X6. As a concept, it’s typically grand and bold with just two rows of seats in all of that metal. But, there are also some high tech concepts, including a 3.0 litre gas/hybrid drivetrain. According to Audi, what we see is about 95% of what the production Q8 will look like when it launches early 2018.
Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ “Minibus” Concept
In the “it’s about darn time” category is the I.D. BUZZ concept. It’s intended to be a blend of Volkswagens past and future. With a classic shape wrapped around a very futuristic interior, it’s both instantly recognizable and modern. This concept is powered by two electric motors located at each axle generating a very non-minibus-like 369 hp combined, with a range of nearly 450 kilometres on a full charge. Proof that it’s possible to be green and have a good time! VW’s goal for the range was 600 kilometres, but it reduced expectations to the stated 450 KM range as estimated by the EPA. The 111-kWh battery that is integrated into the floor, can be charged up to 80 percent in just 30 minutes, which will make the production BUZZ a capable road-tripper, as well as a range-anxiety-free city hopper!