January is pretty much “car month” now.
First, we rang in the new year with a slew of techie debuts at 2016 International CES in Las Vegas. Now, we head straight into the the North American International Auto Showalso known as the Detroit Auto Show.
Though CES looked to the future with self-driving cars and long-range electrified vehicles, Detroit will keep it a little closer to Earth with some trucks, crossovers and sedans (let’s not forget concepts) ready for showrooms as soon as this spring.
Coming off the heels of the very car-heavy CES, I’ve come away with a few predictions for 2016 Detroit. The show this year will be dominated by two major themes: Utility and luxury. No matter if its a concept or a production car, everything we’re about to be shown in the Motor City falls into one of those two categories.
To underscore that prediction, here are the things we know will be there, and a few more we are anticipating.
Utility will take all sorts of forms in Detroit this week, ranging from the new Chrysler minivan up to an expected Nissan truck concept.
Intriguingly, right in the middle of the two will be the second-generation Honda Ridgeline pickup. That we expect to take the lead set by the new full-size Pilot crossover and add to it some, well, truck-y features. Rumor has it that unlike the last Ridgeline that was boxy and looked more like a Japanese Chevy Avalanche ripoff, the new Ridgeline will be rounder and also have a much more defined pickup shape.
The Ridgeline, while questionable in the marketplace when it first debuted in 2005, is much more relevant now. That’s because the reintroduced Chevy Colorado mid-size pickup, along with the new Toyota Tacoma, has proved a sales juggernaut. Honda is likely keen to butch up the 2016 Ridgeline in order to compete.
Intriguingly, Kia is also rumored to be readying a full-size SUV concept called Telluride that, if sent into production, will ride an interesting line in the segment. Based upon the placement of the Kia K900 and Cadenza, it will likely be positioned against SUVs like the Acura MDX and maybe even the Mercedes-Benz GLS (though that last one might be more aspirational than anything).
Making full circle, we have the new Chrysler minivan, which is long, long overdue. In fact, it’s been so long since Chrysler has redone a minivan that its questionable that there’s even room in the marketplace for it. Not only do the Japanese with the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey own the segment, the minivan market has all but dried up in the last few years. That’s because, just as the minivan killed the station wagon, the crossover is killing the minivan.
As the Gen-Xers and now the Millennials begin buying family-hauling rigs, they look away from the symbols of the Baby Boom buyer and into something a bit more modern. It’ll be interesting to see what Chrysler can do to attract buyers to the minivan again. Likely, it’ll use technology to entice buyers, as the Japanese have versatility and reliablity locked down.
Additionally, we’ll see a new GMC Acadia crossover based upon the Cadillac XT5 make its debut as well as a new Buick said to be called the “Envision.”
Along with a strong showing of utility, Detroit will also pose the question, “Do you like luxury?”, which, given the state of the city, is a strange question to ask. Regardless, that’s how it appears to be shaping up.
That’s because Detroit will mark the global debut of several luxurious offerings, including the semi-autonomous 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class loaded with tech from Mercedes’ IAA concept as well as the hotly anticipated 2017 Lincoln Continental.
That, however, is just where the luxury land-ship unveilings begin. Lexus will also show its all-new LC 500 range-topping coupe that was hinted with the LF-LC concept coupe in 2012. And Hyundai will also turn up its premium sedan game with the Genesis G90 sedan.
Speaking of the letter G, the formerly-named Infiniti G37 coupe has been remade as well and will debut with new styling as the Q60 this week. The Volvo S90 will make its North American debut in the Motor City. So, too, will the 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo and 911 Turbo S.
Intriguingly, Henrik Fisker, the namesake behind the now-infamous Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sports sedan failure that originally competed with the Tesla Model S, will show his latest concept in Detroit. It’s called the “Force 1” and will be a high-performance sedan with American-made components underpinning it.
Lastly, right before its all-new plug-in hybrid NSX goes on sale, Acura will debut a new design concept that will show what its updated design language will look like going into the second half of the decade. Hopefully, it will be a handsome beast indeed. Right now, Acura’s cars are good but not very exciting to look at. A design reinvigoration as well as a new halo supercar could really turn the floundering Japanese luxury brand around — at least from a sales standpoint.
Of course, with these luxury offerings, we’ll likely see sumptuous interiors, gobs of horsepower and some distinctive tech accoutrements as well. That’s cool, but certainly none of it will overshadow what we saw at the International CES last week.
However, that’s OK. CES showed where the industry will be in a few years — Detroit will underscore where it is right now.