Unboxing The "Auto Show Debut" Debate

I know I have not been feeding this site lately. I should rectify that.

It is not because of some poor excuse. Maybe some writer's block on my part. Maybe some lack of energy. Maybe it’s something deeper that you rather not read about.

Nonetheless, there were a few things I should touch upon here. Where shall I start? Oh, yes, the business of debuting a new vehicle!

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

THE CONTINUOUS DISCUSSION ON THE RELEVANCE OF AUTO SHOWS: If you read that the press conference schedule for the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit had been reduced to just short of a full day. It is not because of the move to a June date in 2020, but rather of a debate among automakers on whether a splashy debut at an auto show would serve them better – or not – to engage the media and our followers.

There are arguments for and against this issue. If you want your debut to appear on the most pages across the interwebs, you have that opportunity at an auto show where you do get the most catchment of media available to you. There is really no need to add expenditures for travel and hotels – unless you actually have done so for a few media members already.

However, there seems to be a want of controlling the news from a debut. When a manufacturer sets up a debut event away from the auto show, they can at least run the narrative of their product and get an exclusive first-run from the event. Yet, they also control who gets to see it firsthand.

You probably see where I am going with this. I think that non-auto show vehicle debuts are a costly way to control their narrative. When you have a lot more media people on hand to see your debut at a set date, time, and location, why keep it away from us? Why not let the multitude get that firsthand story on your debut?

After all, if a company is projecting a financial downturn for their bottom line, would it be advantageous to save the extra expensive of some exclusive debut somewhere off of the auto show circuit?

Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Motor Company

IN THE MEANTIME, LET'S TALK ABOUT LOS ANGELES FOR A MOMENT: The Los Angeles Auto Show was happening while I was verifying the votes for #VOTY18. I did catch up to what was relevant to discuss from that show. There were a few debuts that were worth noting. Others…not so much.

To say that "Lincoln is back" supports the arrival of the 2020 Aviator SUV. While it slots between the Nautilus (formerly the MKZ) and the Navigator, the Aviator may find some buyers who are looking for something mid-sized that stands out in a crowded parking lot. This sounds like a win for Lincoln.

The SUV theme continued with the 2020 Hyundai Palisade. The bold looking mid-sized, three-row SUV will replace the Santa Fe XL once and for all. Being more upright will help the Palisade to stand out in its class. Meanwhile, Honda is about to launch a two-row version of the Pilot, called the Passport. Not only will it return the name of an Isuzu that wore a Honda badge, but the new SUV is promising more off-road capability from its unibody platform.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The "biggest" news would be the next generation of the Mazda3. After some weeks of teasing, the new sedan and hatchback appeared with a sharper design and the promise of a new engine lineup. This would include a new SKYACTIV-X engine promising more efficiency with new technology.

Certainly, the Mazda3 grabbed some headlines. But, not to the volume of the Jeep Gladiator – the long-awaited pickup version of the JL Wrangler. Maybe because we knew it was coming that it would be an anticlmactic unveiling. Nonetheless, the end result is that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have a mid-sized pickup truck that will exhibit true off-road capability in the face of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. It is a JL Wrangler, after all.

However, the show stealer came from a new start-up called Rivian. The company will produce a pickup truck and a SUV at the former Diamond Star plant in Normal, Illinois. These two vehicles will have four electric motors, an estimated 200 horsepower at each wheel. The company is promising extraordinary performance, traction, and capability. The company estimated that they'll deliver these new vehicles by 2021. OK…now, bring it!

Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Motor Company

PLEASE DON’T CALL THEM "SUICIDE DOORS": As an example of a non-auto show reveal, Lincoln held a holiday party in New York City. They used the occasion to pull the covers off of a very special Lincoln Continental sedan – with "Coach Doors."

Coach doors are what we colloquially call "suicide doors." They open from the A and C pillars with stability and latching at the B pillar. Thanks to Rolls-Royce, these doors are indeed possible with the blessing of the safety regulation gods. This was done to celebrate the Continental's 80th anniversary and as a paean to one of the finest vehicles ever to wear the name: The 1961-1969 Continental.

Based on a conversation and exchange of photos with a colleague of mine who attended that event, there is one detail that threw me off a bit. Normally, the Continental's glass with extend well into the C pillar, because the door opens wide in the rear. Though the Coach Door edition extends the length of the sedan by six inches in the wheelbase, that glass is covered up with a panel on the outside and the roofliner on the inside. There is a saving grace that the rear doors open at a 90-degree angle.

There will only be 80 of these special Continentals available. Pricing is said to be around $100,000. Would you buy one? Hmmm…

Cover photo by Randy Stern

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