The doors will soon close at Cobo Center on another North American International Auto Show.
This time, I called it Cobo Center – not the old name. The reason is rooted in the promise of a larger show in the future. The media, the industry and visitors alike are primed to enjoy a brighter hall reflecting the global importance of NAIAS and the city on the rebound. Detroit is the center of North America's automotive industry – whether they are legacy manufacturers, transplanted one or relative start-ups. The improved Cobo should be ready to take this show onto the next level.
Yet, I was there – taking in the experience. And, it was indeed an experience.
The show floor played a prime part in my time at NAIAS. I heard stories about the hall – climate indifference, space limitations, crowds on the floor and in the media room. Yet, I was on a guided mission by my hosts, General Motors. I did experience what everyone said, but not to the extent of being stressed out about it.
The Cadillac ELR reveal was a prime example. You can tell this was going to be hugely important when there was overflow crowds onto adjoining stands on that Tuesday morning. Perhaps it was the Cadillac space itself – not exactly large, but just right to honor the brand, the newly awarded honor for the ATS as North American Car of the Year and the extended range electric coupe that captured the imagination of the crowd.
Two nights earlier was my first taste of Industry Detroit. Take an old industrial space, earmark it for the arts, transform it into a series of Corvette gallery, add high-end nibbly things and open bars. GM knows how to party when it comes to vehicle reveals!
The main guest of honor was the most talked about vehicle from the show – the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Though I had people ask me about a few other debuts, the one that popped up the most was the C7 'Vette. It resonated with a global audience sparking debates about its design and intentions to become a true global sports/GT player.
Once away from GM, I had a chance to glance at a few other stars vying for the bright lights of the crossed-flagged sports car. The Infiniti Q50 is an absolutely wonderful looking machine. To remove the nomenclature debate entirely, this should be one of the prettiest Nissan Skylines ever. However, this is to be enjoyed thoroughly as an Infiniti, as the powers to be at Nissan intended it.
One theme that ran through the show was the idea that a "concept" is a teaser for a production-ready vehicle. If you peruse through the entire show floor, you could easily pick put the production-ready models. For example, the BMW 4-Series looks ready to join its 3-Series brother on the showroom floor. The Acura MDX concept is closer to production than one thinks. One would even bank on the Ford Atlas truck design study, the Lincoln MKC and Honda’s Fit-based crossover as headed for production within the next twelve months.
Yet, Hyundai’s Genesis concept appears to be a true design study. This company always gives their customers and other interested automobile folks a few curve balls towards creating a dream vehicle and veiling the idea of where Hyundai design is going. From what I witnessed, there are some cues as to the direction of its rear-drive models – the Equus, included – to further distinguish themselves from the rest of the line. Some readers already hopped that the Genesis concept would be shaped further into a production vehicle.
I would defer not stating which vehicles I did not vibe with amongst the debuts and concepts. It would not be fair to detract from the intentions of these automakers by pointing out specific vehicles and flatly not give them the benefit of the doubt. Others could do an easier job being critical, as long as there is some agreement to disagree.
Away from the show floor, I was given a view into the Detroit one does not read about. The high line Detroit of fine hotels and eateries – some not on the radar of many folks outside of Southeastern Michigan – were treats unimagined from a Twin Cities' perspective. It may be a familiar sight for the men and women of General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and the other major firms in town, but I can see a Detroit that loves to party and celebrate the resurgence of the city.
Lastly, one line off of the bucket list was accomplished on this trip. I was able to visit the GM Heritage Center. If you are looking for a history center where vehicles and research go hand-in-hand, the Heritage Center represents the ultimate place for a GM enthusiast. I was thoroughly delighted by the sight of vehicles that were once part of my youth – a 1971 Cadillac Coupe de Ville in a deep blue hue was a prime example. Even the trove of engines sparked my interest as they recall stages of my automotive life. It was indeed the icing on a wonderful, but busy time in Detroit.
But, was it all worth it? After taking a few steps back and collecting my thoughts – it was indeed worth taking up the invitation. It was worth spending the time to get to know one of the companies I deal with in this line of work. There was also rime to connect and reconnect with other colleagues, contacts and other interested parties inside GM and beyond.
It was great to be back in Southeastern Michigan. But, would I return to NAIAS? Probably. However, my auto show strategy is to spend time on what I missed in Detroit and source story ideas at the upcoming Chicago Auto Show. After that, I have a local auto show to plan on – the Twin Cities Auto Show in Minneapolis.
Then again, you might see me in Detroit sometime down the line. Maybe you might see me at another NAIAS. Only the universe knows…
DISCLAIMER: All travel and logistics provided by General Motors
All photos by Randy Stern