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It occurred to me that my comments in the Detroit Auto Show report about the GMC Acadia might need some explanation.

Automotive planners are constantly looking for “white space” for new products. If you could graph all products on the market, and place a dot where they reside in terms of size, power, economy, seating, etc, then anywhere without a dot it white space. Simple, right? In theory, yes. Actually finding the white space and a feasible product to put into it is another answer all together. When you find true whitespace, it’s like finding gold. Think 1984 Chrysler minivans, 1965 Mustang, 1953 Corvette. That’s real white space – new segments. Other types of white space are a certain niche within a segment, like the Ford Taurus SHO, Ford Transit or Ram SRT10 pickup. These products filled a need that was not being met within an existing segment.

So what does this have to do with GMC moving its Acadia large crossover to the midsize segment? The Acadia (and its GM siblings: Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave) is a large crossover. There are very few large crossovers in the US market – besides the GM triplets, there are 2 (non-luxury) others: Ford Flex and Mazda CX-9. A crossover is an SUV that is built on a car body and generally rides lower and more like a car than a “true” SUV. A large or full-size crossover is generally one that is about 200” (5000 mm) or longer. So while the large crossover segment is not really whitespace (anymore), it is only a light shade of grey. GM has been able to sell many of these since they were introduced in 2006, reaching a record 278,419 in the US in 2015.

In my opinion, GM is getting a bit cocky with the move of the Acadia to the midsize segment (around 190”/4800 mm – 200”/5000 mm). Yes, the midsize segment has more sales than the large segment, so why shouldn’t GM go after those sales? 2 reasons:

  • The segment includes some of the best-selling vehicles in the US market (Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, among others). This is the opposite of white space.
  • The new Acadia is also very close in size to GMC’s own Terrain, which at 187.8” is less than 6” shorter than the new Acadia.

Of course, all of this is without knowledge of the General’s product plans that they haven’t announced. Maybe there are other plans in the works that make this make sense. Maybe. Call me skeptical.

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2016 Detroit Auto Show

16th January 2016

2016 Detroit Auto Show

Welcome to Detroit, where we should be proud enough these days to actually call our auto show The Detroit Auto Show again (it’s been called “North American” since 1989). Then again, if he keeps buying properties in the city, we might have to rename the city “Gilbert”, or maybe “Dan” so we can keep calling it “The D”.

General Motors

  • 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback It’s the new Cruze with a backpack. On sale this fall, the hatch will not be available in the lower versions, L & LS. Only available on the LT and Premier versions. It’s quite good looking, maybe the sleeper of the show. If it were to be available with a more powerful engine (2.0L Turbo, mayhaps?), Slandy might very well be interested. Not a big fan of the spoiler; I would delete it if it’s an option to do so.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers the design, engineering and technolo

  • 2017 Bolt EV As promised, Chevy introduced the production version of the concept shown last year. Details are sparse, but Chevy claims “more than 200 miles of range on a full charge” and that it will go on sale by the end of 2016.

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  • 2017 GMC Acadia the big crossover shrunk in the wash and is now a midsize. It will be more than 7 inches shorter, 3.5 inches narrower and 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. It’s on a new version of the same Lambda platform. GM is mum on whether Acadia’s siblings (Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave) will also downsize when they are redesigned. Standard engine is a 2.5L, and a new 3.6L V6 is optional. While this new Acadia is certainly good looking, intentionally moving it to compete directly with some of the biggest sellers in SUV-dom is a mistake. Yes, Acadia is moving to a larger segment, but that larger segment also has many very good competitors already in it. GMC is a fringe brand, and I think this move will ultimately hurt sales.

 

  • Buick Avista Concept quite the stunner – both the car itself and the fact that Buick might very well have the best concept car in the show for the 2nd year in a row (“that’s not a Buick..”). It’s a RWD coupe, vaguely reminds me of the dearly departed Toyota Solara and of the Honda Accord Coupe. The grille/logo look like it was lifted off a Chrysler dealer’s lot. There’s a lot of buzz about it. Will Buick make it? Buick is coy, saying only that “if the customers want it…”. One thing is clear, though. If they DO make it, it damn well better be named Riviera.

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  • Buick Envision Buick needed a midsize crossover to slot in between the large Enclave and the minute Encore. Instead of spending many $ designing a new vehicle, Buick will import the Envision basically off-the-shelf from China. It will be the first vehicle imported from China to be sold in the US market. Will customers care? Will they even know? Likely not, on both questions. Envision is a little bigger than a Ford Escape and comes with a 2.0L Turbo 4 with 252 hp and a 6-speed auto tranny. All-wheel drive is standard. Goes on sale in the 2nd quarter.

2016 Buick Envision

 

  • Cadillac CT6 is Caddy’s new big sedan. Think of it as an XL-size CTS (which is, in turn, a size L ATS).

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  • Cadillac XT5 is essentially a new SRX, but conforming to Cadillac’s new drug-induced naming scheme. It’s really good looking, with some cool features, like the ability to switch the rear-view mirror to camera mode. This shows the rear view based on what the camera sees, and projects it onto the mirror. No blind spots from the car or from passengers’ heads, etc. It seems very intuitive, but you’d have to see it for yourself to fully get it.

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Ford

  • 2017 Ford Fusion Fusion gets a mild freshening on the exterior and some other major improvements elsewhere, including a rotary shift knob for the transmission (like Chrysler has had for a few years) and the addition of the Fusion V6 Sport – a performance sedan unlike anything in the segment with a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 delivering a projected 325 horsepower and 350 torques. There are also improvements to the 2 hybrid versions and the addition of a new top-of-the-line Platinum model.
  • Ford F-150 is not new, but has a really cool new feature called Pro Trailer Backup Assist. which uses a dial on the dash to steer the truck while backing up with a trailer. There’s a demo if you go to the show. Really worth it to check out this new innovative feature. If you can’t, go to YouTube to see a demo there. The new F-150 Raptor SuperCrew is also launched.
  • 2017 Ford Super Duty will be all-new in 2017, following the lead of F-150 with an aluminum alloy body on top of a steel frame

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  • 2017 Lincoln Continental really nice looking overall, but unlike other Ford/Lincoln products, the design is unoriginal and cobbled together from elements of other cars. To wit: the headlamps from Audi, grille from Jaguar, rear-end is vaguely Hyundai. Cool features: controls on the right rear door move the front passenger seat forward to create even more room for a chauffeured owner to stretch out, button-activated “e-latch” door handles integrated into the chrome beltline, From the inside, the doors open via a button instead of a handle, Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-liter turbo V-6 produces 400 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque, front-wheel drive is standard, AWD is available.

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Continental Door Handle

  • Ford Escape gets a mild freshening for 2017. New grille, headlamps and taillamps. No big deal, but definitely looks nicer.

Fiat Chrysler

  • 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is a complete makeover of Chrysler’s minivan. Why they changed the name is beyond me. The typical BS answer when asked this question is that the old name had “baggage”. In this case, there is no baggage with Town & Country. Any baggage in with the segment itself. {rant over} It has the 200’s front-end and a rear-end that looks a little like the Kia Soul. It will be available as a plug-in hybrid that can run 30 miles on a charge before the V-6 engine takes over. Gasoline-powered models can be ordered with all-wheel drive. The Stow ‘n Go rear seating system has been re-engineered and now is far simpler to use (according to Chrysler, but a demo was not available). It will also include KeySense, Chrysler’s version of the Ford MyKey and GM’s Teen Driver, in which the key fob can be programmed with speed limits, audio-volume limits and a lock-out that prevents the disabling of safety systems.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

  • Fiat 124 Spider is a Mazda Miata with a different powertrain and styling. Looks awesome, and I want 1 (maybe 2).

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  • Fiat 500 Stormtrooper I’m not sure that’s what they called it, but it’s likely close enough. Just a fun little car just sitting there with all the other cars. No signs or other attempts at attention.

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  • Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio You don’t think the 276 hp in the Giulia is enough? How about 505 from a bi-turbo 2.9L V6?

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Toyota

  • 2017 Lexus LC500 (World Debut) Absolute stunner. Really nice design…

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…until you get to the GRILLE

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Honestly Lexus, Toyota, or whoever is responsible for this, there’s a time to put down your pencil and call it done. The only thing I can say positive about the GRILLE is it’s distinctive.

  • Lexus LF-FC Concept is a really nice concept – appears to be much bigger than any current Lexus. It’s a fuel cell car (hence the “FC” part of the name)

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  • Scion C-HR concept Scion seems to be trying to “out Nissan” Nissan. The only way to describe this that came to mind is a Nissan Juke on an acid trip.

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  • Toyota FCV Plus is just weird

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BMW

  • BMW M2 is the car we’ve all been waiting for! As other BMWs have become bloated monsters that are the antithesis of The Ultimate Driving Machine, the 2 has been a breath of fresh air from Munich. Comes with a 3.0L I6 engine with 362 horsepower and 343 torques. 0-60 flies by in 4.1 seconds. Starts at $51,700. Get in line…behind me!

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Nissan

  • Nissan IDS Concept

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  • TITAN Warrior Concept (apparently, you have to capitalize TITAN) this is an off-road performance version of the new TITAN

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  • Infiniti Q60 is a great-looking sports coupe that comes with either a 2.0L turbo or a 3.0L turbo

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Honda

  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline on sale this spring, it’s a Honda Pilot with a bed, shares platform with Pilot/Odyssey, 6-speed, front or AWD, cargo under rear seat, an audio system in the bed that works, not with speakers that can be easily damaged by the elements or by cargo, but with an advanced system that makes sound by exciting the bedliner material. There’s cargo under the pickup bed, but it’s at the expense of the depth of the cargo area (see photo below). Speaking of the pickup bed, the tailgate opens both ways (“country AND western…”). It opens down, like other pickups, and from the side, to give better access to what’s in the bed (see photos). All that said, this is a WAY better-looking truck than the last Ridgeline.

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  • Acura Precision concept: Acura says the car is going to shape the direction of all future Acuras and that the design language will transfer to smaller cars such as the ILX. It’s quite to looker. Acura will do itself good by using this look on future models.

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Daimler

  • 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class goes on sale this summer. It’s been redesigned and now includes a standard 4 cylinder engine for the first time. It has less horsepower, with 241 hp (and 273 torques), but is also lighter. Further model variants will be added after launch.
  • Mercedes-AMG SLC this is the newest sports car from Mercedes. It’s a freshened and renamed SLK. The base version comes with a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine with 241 hp. The AMG version comes with a 3.0-liter, V-6 engine with 362 hp.

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  • Mercedes-AMG S63 4MATIC Cabriolet “Edition 130” (World Debut): celebrates the 130 years since Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile. Special paint, cabrio top color, special leather, badges, a car cover, and key ring. Only 130 will be made.

Hyundai-Kia

  • Genesis brand Hyundai is taking its 2 most expensive cars, Genesis and Equus, and putting them into a new luxury brand called Genesis. Also giving the 2 cars new names.
  • Genesis G90 is the car formerly known as the Hyundai Equus
  • Genesis G80 is the old Hyundai Genesis
  • Kia Telluride Concept Kia says this is purely a concept, but these things are typically more than that, even if they’re not. It’s almost the same size as a Ford Explorer, which is not likely a coincidence.

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Volkswagen

  • VW Tiguan GTE Active Concept previews the design of the long-wheelbase Tiguan arriving in the US in 2017 (no word on whether a Diesel will be available). Its headlights, grille, hood, front fenders and rear taillights will all appear on the U.S. Tiguan. The concept has bigger wheels and off-road tires, additional ground clearance, tougher body panels and VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system (and a goofy panel on the roof). The new concept is based on the five-passenger Tiguan that recently went on sale in Europe, while U.S. models will get an extra 3.5 inches of wheelbase.

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  • Audi h-tron quattro concept

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Others

  • VLF Automotive Force 1 V10: take a Dodge Viper, give it a carbon fiber body, add dozens of ducts and vents, and a luxurious interior. That’s the Force 1. The combination of Henrik Fisker and Bob Lutz is all you really need to know about this…except the 8.4-liter V10 engine with 745 horsepower. Price starts at $268,500. The Force 1 has 21-inch wheels and super-thin slit-like headlights. The car can reach a top speed of 218 mph and can go from 0-60 mph in 3 seconds. Wow – if that can’t put a smile on your face, check your pulse. You might not have one.

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  • Volvo XC90 and S90 These 2 cars are simply gorgeous inside and out. XC90 won North American Truck of the Year. I group them together because they seem to share the same interior and some exterior elements, including the portrait-oriented touchscreen shown below. Wood is employed very judiciously and it’s beautiful. Not with many layers of polish; it appears to be raw wood. You can feel the grain as you rub your hand across it, which you WILL do. It’s impossible to not do it. The interior has a wow factor that no other car I can think of has.

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  • Mazda CX-9 is the one actually large vehicle from Mazda. They’ve incorporated their SkyActiv system on this large crossover, making it light and responsive (for a big crossover, that is).

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  • Falcon F7 is a sports car made in Holly, Michigan powered by a mid-mounted GM 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 modified to 620 hp and 600 torques. A new Falcon F7 costs approximately $295,000 for the standard 620hp model and $395,000 for the twin-turbo 1100hp (yes, eleven-hundred horsepower) version.

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The 2016 Slandy Awards®

Slandy Best in Show Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

SBIS Honorable Mention Honda Civic, Acura Precision concept, Chevrolet Cruze Hatch, Chrysler Pacifica, Lexus LC500, VLF Force 1 V10, Volvo  XC90

WATT BMW once again has no manuals on display. As said in this space before, “WATT?” I know that modern dual-clutch transmissions can be faster than a conventional manual, but I guess they don’t want to be “The Ultimate Driving Machine” anymore. Save the Manuals!

Display Most True to Its Home Market Volvo’s display easily is the most distinctive, but for an unexpected reason. In a space in which other brands would cram 8-10 cars, Volvo has…3. The space is open and airy, with an attractive wood floor. It just seems so…Swedish. Perfect.

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Only in Detroit Award Only in Detroit will you find more people examining the underbody display of the new Lexus LC500…

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than you will checking out the actual car!

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Full disclosure: these were taken during “Industry Preview” when all the engineers from the auto companies and their suppliers come in and measure everything.

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Nissan began the advertising of its new Titan XD pickup last night during the college football National Championship game with an ad called “Shoulders of Giants”. It was a Super Bowl-like image ad, very much in the way of the recent Super Bowl ads from Fiat Chrysler. This is no coincidence, as Nissan’s Fred Diaz, Nissan’s sales VP until recently (now in charge of trucks and commercial vehicles), was the head of Fiat Chrysler’s Ram Truck brand before moving to Nissan a few years ago.

The ad (click below to watch), elicits images of heroes from firefighters to astronauts to moms and dads – the giants on whose shoulders we stand to reach new heights. Nissan draws a parallel from these heroes to the giants of the pickup market, “Chevy…Ford…Dodge”. Of course, the ad shows very old models of each brand that it is honoring. It would never show their latest models, partially because the styling of the new Titan has been criticized as a weird hybrid of styling of those 3 competitors (the “Nissan F-Ramverado”).

To me, the most interesting part of the ad is in one particular choice of wording. According to Nissan’s Diaz, “We ached and pained over every word, comma, and pause in this ad because we didn’t want our competitors looking at it and thinking we’re trying to give them a backhanded compliment. That’s not the case. We’re not doing this to be shallow. Our thank-you is sincere.” Maybe, but Diaz was instrumental in the rebranding of Dodge trucks into Ram Trucks several years ago. It is beyond belief that referring to his former employer’s truck brand by its old name was a mistake or an oversight. I’m sure some Nissan PR person would tell you that using Dodge vs. Ram was meant to refer to the history of the trucks, but I think it was the subtlest of digs at his friends in Auburn Hills.

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