An Outsiders Perspective: 2015 North American International Auto Show

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I went to an auto show once. It was held on the parking lot of a hotel and didn’t have a single concept car or preproduction model. There were no new vehicles released and nobody was ringing to get your attention over to their own stand. There were however a lot of people very interested in taking a huge chunk of money from my folks and I to get us into some random underpowered silver vehicular appliance.
The North American International Auto Show is altogether a different animal with a lot of interesting things that I could gleefully pick apart for the first time. It’s not like I’ll ever see most of them again anyway.

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I could start with the easy targets, so I will. Mercedes-Benz has made a valiant effort to make their naming scheme easier to follow by getting rid of the letter salad that plagued their SUV/Crossover models and replacing it with “GL” followed by the letter of its equivalent sedan counterpart. In celebration of this they decided to screw it all up again by making the first model released under the nomenclature a competitor to the BMW X6. The GLE450 AMG just further cements my theory that we should’ve paid considerably more attention to AMC back in the eighties. Speaking of which, the Volvo S60 Cross Country…
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See? All these years of us mocking the AMC Eagle for looking like someone had taken an AMC Concord and tried to make a mini monster truck of it and it turns they were just showing us a glimpse into the future. I expect it to be insanely popular with the Subaru buyer that wants to move upmarket.
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Ford were really on a roll this NAIAS, introducing three models that made sure every gearhead that looked at their stand would come out needing a cigarette. For the fans of the Good Ole’ American muscle car the Shelby GT350R picks up where the last generation’s Boss 302 left off in offering the closest thing to a track-ready Mustang that you can buy directly from the dealership. But what if you’re rich and you wouldn’t be seen dead in a Ford Mustang? Not to worry wealthy reader because Ford has you covered with the new Ford GT.
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We all heard the rumors and we all thought this was about as likely to happen as the mid-engine Corvette, but here it is. The retro looks from the last reboot have been ditched in favor of a design that says “What if we had never done the original Ford GT40 and we just wanted to make one now?” Also gone is the V8 powerplant, replaced by a 3.5 liter V6 with a couple of turbos making up for the missing two cylinders.
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Finally, there’s the new Ford F-150 Raptor, and without wanting to sound like a redneck, I’ll really miss the V8 on that one. I mean, the Raptor is supposed to be the most insane pickup truck you can buy on the market without spending a fortune on mods. Sadly, this too will be powered by a 3.5 liter EcoBoost. Yes I know that it’ll make more power than the outgoing model but I’d still prefer the V8. Maybe I just have a problem with the name. 3.5 liter Boostn’Boost sounds better doesn’t it? Anyone?
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If you simply must have eight-cylinders on your Baja-like pickup there’s no need to despair though. Ram has your back with their new 1500 Baja model. It’ll be up to comparison tests if it’ll actually be able to cash the checks its appearance is writing.
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On the other side of the automotive equation we have the cars that I’m less likely to see, the Chevrolet Volt and Chevrolet…umm…Bolt. Props to GM for launching cars that are so competent (on paper at least) that Elon Musk himself had to fly all the way up to Detroit to defend. The Bolt looks as a modern interpretation of the original Mercedes A-Class, which is not as bad as it sounds. The Volt has left all the silliness to its little brother and taken a new, more inoffensive look.
As someone who thinks that the key for electric cars to work is for them to be as close as possible to normal cars, this is not a bad thing at all. [Editor’s Note: See Exhibit E(Golf)] Sadly without any government incentives to buy one they’ll most certainly be way above the average new car budget for their target demographic over here. Not that I’ll see a GT350R or a neo-GT either, you understand.
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Fixing a gap that didn’t exist.
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This won’t get made.
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If it isn’t the single best automobile ever made it’s going to be destroyed by every single person that reviews it.
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I’ll finish with the two vehicles I am completely sure I’ll see in droves in my neck of the woods. The Nissan Titan XD has taken the Mercedes AMG-line approach to the marketplace and filling the gap between pickups such as the F-150 and vehicles such as the F-250. Nissan says they found a whitespace there where they can expand. I say it’ll be too big for someone who needs a medium duty truck and not capable enough for someone who needs a heavy duty one.
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Finally, the Toyota Tacoma. This will be bought in droves by my fellow Latin Americans, mostly after the Americans start crashing them and writing them off. Toyota has apparently spent quite a bit of money ensuring that they’ll keep their place on the top of the heap in this market against rivals such as the new Colorado/GMC Canyon with sensible things such as an improved V6 and strange things such as a GoPro mount. It’s also available as a manual. Watch the small pickup market, it’ll get very interesting soon.
So what do I make of this year’s NAIAS? Well, there’s not a lot of things there that I’d conceivably see here. And therefore, it has been excellent.

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  1. Maymar Avatar

    I think the Titan's best bet for success is the brodozer market. If they're smart, within six months of hitting showrooms, you'll be able to get the factory option of knobby tires, flat-black 20s (or bigger), and stacks from the factory.
    That Ram 1500 Baja grille looks like a walrus, or a young Wilford Brimley.
    And, the S60 Cross Country seems like one of those ideas that should work, but will fail unfortunately. Sedans sell better than wagons. Crossovers sell better than wagons. If there's a market for a lifted wagon, there should really, seriously be a market for a lifted sedan. Not that the inevitable failure of this will suggest positive changes (and honestly, it's weird, doesn't look terrible, and I sort of like it).

  2. craigsu Avatar

    "Watch the small pickup market, it’ll get very interesting soon." Not likely, as it doesn't exist in the United States anymore. It's all midsize and up now.

  3. FRANK GREGG Avatar


    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      I'm sure there'll be loads at at the NAIAC. If I see one I'll just shout "WHERE'S FRANK GREGG?"

  4. Stu_Rock Avatar

    I like the specs on that Titan XD, even though its styling is questionable.
    I think there's a good chance that a healthy "5/8-ton" truck market may exist. My experience is that when I use a fullsize truck for some sort of truck-worthy activity, I am near or above the maximum load of a 1/2-ton. Vans are my preferred type of light truck, but if I were shopping in the current pickup market, I'd probably go for a 3/4-ton in order to get that performance envelope completely around my intended uses. This new Titan may fit the bill perfectly.
    Of course, 99% of the time I use such a vehicle, a compact station wagon would do the job just fine.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      I agree with Peter De Lorenzo at The Autoextremist – they took styling tricks from the last generation F-150 and Ram, and mashed them all together. A flop in the making.

      1. Stu_Rock Avatar

        No argument there, but for a lot of truck buyers, styling doesn't matter as much as fitting the usage profile at the right price point.

        1. FЯeeMan Avatar

          "but for a lot of truck buyers, styling doesn't matter as much as fitting the usage profile at the right price point"
          Say What????? Most truck buyers are interested about 99.874% in style and convenience.
          I believe your statement applies to those who actually use their trucks for working purposes, though.

          1. Stu_Rock Avatar

            Yeah; I recently moved to Texas, and my observations here suggest you may be right.

  5. Mr Smee Avatar
    Mr Smee

    The Mercedes and the Volvo? I seriously threw up in my mouth. When did 9-year-olds become the arbiters of what
    cars should look like?