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What The Detroit Auto Show Tells Us About The Present and Future of Cars

The 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS, known informally as the Detroit Auto Show) held this year from January 13 to January 28, has already given us some new and revised cars that should excite the automotive consumer.

Self-driving cars, the supposedly inevitable aspect of our future transportation landscape, were not nearly as ubiquitous as they were at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier in the month. CES was about the long-term future of cars, but the Detroit show is more about the present and immediate future. Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of industry analysis, told The Verge, “Last week at CES automakers tempted with visions of the future of transportation, but the Detroit show is all about the here and now. While 2018 will be another strong year, it will be a down year — so automakers are using the Detroit show to serve up more of the trucks and SUVs shoppers crave. Funding mobility startups and investing in EV and autonomous technology isn’t a cheap proposition, and automakers have to keep the cash flowing in now if they want to build the strongest foundation for the future world they’re envisioning.”

That’s not to say that the future was totally abandoned at NAIAS in favor of the present. BMW and Mercedes announced they would be unveiling their versions of “automotive subscription” models that seek to give consumers a more streamlined alternative to leasing. BMW and Mercedes will join Audi, Cadillac, Porsche, and others who also operate these auto subscription models. Some analysts believe that subscription-based models (or ride-sharing services) utilizing self-driving cars may supplant traditional automobile ownership at some point in the future.

BMW has other big news – it is planning to bring wireless charging for its plug-in electric vehicles to the U.S. market. This works the same way as a wireless charging pad for a smartphone – rather than deal with a charging cord or cable, drivers will merely pull their car onto a charging pad that is plugged in, and their vehicle will charge itself that way.

Toyota, which had long resisted third-party infotainment systems in its cars, will finally bring Apple CarPlay to its models from 2019 onwards. Ford announced that it would commit $11 billion in investment for its electric car program, in an attempt to catch up to rivals like GM. Ford currently has only one EV in its lineup, the limited-market Focus Electric. Ford’s two other major announcements at NAIAS were decidedly not EV-centric.

Before the show opening, Ford teased a new model to join their “ST” line of performance vehicles. No one knew what it could be, however – would Ford be adding a performance trim to its Fusion sedan, giving the 325-horsepower Fusion Sport a performance stablemate? Would they bring out an even faster Taurus than the range-topping 365-horsepower SHO? No, as it turned out, Ford decided to apply the ST nameplate to a somewhat surprising model – the Ford Edge. This sensible five-seat crossover (small SUVs and crossovers are all the rage right now) will now receive a 335-horsepower V6 and other go-fast goodies, besides. Digital Trends reports that will make it the most powerful V6 in its class.

The Edge ST wasn’t the only model Ford unveiled that would get the auto enthusiast’s blood pumping. They also revealed a new iteration of the special edition “Bullitt” Ford Mustang, meant to commemorate the 50th edition of the classic film. The muscle car, modeled after the 1968 movie car, has seen two prior models in 2000 and again in 2008. The newest Bullitt Mustang sports the requisite dark green paint, exterior and interior flourishes (such as black five-spoke wheels and a cue-ball shifter), and 475 horsepower and420 lb-ft of torque from a reworked version of the Mustang GT’s five-liter V8. It’s a manual transmission or nothing, as well.

Other enthusiast treats included the new Hyundai Veloster N, a 275-horsepower hot hatch that shows Hyundai is serious about bringing the luxury and performance fight to American, Japanese, and European rivals. Mercedes. Truck buyers will likely be excited by the new Dodge Ram 1500 and Ford Ranger trucks. The Ram loses weight, gains power, and adopts sleek new exterior and interior styling. The Ranger brings back a much-missed Ford truck nameplate in a smaller package than the mainstream F-150.

Even though the Detroit Auto Show contained much to interest the automotive consumer today, it still tells us a few things about the direction of the auto industry. For the time being, crossovers are king and trucks will continue to sell well due to cheap gas. Innovations such as automotive subscription services and wireless charging will continue to proliferate (and likely to trickle down to more mass-market car companies). Self-driving vehicles are certainly on the horizon, but the relative lack of focus on these vehicles at NAIAS illustrates that fundamental changes are further off than the attendees of CES might think or hope.

Article image retrieved from NAIAS Press Resources and the Ford manufacturer gallery.

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