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2019 Detroit Auto Show Not Its Usual Banger, But Still Pretty Revealing

January 16, 2019 3:45 pm
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The 2019 North American International Auto Show lacked its usual pizzazz, according to analysts.

"The Detroit show is very low key this year as it is a transition year," Autotrader executive analyst Michelle Krebs told Benzinga. "Unveilings were few and they were split between mostly practical utility vehicles … and a few snazzy sports cars."

The transition — a shift to the summer in 2020 — may be partly to blame for the underwhelming performance, but some attribute waning enthusiasm to the expense of attendance and inconvenient rollout cadence.

“New product reveals were down partially due to the fact the Germany OEMs didn’t attend,” UBS analyst Colin Langan wrote in a note. Audi, BMW and Mercedes skipped this year.

Other attendants lamented the failed delivery of long-anticipated show-stoppers, including Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)’s Bronco and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)’s Chevy Corvette.

Despite the disappointments, the NAIAS proved useful in delivering a near-term auto roadmap.

Bigger Is Better

Ford recommitted to its shift from passenger vehicles citing superior volume growth in SUVs and the largest pricing gains in trucks. In line with its strategy, management rolled out its first Explorer in nine years.

Fellow automakers mirrored Ford’s focus and prominently featured three-row SUVs. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE:FCAU) also caught eyes with its Ram Heavy Duty truck with 1,000 pound-feet of diesel power.

Sleeker Is Sweeter

Sheer strength didn’t dominate the day, though. Sports car enthusiasts raved about the revived Toyota Motor Corp (NYSE:TM) Supra, Subaru’s Tecnica International and a Ford Mustang so powerful it’s allegedly illegal in Japan.

It’s Electric

UBS analysts found electric vehicles relatively scant, but the few on the floor seemed to impress. Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) — again absent from the Motor City show — fell 3.7 percent Monday as EV competition demonstrated its force.

GM CEO Mary Barra previewed the show by teasing an all-electric Cadillac SUV, and Nissan’s Infiniti announced all models beyond 2021 will be either plug-in hybrid or fully electric. (It’s worth noting the latter inspired little confidence in its prospects when its debuted QX Inspiration failed to start and had to be pushed on stage.)

Meanwhile, Ford Chairman Bill Ford discussed a three-year, $11 billion investment in EVs and targets to include 40 hybrid and fully electric models in its fleet.

“We have 16 models that are in design and development,” CEO Jim Hackett told CNBC in Detroit. “We have a pretty big surprise coming next year.”

Volkswagen (OTC:VLKAFcommitted to sell an electric ID hatchback by the end of this year and an ID Crozz by the end of 2020. Its Chattanooga plant will expand to produce the Crozz by 2022.

“The U.S. is one of the most important locations for us and producing electric cars in Chattanooga is a key part of our growth strategy in North America," CEO Herbert Diess said.

Better Together

Ford clarified its Volkswagen collaboration, slated to yield $500 million in savings, immediately involves Ford’s focus on mid-size pickups and commercial vans and Volkswagen’s contribution of handle city vans.

The partnership is specific to non-North American markets and may eventually expand to include EVs, AVs and mobility services. Volkswagen said it was considering sharing its MEB EV platform for use in specific regions.

Related Links:

Why Doesn't Tesla Participate In The North American Int'l Auto Show?

Mary Barra Hopes GM Will Be Considered A Tech Company In The Near Future

Photo courtesy of the NAIAS.

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