It has been an exciting week for car news. The highlights came from the Left Coast in Los Angeles and a dollop or two from Ann Arbor and the Motor City.
There is always significant auto product news revealed at the annual media preview for the Los Angeles Auto Show. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend three of the four U.S. significant auto show previews in the past with many visits to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, one visit to the New York Auto Show and several trips to nearby Chicago for its event. The LA show is on my bucket list.
Among my big disappointments with media events at today’s auto shows is the dearth of all new-car announcements by the automakers. I’m old school and remember when nearly all the new cars were introduced to the media in the summer, just weeks before they appeared in dealerships in early to late fall.
Those days are long gone.
Now automakers introduce vehicles when they are ready. It’s probably a good thing because we all recall stories of cars that were rushed to market to meet the fall deadline. You only have to think of 1957 Chrysler Corp. cars (rust problems) and 1980 GM X cars (numerous safety problems) as two examples.
As far as I can tell, only two all-new vehicles were introduced 10 days ago at the LA show. With truck-registered vehicles taking two thirds of the U.S. market, it should be no surprise the two models were SUVs.
Subaru used LA to introduce the Ascent (car-based, it is often referred to as a crossover) and FCA’s Jeep was showing the iconic Wrangler SUV for the first time.
I knew the Ascent was on its way because last year Subaru revealed a concept called the Viziv-7. No surprise that it predicted a 3-row SUV was forthcoming from the Japanese automaker to replace the discontinued Tribeca. The Ascent was Subaru’s answer to dealers’ pleas to have a three-row, family-sized crossover available again for Subaru enthusiasts with growing families. They found the popular Outback and Forester models too small.
Talk about pressure. I sure would not want to be the guy or gal at FCA in charge of redoing the Jeep Wrangler.
Jeep is now a big seller with over 1.2 million copies sold worldwide each year. While the Toledo-based company offers a number of popular models, like the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and the Compass, by far the model that most represents what Jeep is all about is the Wrangler. Wrangler is the civilian version of the World War II model that was built by the hundreds of thousands and is given credit for helping the Allies to win the war.
I’m sure I speak for the tons of Wrangler fans that it was a relief to see that the 2018 version, while all-new and loaded with new features, is still the versatile and go-anywhere model it has always been. The Wrangler was last updated 12 years ago. I was hoping that maybe FCA would also give us a peak at the upcoming Scrambler pickup, a new model due in 2019 based on the Wrangler.
The rest of the news out of LA was just fluff.
Lincoln, thank goodness, decided to abandon naming its models using the “alpha-numeric soup” rule like most other luxury automakers. It will forthwith drop the MK moniker and return to giving their vehicles names easy to pronounce and somewhat easy to spell.
At LA, the Ford Motor Co. luxury division announced that its freshened MKX (based on the Ford Explorer) would be named the Nautilus when in showrooms next year. Readers may recall that Lincoln named the replacement for its MKS with the Continental. May I surmise that the MKZ family sedan, when freshened or replaced, will be named the Zephyr, its moniker used before it became the MKZ?
Germany’s BMW announced it may make its Mini an electric brand only in U.S. Chevrolet showed off a convertible version of its high-performance ZR1 Corvette, and Japanese luxury automaker Lexus is giving buyers who buy its most popular model, the RX crossover, a new option. The RXL is now available with three rows of seats.
California-based Motor Trend magazine, the nation’s second largest by circulation, recently announced the winners of its three “of the Year” awards. The winners of the three awards for 2018 are the Alfa Romeo Giulia for the car pick, the Ford F-series for the truck pick and the Honda CR-V crossover for the SUV pick.
Some interesting automotive activity took place in good old Michigan. Car and Driver magazine, the nation’s most popular car buff publication with headquarters in Ann Arbor, at this time of year asks its editors to test a slew of vehicles (none can cost more than $80,000 and must be a returning winner, all-new or significantly revised) and pick the 10 best.
The lucky 10 this year include only two American cars with both being high-performance Chevrolets. In alphabetical order, the 10 best are: Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi RS3, Chevy Camaro and Corvette, Honda Accord, Honda Civic Sport/Si/Type R, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Mercedes-Benz E400, Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman and VW Golf models.
Many of the models are familiar picks. Honda Accord, Mazda Miata and VW Golf have been regulars for years.
The surprise newcomer was FCA’s Alfa Romero sporty sedan Giulia. I’ve noted in several car articles of late that this sporty sedan has won the hearts of many road testers. Methinks I need to find an Alfa dealer and see what the fuss is about. More than once it has been written that the Giulia is the new benchmark for an affordable, great handling and sporty sedan. The Giulia appears to have taken the crown from longtime holder – the highly regarded BMW 3-series.
The North American International Auto Show “of the Year” award finalists have been determined. Auto journalists are asked to vote for their favorite car, truck and utility of the year. The finalists are Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Kia Stinger in car category, Chevy ZR2, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator in truck category and Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Honda Odyssey and Volvo XC60 in the utility slot.
My picks for winners are Honda Accord, Ford Expedition and Alfa Romeo Stelvio. We’ll know the winners on the first media day of the NAIAS on Jan. 14.
Dar Davis founded the Lake Bluff Concours and chaired the event for many years. He has been writing this column since 1999. He can be reached at Media
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