Detroit’s auto show goes back to doing what it does best: trucks

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Published 10:03 am, Thursday, January 11, 2018



Next week, Detroit goes back to the future.


After auto executives spent years trying to convince the world they can beat Silicon Valley to electric cars and autonomous driving, they are finally getting a chance to crow once again about what they do best: trucks.


The highlights of Detroit’s perennial auto fete, the North American International Auto Show, will be pickups and SUVs-a whole mess of them. Each of the hometown brands will pull the cover off of a new flatbed, while at least three of the luxury brands roll out new SUVs. Tesla Inc. won’t even be there. And for the first time in months, tow ratings will be discussed more heatedly than “transportation clouds” and Lidar algorithms. Here’s the breakdown on all the heavy metal that’s about to hit the stage.


The main event will be a monster-truck war between Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet. GM will show off the newest iteration of its Silverado, a full-size pickup that’s been trounced of late by Ford’s F-150. Chevy already teased the truck in Texas, showing a sleeker rig with tiny LED slashes for headlights and creased body panels that ape a sports sedan more than the boxy aesthetic typical to the class. Next week, we’re sure to get all the dirty details about performance capabilities and engines. Edmunds.com Inc. analyst Jeremy Acevedo says he won’t be surprised by something bold like some smatterings of carbon fiber.


“At this point, you’d think anything would be game,” he explains. “Nothing’s off the table for them.”


Meanwhile, Ford steers back into the small(ish) truck race with its Ranger. Ford hasn’t sold a starter truck in the U.S. since 2011, deciding instead to pitch its Transit van to urban cowboys and HGTV wannabes. In the meantime, General Motors grabbed a huge share of the market with its midsize Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Ford never stopped making the Ranger abroad, but it assures that the U.S. version will be “all-new.”


Finally, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles will add another layer of intrigue with an all new Ram 1500 pickup. The old Dodge work rig is perennially the bronze medalist in the U.S. truck race. Nevertheless, it still wins 1 in 5 U.S. truck buyers and enjoys the kind of rabid fandom reserved for underdogs.


Ram has kept its cards close to its chest, but look for a truck that plays to its strengths, namely big, blunt design language and equally big, blunt engines. A truckmaker has never lost a sale over too much torque.


On the more refined side, premier names like McLaren Automotive, Porsche, and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive skip Detroit in favor of the Geneva International Motor Show later this spring. But other luxury brands will bring their own version of big rigs to Detroit. Automobili Lamborghini will provide the swankiest of the lot with a $200,000 utility vehicle called the Urus.


The 650-horsepower SUV is the Italian company’s first since it halted production of the LM002 in 1993. It fills the gap in the automaker’s lineup that had previously been dominated by supercars such as the 640-hp Huracán and 730-hp Aventador S. Along with Ferrari, which recently announced tentative plans to build an SUV of its own, Lamborghini is among the last automakers worldwide to add an SUV or crossover to its portfolio.


Company executives unveiled a production version last December in Italy, but this is the first time they’ve shown a production version in North America.


The other major headliner for luxury brands this year in Detroit will be the world premiere of a Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the first completely redesigned so-called Gelandewagen in 40 years. The massive square box of an SUV has sold more than 300,000 units since it made its debut in 1979, and a $500,000 version was revealed in Geneva last year. There is still nothing remotely like it in the auto industry, but it will compete directly against BMW’s upcoming X7 SUV, which will also be on view.


Keeping the archrivalry going, BMW will show the production version of the BMW X2 Concept it unveiled last year in Detroit. Although technically a utility vehicle, the X2 looks like a cross between a wagon and a small crossover, and it’s meant to compete against the smallest, sportiest crossover SUVs from Mercedes, Porsche, and Audi. Because even in a year of largesse, one can go big by paring it back.



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