As the book closes on 2018, we can all rest assured that even as our insincere resolutions lose steam over the next few months, one thing will be gaining momentum: Auto Show Season. From big city to local trade show, the automotive industry is ramping up to flaunt everything it’s got planned for the new year. And kicking things off is the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.
Formally titled the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), the event is held annually at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan. Operating in some form since the early 1900s, it is considered one of the top auto show events in North America. The 2019 iteration runs from January 14 – 27, with festivities opening to the public on the 19th.
The two-week event draws thousands of industry professionals and media personnel as well as hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts every year in a celebration of future vehicles, technologies, processes, and designs. And while this year’s NAIAS is experiencing a noticeable drop in manufacturer attendance—debuts are down to 30 from last year’s 69—there are still plenty of unveilings and show highlights worthy of excitement.
Six Shows in One
Unique to NAIAS is the show’s format. Essentially consisting of six shows in one, festivities officially kick off today, January 12, with an uber-posh, ultra-bougie Gallery night. With tickets at $500 a pop, those with spare change and a taste for the finer things in life can enjoy gourmet bites, fine art, and top-shelf booze while they stroll through a $10-million collection of the world’s most beautiful luxury cars. (Think Bentley, Lambo, and Aston Martin.)
The Press Preview launches on the 14th, as those with media credentials get early access to vehicle premiers and industry news. On the 16th, industry pros get a sneak peek at the show’s offerings, as well as a chance to test out new products, services, and technologies, with plenty of networking time baked in. Included in the Industry Preview is a recent addition—AutoMobili-D. This special event features the latest-and-greatest in future transportation innovations, addressing such hot-button topics as self-driving cars, ride-sharing services, and in-vehicle virtual assistants.
Then comes the Charity Preview, with another night of dinner, dancing, and pricey tickets—although, this time for a more selfless cause. Proceeds benefit a variety of children’s charities, with over $100 million raised since the event’s inception in 1976.
FINALLY, on January 19, the plebs—who actually keep this industry in existence—will get a chance to roam the floors, ogle the new vehicles, and form their own opinions on emerging technologies. In addition, NAIAS offers plenty of daily family-friendly activities, virtual test drives, and celebrity meet-and-greets.
What to Watch For
As mentioned, the 2019 Detroit Auto Show is expecting some lackluster attendance from automakers this year. Only three American brands are expected to host debuts and Volkswagen will be the only European brand in attendance. Auto shows have been feeling the heat as of late, as many manufacturers are opting to spend their dollars elsewhere—like digital advertising and more modern-format auto events, such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed. However, Asian automakers seem undeterred at the moment, hosting over 60% of the NAIAS press conferences. In fact, Nissan’s luxury badge INFINITI is proudly marking the 30th anniversary of its debut at the premier auto show by unveiling a next-gen EV concept car.
Other exciting debuts to watch for:
With lots of buzz and plenty of teasing, Toyota’s resurrected Supra is set to make its first public appearance at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show this week. The revived sports car will don a BMW-sourced turbocharged I-6 under the hood, pushing out 300+ horsepower and a 0-60 time of less than five seconds. While intrigue over the exterior design has largely been spoiled by leaked photos and camouflaged prototypes, we’ll have to wait until the official debut for the detailed performance specs.
Ford will reveal both the new Mustang Shelby GT500 and Ford Explorer. Sporting a 700-hp supercharged V-8, the new GT500 will debut as the badge’s most powerful production car to date. With the horsepower wars of the 60s and 70s seeing a resurgence of late, the new model is set to compete against the 650-hp Chevy Camaro ZL1 and 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.
With the Mustang carrying the mantle for Ford’s sedans, more energy will be focused on the automaker’s SUV and crossover lineup, starting with the legendary Explorer. Riding on a new rear-wheel drive platform, the beloved three-row SUV sees a much-needed redesign for its sixth generation. A performance ST variant will be available pushing out an expected 400+ horsepower, as well as a first-ever gas-electric hybrid option.
As the only European carmaker in attendance at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, VW seems happy to commandeer the extra floor space. And unlike American manufacturers, who are largely stepping away from traditional passenger cars, Volkswagen will be debuting a ramped-up redesign of its flagship sedan, the Passat. While the new model rides on the same platform, limiting expectations of a new engine or transmission, the entire exterior and interior has been reworked to reflect a more modern and aggressive look.
It’s safe to assume Volkswagen will also be showcasing its new EV-focused mentality as well, as the automaker plans to boost its current electric car lineup from two to 20 by 2025.
Subaru WRX STI S209
Subaru confirmed right after Christmas that it will debut its WRX STI S209 at this year’s NAIAS. Since the early 00’s, Subaru has released performance-upgraded limited edition STI models, the latest being last year’s S208. And while all previous versions were for Japanese markets only, Subaru’s teaser video, “From Japan With Love” and its press release, left little doubt that America will finally get one to call its own.
Not long after dropping the all-new Cadillac XT4 crossover comes the badge’s first car-based, three-row SUV—the XT6. As the desire to fill every conceivable market rules the industry, the XT6 is expected to fill the very narrow slot between the two-row, mid-size XT5 crossover and the full-size, truck-based Escalade.
Nissan and INFINITI EV Crossover Concepts
As mentioned earlier, Nissan affiliate INFINITI plans to unveil a battery-electric crossover concept at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show as both a follow-up to last year’s Q Inspiration EV concept and the brand’s commitment to electrifying its lineup. Parent company Nissan has a brand-specific EV debut planned as well, likely to showcase its new electric drive system.
Oddly enough, this model saw a pseudo-debut at NY Fashion Week but is expected to make its official release at the 2019 NAIAS. At SEMA, the new three-row luxury SUV got the off-road treatment, with many adventure-ready upgrades and customizations, suggesting that KIA has also embraced big and bold SUVs of yesteryear.
Lincoln Continental 80th Anniversary Coach Door Edition
With only 80 units expected for 2019, each priced north of $100,000, this anniversary-edition Lincoln likely won’t be on many ‘must-have’ lists. Although with a 400-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 and some premium outfitted suicide doors, you should definitely add it to your ‘must-see’ list.
The 2019 Detroit Auto Show will mark the last year for a January hosting date, as the show is set to move to June come 2020. Hopefully, the summertime scheduling will attract more automakers next year, as well as some exciting new design layouts.