No. 968
October 17, 2018

About The UjianNasional

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  ). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. As this brave New Year of 2018 begins for the auto industry, next week’s Detroit Auto Show is first on the agenda. What started as a local dealer-oriented auto show way back when to pump up sales in the doldrums of January and February, and then progressed to renaming itself the “North American International Auto Show” in a quest for global importance, the Detroit Auto Show is a fixture on the automotive calendar.

Being a fixture, however, doesn’t necessarily translate into gravitas or sustainable value to the greater industry as a whole. Detroit isn’t a “retail” show like the Chicago show, where real people look over real vehicles to buy. And it’s not a trendsetting show like the Consumer Electronics Show or even L.A., or a mainstream media-centric show like New York. Let’s face it: the Detroit Auto Show is a metal and carbon fiber-filled dog-and-pony show staged more for industry players than anything else. 

Staged in the city that is the de facto capital of southeast Michigan, a region filled with myriad car companies and countless suppliers that eat, sleep and breathe this business in a relentless 24/7 cadence, the Detroit Auto Show is the quintessential definition of a “hometown” auto show.

That many car companies are now skipping the Detroit show because its importance to their business has waned dramatically over the years is a fact that can’t be swept under the rug. And the reality suggests that despite this region’s importance to the traditional auto industry and the future of this industry, the Detroit show is hanging by a thread. Yes, it certainly could chug along in its present state for quite a while, but it could just as easily slip into becoming a Tier 2 auto show that comes in a decided fourth behind CES, L.A. and New York too. In fact, it's probably already there.

Be that as it may, I would like to give our readers a guide to what to expect at the Detroit Auto Show (the media days begin next Sunday), because other so-called auto-oriented media sources may mislead you to believing things that just aren’t true. (Shocking, I know.)

It May Be Vaporware But It’s Our Vaporware, Damn it. The Detroit Auto Show is now making hay with the whole “mobility” thing – or as they officially call it, “AUTOMOBILI-D” – which has become the new mantra for the industry, at least in certain quarters. This push is the direct result of the collective “Detroit” hell-bent on not ceding future transportation solutions to Silicon Valley, and the urgency surrounding this push has otherwise intelligent professionals scurrying about throwing ideas and concepts against the walls to see what sticks. What does this mean, exactly? Well, unfortunately it means that there will be countless, pseudo-intelligent discussions and presentations next week about The Future of Mobility and the promise of autonomous vehicles. And that much of the flotsam and jetsam being bandied about will be total, unmitigated bullshit should be of no surprise to anyone. We’re talking vaporware, folks, but vaporware at such a highfalutin’ level that it will seem like The Answer. Please step back, turn around quietly and walk away, because vaporware – no matter how polished and presented by earnest CEOs – is still vaporware.

From The “We Really Mean It This Time” File. Expect various well-meaning auto executives to get up in front of the carpal-tunnel-afflicted wretches of the assembled media and: 1. Bask in the glow of their recent sales success and promise more to come (please pay no attention to those fleet sales behind the curtain). Or, 2. Insist that their latest attempt at coming up with yet another new Belchfire 8 (after previous Belchfire 8s were product disasters of historic proportions) will “redefine the segment” and “set the tone for the industry for years to come.” It won’t, but, hey, what’s an auto show without empty promises? And, 3. Beware executives who boast of unfathomable electric vehicle range when battery development still has a long, long way to go. They will couch these promises in the 2022 time frame thinking we’ll all forget what was said in January of 2018. Don’t worry, we won’t.

Don’t Kid Yourselves, Folks, This Business Is About Trucks, It Has Been About Trucks And It Will Be About Trucks Well Into Our Electric-Autonomous Future. The cold, hard High-Octane Truth about this business for the foreseeable future will be that the name of this game revolves around trucks, specifically pickup trucks. Trucks power the profitability for these automakers so that they can delve into their autonomous whims and dreams. Ford will debut a new “mid-size” Ranger pickup to add to their F-150 – the almost 900,000-sales-per-year juggernaut that hammers the rest of the industry annually – and it’s going to be formidable. (Ford is adding a Diesel option to the F-150, which will only add to its momentum.) Chevrolet will debut the long-overdue Silverado pickup, which is expected to be a dramatic step forward for the brand. And FCA will take the wraps off its new Ram pickup, which is expected to be good too. The amount of design, engineering and R&D that goes into these pickups is staggering. And anyone who thinks these vehicles are somehow frivolous or not serious machines is sadly mistaken. So this will be one dimension of the Detroit Auto Show that will be worthy of the attention.

No, You Aren’t Going To See The Mid-Engine Corvette. The new Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 is a fantastic machine, an example of the brilliant work GM’s True Believers can do when they put their minds to it. And though it will be a momentous machine for years to come, the harsh reality is that the ZR1 will unfortunately be lost in the shuffle of anticipation. Truth be told, GM’s Best and Brightest have been hard at work on the eighth generation of the Corvette for four years now, which will finally be the mid-engine Corvette that GM has danced around for decades, and which the Corvette Faithful has fantasized about for at least that long. But you will not see the new mid-engine Corvette in Detroit this year (the latest spy photos have only added fuel to the anticipatory fire). The likely scenario will be that the vaunted “C8” will either make its debut one year from now in Detroit at the 2019 show, or GM will stage a media “fly-in” unveiling at a race track sometime late next summer.

Same As It Ever Was. In most respects, the 2018 version of the Detroit Auto Show will be the same as it ever was. The show floor will be filled with executives from the auto companies and their suppliers who harbor varying degrees of delusion and a level of self-importance that are pitiful and simply shocking to behold. In fact, the only business with more people boasting these previously mentioned “qualities” is Hollywood, and that’s saying something. 

And the assembled “media” at this show deserves some scrutiny, too, because the reality is that maybe 40 percent of those sporting media credentials next week will be actual working members of the media. The rest? Industry hangers-on, sycophants and media wannabes who basically run the gamut of nonessential combatants. And nothing, I mean nothing tops the audio-visual of some auto company hack (all puffed up and preening) being “interviewed” by a media-type with no visible affiliation of consequence. It never gets old, in fact.  

Ah well, thus it was ever so. We’ll have our take on the 2018 Detroit Auto Show right back here next Wednesday.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

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