DETROIT SHOW: An air of optimism tempered with reality

This year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit kicked off yesterday (13 January) against a blizzard of optimistic data emanating from the US and bulging order books that are also considerably benefiting suppliers.

It’s almost unthinkable to imagine this show was rumoured to be in jeopardy some years ago as the dark days of 2009 loomed heavy over the US auto sector, but it’s all smiles now as the industry gives itself a collective pat on the back for having got through some extraordinarily dark times.

But as a speaker at yesterday’s Society of Automotive Analysts gathering pointed out, perhaps downturns are occurring now in seven year cycles so could we be in for more uncertainty in 2016?

Talk of the show was Ford‘s redesigned 2015 F-Series pickup truck – a mighty beast that received huge coverage from the thousands of journalists covering NAIAS. Coming from the UK it’s hard to think of it being on our roads, but it’s sure to go down a storm in North America.

I stood behind one TV crew – one of seemingly hundreds – whose stress levels were going through the roof as they attempted to interview Ford CEO Alan Mulally live right in front of that F-Series – levels that weren’t helped by a key light going out half way through the discussion.

Staying with Ford, its 2015 Mustang attracted massive attention on the automaker’s gargantuan stand while fellow US brands, Chrysler, Buick, Jeep, Chevrolet et all had gaggles of reporters poring over every inch of their shiny new offerings.

There is a fair sprinkling of concepts, of course, from Volkswagen‘s Beetle Dune to Toyota‘s Ft-1 but, despite the vast hordes of reporters, the Detroit show is easy to walk around compared, say, to its Paris counterpart and the revamped Cobo has certainly played its part with a wash and brush up that has really improved the visitor experience.

Michelin has joined in that spirit by expanding its media centre to cater for the huge demand and this year it was easy to find a seat and plug in.

People are understandably upbeat in Detroit, that’s clear. But underlying that optimism is a hefty dose of realism laced with a constant looking over the shoulder to 2008/2009 and the grim days.

There’s not much evidence  of complacency, leanness is in and the ever-present possibility interest rates will adjust to market pressure is sufficient cold water to make expectations realistic.

But the vibe feels good – it just comes ready packed with the recent past and, surely, that’s no bad thing.

Source: Just Auto


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