Not that Ford was abandoning traditional performance. It showed two Mustang headline grabbers - a briefly-glimpsed, new generation, fastest-yet 700bhp GT500 that will pop out in 2019 and bring the Shelby name back into Ford’s fold, plus the much more complete (and much more affordable) Mustang Bullitt to commemorate Steve McQueen’s famous film launched 50 years ago next October. It even unearthed one of the two original Bullitt Stangs to embroider a great story.
Among other performance cars, Ford had a 335bhp V6 turbo petrol Edge ST that even Europe won’t be getting; we’ll have to be content with a semi-sporty ST-Line diesel that'll be announced in a couple of months at Geneva.
Facelifted Ford Edge revealed to American market
There’s no getting away from the fact that without the American Big Three, all of which do big business in and around Motown, the 2018 Detroit show would have been painfully thin — to the extent that the organisers had to generously donate a tennis-court sized piece of real estate to the Indycar organisers, who used it to screen repetitive videos and do lots of shouting about season opening dates.
VW had a new American Jetta on hand which they clearly want to use to bury as much bad news as possible in the US (just as they’re dropping that model in Europe). Mercedes used this show to unveil a new G-Class (as they now insist on calling it; although it's still the 'G-Wagen' to some of us) and to extend its AMG model line-up. Here, alongside the gigantic Americans, was another big, tough car. The theme was unmistakable.
Infiniti had a nice concept called Q Inspiration that presented a wholly calmer design language that concentrated on full surfacing and fine proportions; it gave much hope for their future. They also showed the slightly crazy Prototype 9 faux-’30s single-seater I’d been hoping to see in the flesh: and with it came news that they’re thinking of removing the speed limiter (set at a miserable 75mph) to give it a proper run.
Infiniti Q Inspiration concept shows dramatic new design direction
The only determined Chinese presence was that of GAC, whose cars looked like competent, slightly updated Vauxhall Cavaliers, but whose executives made an admirably determined case for their cars to be taken seriously in the US. They must have found the audience for their launch speeches gratifyingly large, given that the people-content of the old Cobo Hall was low this year. I kept looking for familiar faces: not many.
It’s quite clear that Detroit, which grew rapidly through the ’80s as it was embraced by the big Europeans, is now having a hard time from other American shows held in more welcoming locations (Los Angeles, New York) at better times of the year. Especially, it feels a new threat from the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, held a week earlier and widely touted by car chiefs in recent years — former Ford chief Alan Mulally was at the head of the pack — as “where it’s at” for the car industry. (Interestingly, a few of the latest gang demurred this time, dismissing it as “a widget show”.)