All the cars, news and pictures from the first major motor show of 2019, including the new Toyota Supra, Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and more
James Attwood, digital editor
15 January 2019

Welcome to Autocar's complete coverage from the 2019 Detroit motor show. Officially known as the North American International Auto Show, Detroit has long marked the start of the automotive year. 

Detroit, like several other major motor shows, has lost some of its lustre in recent years, with a number of car firms choosing to display at other events such as CES. Most of the big European companies, and a number of US marques, are staying away in 2019, but while the number of cars being launched might be down, they still included some significant and interesting new metal.

Here’s everything from Detroit, as it happened.

Full show report

A motor show is a snapshot of a moment in time, reflecting the state of the car industry in which it takes place. And what this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit captured was a state of transition – of an industry, a city and, indeed, the show itself.

This was the final time the event is being held in the chill of a Detroit January before it switches in 2020 to a summer date, allowing for the addition of a large outdoor area, complete with moving exhibits and more passenger rides. Much as Detroit itself is battling back from some tough times, so the motor show is aiming to rebuild.

That move was largely prompted by the decline in relative importance of the show in recent years, with a steep dip in the number of car firms attending and launching new models. This year’s show felt like a bridge to that refreshed 2020 event, reflected in a further dip in the number of car launches.

It didn’t help that the run-up to the show was dominated by talk of the state of the industry itself, from GM and Ford announcing restructuring plans – complete with significant job losses – to new development in Volkswagen and Ford’s new commercial partnership. It was almost easy to forget that there were still new cars to be wheeled out at the show.

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But once the show started, the new cars certainly came, and what they lacked in number they made up for with sheer variety.

From an international perspective, nothing was bigger than the new Toyota GR Supra, the revival of a storied sports car after a break of 17 years. In a way, the Supra reflected the new reality of the industry: it’s a Toyota that was co-developed by BMW alongside the recently launched Z4.

Ford also revived a classic performance car nameplate, with a new version of the Shelby Mustang GT500. While that was a machine for the enthusiasts the firm also had the new Explorer SUV, a key model for the US market – and a machine that, under the firm’s new plan, could conceivably return to Europe in the future.

Lexus and Infiniti, the premium brands of Toyota and Nissan respectively, both celebrated their 30th anniversary in Detroit. Lexus did so with the track-focused RC F Track Edition and a new LC Convertible. The latter is officially a concept, but it was well-finished and is such a natural accompaniment to the LC coupe that it’s hard to imagine it won’t reach production.

Infiniti went more conceptual, with a QX Inspiration concept that looked ahead to its first production EV. Unfortunately the machine broke down just before it was set to drive on stage for its press conference, but once it made it on there it showed some interesting design concepts.

Parent firm Nissan also had an electric concept with the IMs, a sporting coupe-style machine designed to prove that electric cars don’t have to be boxy SUVs. It’s not the first of its type we’ve seen, but it’s another interesting development from one of the leading EV firms.

Another notable concept came from Chinese firm GAC, which doesn’t sell cars in the US yet but chose the show to unveil the Entranze electric concept (which was notably designed in California). Of course, the show definitely played to an American audience, which meant the home firms showed plenty of big, boxy SUVs (hello Cadillac XT6) and massive pick-ups, such as the new Ram Heavy Duty 2500.

What the show may have lacked in volume of new cars, it made up for with diversity, and that was reflected in the mood of the show. In the wake of recent industry news, you might have expected a somewhat bleak mood in the show halls, but far from it.

The concept of transition was embraced, and the industry showed there is much to look forward to in the future of 2020 and beyond – not least the fact that Detroit is a lot warmer in June than January…

Detroit motor show 2019: as it happened

21:45 Monday 14th January

Before Atters signs off for the day, a visit to a lesser-known booth - at least in the USA, anyway. Chinese car maker GAC's Entranze concept features some neat touches, including plentiful use of wood inside - and that’s reflected in some wooden dice hanging from the wing mirror.

21:40 Monday 14th January

There appears to be an unofficial contest to have the greenest car at the show. It’s either this Volkswagen Golf R...

...or this Kia Forte. Either way, Kermit the Frog would be proud.

21:30 Monday 14th January

With the new Supra launching, it’s no surprise Toyota’s stand showcases the diversity of the firm’s motorsport programmes. On display are the Toyota Corolla WRC...

...and Kyle Busch’s M&M’s sponsored Toyota Camry NASCAR.

And for those unsure how little NASCAR stock cars have in common with road cars, here’s the back of the new Xfinity Series Supra. In true NASCAR fashion, the rear lights and exhausts are painted onto the shell.

21:15 Monday 14th January

The big new machine from the FCA Group at Detroit is the Ram Heavy Duty 2500 pick-up. It joins the 1500 that launched last year, and was earlier named the North American Truck of the Year.

The Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 may have taken the muscle car headlines, but FCA also has the Dodge Challenger on show as a reminder it isn’t the only brilliantly overpowered car on the US market.

21:00 Monday 14th January

As it’s nearing the end of the press day, Ford has wheeled a hot dog stall onto its stand. It’s unknown how this will affect the soon-to-be-announced partnership with currywurst-mad Volkswagen.

20:55 Monday 14th January

There were hopes the new Chevrolet C8 Corvette would debut at Detroit, but sadly it’s not here. The current model is still on display though, and still looks good.

20:45 Monday 14th January

It’s not just Ford that has a police car on show; Kia has this special Stinger. It’s used by the Queensland police in Australia, so quite how it’s wound up in Detroit who knows?

Alfa Romeo has a stand at Detroit but no big new cars here, so visitors get to admire the Stelvio Quadrifoglio and a Sauber F1 car.

20:23 Monday 14th January

Infiniti’s drinks stand features coffee named after the firm’s models. We were too scared to try the P10...

 

18:45 Monday 14th January

Nissan’s premium brand Infiniti is celebrating a milestone birthday at Detroit. Company chairman Christian Meunier reminisced at the show: “on a cold January day 30 years ago, Infiniti was born in this very hall.” Thirty years on Infiniti has grown into a brand that sells 234,00 vehicles a year worldwide. Detroit in January is still cold though.

Elsewhere in the hall, Subaru has just made its big announcement: a limited-run STI for US markets, which makes a change from all the previous special editions that never saw sales outside of Japan. The STI S209 promises 341bhp from its 2.5-litre boxer engine.

Also, Cadillac released some early teaser images of an EV concept ahead of Detroit - but that model isn’t at the show. So instead, here’s a random shot of some non-EV Caddys.

18:30 Monday 14th January

Hyundai’s stand has some N theming, but the two big reveals are US only: the Veloster N TCR race car...

...and the new Elantra GT N Line trim.

Hyundai was also keen to hype its advert for the forthcoming Super Bowl, which will feature actor Jason Bateman, apparently. Not that UK viewers will get to see it.

18:15 Monday 14th January

While VW’s stand might have a football/soccer theme, Chevrolet is pushing baseball, with a virtual home run challenge game.

Mahindra’s stand, meanwhile, shows how it’s Roxar off-reader can be used to haul loads - and has roped in two bags of mulch as illustration.

18:00 Monday 14th January

There’s a football - sorry, soccer - theme to Volkswagen's stand, with the firm announcing a new sponsorship deal with USA Soccer. The chief attraction car-wise is the new Passat, which is a US-only model that doesn’t have much to do with the old European version.

Meanwhile, chief sausage correspondent Atters is attempting to find if the VW stand is serving currywurst. Due to US import rules it will have to be locally produced to VW’s recipe, rather than being shipped from Wolfsburg. We will update on this crucial story if we find out more.

17:45 Monday 14th January

The limited edition Lincoln Continental 80th Anniversary coach doors took Atters some time to get a clear photo of, due to the rear-opening doors seemingly acting as an influencer magnet...

Also, here's something to enjoy while you can: the soon-to-be-axed VW Beetle on a show stand.

17:10 Monday 14th January

LB the Infiniti presser ended without the car ever being shown - turned out it broke just before the grand entrance. But it finally did emerge soon after...

17:00 Monday 14th January

Interesting moments at the Infiniti QX Inspiration launch - after all the build-up music there’s no car. It’s slightly unclear if this is some sort of deliberate concept or - more likely - something’s gone wrong...

Infiniti’s Karim Habib is gamely talking people around the QX Inspiration, despite the fact it’s not on the stage. Unless it’s invisible, and Infiniti really has created a world-first. Note: We don’t think it’s invisible. Cringe

Despite the issues, it's clear the Infiniti QX Inspiration is more than a concept. Alfonso Albaba, Nissan VP of design, described it as: “the beginning of Infiniti’s electrified future, and the next chapter of our design."

16:00 Monday 14th January

In SUV and pick-up mad America, why is the Nissan IMs concept a sleek saloon? Well according to the firm’s North American boss, Denis Le Vot, it’s all to do with youth: “in research they have told us they prefer saloons to SUVs by a margin of 2-1.”

15:45 Monday 14th January

It’s not just pick-ups that car firms are keen to load up at show stands. Toyota has chosen to illustrate how useful the new Prius AWD’s greater traction can be on mountain roads by sticking a snowboard on top of it. It’s cold enough for snow in Detroit, although it’s so flat in Michigan you’d struggle to find anything to snowboard down.

15:30 Monday 14th January

Lincoln, Ford’s American luxury brand, is celebrating 80 years of its Continental model with a special 80th Anniversary Coach Door Edition. The machine is a stretched version of a regular Continental saloon with backward-opening rear doors (presumably ‘coach doors’ sounds a bit more premium than ‘suicide doors’).

The first Continental was a coachbuilt Lincoln-Zephyr convertible commissioned by Edsel Ford, and since then the nameplate has been used on-and-off for a variety of machines. The latest Continental was launched in 2017, reviving the nameplate for the first time since 2002.

15:15 Monday 14th January

Fernando Alonso was wheeled onto stage for the Supra launch. Akio Toyoda turns to him: “What do you think? But don’t think you have to say nice things because the boss is here.” Predictably, Alonso said nice things...

15:00 Monday 14th January

“I want to introduce you to one of my closest friends, the new Toyota Supra. Also known as one of the worst kept secrets in the industry.“

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda was on top form at Supra launch, driving it onto the stage: “I Love this car so much I almost didn’t come out."

"Can Akio Toyoda host every press conference ever please?" Atters asks. Direct quote from the man himself: “the new Supra is not just fun to drive, it’s totally lit. According to my son, this means amazing or totally excellent.”

The Supra launch started with a video from Akio Toyoda explaining how he went to the Nürburgring to learn to become a ‘master driver’ in one: “a lap there takes ten minutes, and when I started I thought to myself ‘will I still be alive in ten minutes?’”

"Toyoda personally signed off the new Supra by lapping the Nordschleife in it. That’s our kind of car company boss," says Atters.

14:45 Monday 14th January

Who needs plaques? The Nissan stand has an ‘interactive way finder’ (it’s a tablet with an AR app) that tells you what the cars on the stand are. It’s fancy, but you suspect a sign would be easier.

It was a good start to the show for the Hyundai Motor Group, which scooped two of the three prizes in the North American Car of the Year awards. The Genesis G70 won in the car category, while the Hyundai Kona scooped the SUV prize. The RAM 1500 took Truck of the year honours - ahead of the launch of the Heavy Duty 2500/3500 variant later today.

The Toyota Supra is being launched shortly. Despite the fact everyone has almost certainly seen it, the press conference area is packed.

14:30 Monday 14th January

The Explorer will almost certainly be the bigger seller, but there was far more excitement over the Shelby Mustang GT500. Ford's overhauled pony car is the most powerful road-legal Mustang ever built by the firm, with transmission technology influenced by the Ford GT supercar.

Elsewhere, Atters got to try out the back seat of the Ford Police Interceptor, "for the first and hopefully only time. Not as comfortable as most modern SUVs, but then I guess that’s not really the idea..."

14:15 Monday 14th January

Rock concert? No, this is what a modern day car show press conference looks like. The new Ford Explorer is somewhere over there. Incidentally, the flowing water is virtual, so isn’t affected by Detroit’s ‘boil water advisory’

After revealing the Explorer ahead of the show last week, this marks its official debut. The SUV will launch with rear-wheel drive, and also be offered as a hybrid - and could come to the UK as part of Ford's plan to 'redesign its European business'.

14:00 Monday 14th January

Ford’s presser started with a welcome from Kumar Galhotra, the firm’s North American president. He recounted the tale of how his father came over from India, and secured a job as an electrician at the firm’s Rouge plant, which gave him the stability to bring his whole family over.

With the state of the US car industry a major talking point, Ford president Bill Ford has claimed that “no company is better positioned than Ford to lead the industry into the future.” In perhaps a subtle dig at various rivals, he added: “we’re not built on bail-outs or hype, we’re built Ford proud and built forever.”

The 21st century pain of the press conference: journalists taking photos on smartphones, getting in the way of other journalists taking photos on smartphones.

Ford, meanwhile, will refresh or renew 75% of its US line-up by the end of 2020, starting with the new Explorer recently revealed. Key launches coming include the new Escape SUV, the return of the Bronco and the Mustang-inspired EV.

Criminals beware: as well as the latest Explorer, Ford is showing off the newest version of its Ford Police Interceptor Utility at Detroit. The latest version of the Explorer-based SUV comes with a 3.7-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, which Ford helpfully notes could save “police agencies and taxpayers” up to £4400 per vehicle in fuel costs each year.

The 137mph Police Interceptor Utility offers such helpful design features forward collision warning (with a quick disable switch if the need to perform ‘precision immobilisation techniques’ arises), anti-stab plates in the rear of the front seats, and strengthened steel wheels.

To “withstand the rigours of a chase”, the machine has also been designed to clear eight-inch curbs and railroad crossings at speeds of up to 30mph.

13:45 Monday 14th January

Ford’s announcement last year that it would stop selling traditional cars in the USA – with the exception of the Mustang – to focus on SUVs and pick-up trucks caught some by surprise, but the firm’s USA 2018 sales figures, released in the build-up to Detroit, provide clear evidence of the business logic of the decision.

Globally, the firm sold 1.075-million of its Ford F-Series pick-ups in 2018 – and 909,330 of those were in the USA. By comparison, Ford sold a total of 457,414 cars and MPV last year, a 17.7% decline on 2017, and 797,238 SUVs (up 0.1% on 2017).

If those numbers weren’t clear enough, Ford helpfully provided some more. Those 1.075 million global F-Series sales meant, on average, it sold a truck every 29.3 seconds in 2018. Lined up bumper-to-bumper, those trucks would extend more than 4000 miles, and it would take an average passenger jet more than eight hours to fly the full length of them.

Oh, and at an average transaction price of US $46,700 [£36,300], Ford’s F-Series sales revenue in 2018 exceeded £38billion. Who needs passenger cars?

13:30 Monday 14th January

Subaru might not be in the WRC any more, but the firm’s US arm still runs a works rally team - and this year will use the classic blue and yellow colours made famous by the likes of Colin McRae. The aptly named Scott Speed will drive for the team.

Chinese firm GAC doesn’t sell cars in the US - yet. Hard not to see its big Detroit show stand (which it’s had for the last few years) as a sign that it’s coming at some point.

13:15 Monday 14th January

With the popularity of pick-ups and off-readers, the big US firms are fighting to outdo each other in the ‘rugged’ stakes. So there are trucks with rocks…

...bikes in the back

...and even snow tracks.

Ford probably wins though, with a model grizzly bear on display next to a Ranger. Grrrrrrr, rugged.

13:00 Monday 14th January

With fewer manufacturers opening up space inside the Detroit show halls, Kia decided to make the most of it by creating a ‘torque track’, an obstacle course inside the Cobo Centre that passengers can be driven over in the firm’s new Telluride SUV.

Mahindra is making its Detroit show debut this year, but the Indian firm has been causing a bit of a stir in the city for some time – for a variety of reasons. It is currently in the midst of a legal tussle with the FCA Group over its Roxor off-roader, which takes styling cues from the Jeep Wrangler. The diesel-powered machine, which isn’t road-legal in the US, is made in Mahindra’s facility in metro Detroit, which it claims is the first new car manufacturing facility in the area in 25 years.

Intriguingly, Mahindra also has another vehicle made at its Detroit plant on display at the show: the Marazzo MPV. While the machine is currently only sold in India (read Autocar India’s review of it here), it was designed by the firm’s American team, styled by Pininfarina and has been engineered to meet “global standards.” So how long before Mahindra enters the US market proper?

Cadillac is trumpeting it’s return to Detroit, with the firm recently deciding to shift its HQ from New York back to Motown. To highlight it’s past, one of its classic cars overlooks (and some may say overshadows, style-wise) it’s current range

12:45 Monday 14th January

Given the number of leaks, you’ve probably already seen the new Toyota GR Supra. But the firm has persisted with the traditional cloth drape to hide the one on its stand ahead of the official launch.

Not every Supra is hidden though: the racing versions are already on display. The one on the right will be used in the NASCAR Xfinity Series stock car series this year, and doesn’t really have much in common with a Supra at all.

12:30 Monday 14th January

The Shelby Mustang GT500 is being unveiled shortly, and will be the most powerful example yet. Perhaps that’s why Ford seems to feel the need to keep it in a shipping container for safety...

An early challenge for show organisers was caused by a broken water main, which city officials feared could contaminate the water supply. That has prompted a 'boil water advisory' for downtown Detroit, including the convention centre, leaving many restaurants and cafes unable to serve anything other than bottled drinks. With little notice, show officials had a huge supply of clean water shipped in to ensure that they could still offer coffee in the media centre. Phew.

12:00 Monday 14th January - Day one

While the Detroit motor show only opens its doors this morning for the first of two press days, several manufacturers chose to get a head start by unveiling their new models at events ahead of the show.

Ford was the first, revealing its new Explorer last week. The new large SUV is one of the firm’s most important models: it sold 227,732 in the USA last year, second only to the Escape (which sold 272,228) in its SUV and car range.

Cadillac, owned by Ford’s long-time rival GM, has also unveiled a new large SUV ahead of the show, using an event at Detroit’s Garden Theatre to launch its new XT6. It also teased the first images of an upcoming debut electric model, the first to be built on GM's new electric platform.

The Detroit show isn’t all large SUVs though: Lexus has shown the LC Convertible concept that it is unveiling as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations.

And just to confirm, the Toyota Supra hasn’t actually been revealed ahead of Detroit, although between the regular appearances of disguised prototype cars and a number of leaked images and videos, you might well think it had been.

Detroit motor show: What's on display

Toyota Supra

The star attraction in Detroit was Toyota’s reborn two-seater Supra sports car, which Autocar has already driven in prototype form. Developed alongside the latest BMW Z4, the fifth-generation Supra – and the first since 2002 – will be powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six engine, producing 335bhp and 350lb ft.

Pictures of the car leaked long before the show, but Detroit will provided the first chance to see the Porsche Boxster rival up close, and for us to gain the first official details of its powertrain and tech specs.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

With a supercharged 5.2-litre V8 engine producing at least 700bhp, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is the most powerful road-legal series production machine the firm has ever offered - besting even the Ford GT supercar.

The new car has been co-engineered by tuning firm Shelby, and revives the high-performance version of the muscle car that Ford had stopped selling in 2015.

Subaru WRX STI S209

The Japanese firm’s Subaru Tecnica International performance division has confirmed that it will unveil a WRX STI S209 in Detroit, although aside from a teaser shot of the front end, it has given few details about the limited-run model.

The previous WRC STI S208 was launched in 2017, with the turbocharged 2.0-litre flat-four engine in the 450 examples tuned to produce 324bhp, up 28bhp from the standard model. There was also STI equipment including a faster steering rack and adjustable Bilstein damping.

Ford Explorer

Ford's flagship SUV was announced prior to the show, but made its official debut at Detroit. The redesigned sixth iteration of America's most popular SUV will become the first to use a rear-wheel drive setup in its entry-level models. Ford claims this means more room inside the cabin.

A tuned version of the 2.3-litre Ecoboost petrol engine found in the Mustang will be offered, along with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, which will be the most potent ever sold in an Explorer. Although not yet confirmed, it is believed the Explorer could come to Europe as part of Ford's plan to redesign its business on this side of the Atlantic.

Infiniti QX Inspiration electric SUV

The Infiniti brand was launched at the Detroit show in 1989, and it celebrated its 30th anniversary by unveiling a concept for its first electric machine. 

The SUV, understood to be similar in size to the BMW X1, had already been previewed with a darkened image, and will also introduce a new design language for the firm.

Parent company Nissan had readied an electric concept machine for the show - unfortunately, it wasn't running in time to make it to the stand for the big reveal.

Lexus RC F Track Edition

The Japanese firm is also celebrating its 30th anniversary at Detroit, where it will unveil the performance-focused RC F Track Edition.

While details of the BMW M4 CS rival are scarce, a teaser image shows a large carbonfibre rear wing, which has also been seen on spy shots of the car at the Nürburgring. The car is understood to have gone on a substantial weight-saving programme since the RC F GT was launched in 2016.

Kia Telluride

Kia will finally unveil the production version of the Telluride, its new large SUV that can seat up to seven passengers and was first shown in concept form at the Detroit show in 2016.

Preview material from Kia suggests the firm is embracing the ‘big, bold and boxy’ styling of the SUV, which is unlikely to be offered for sale in Europe.

Cadillac XT6

The GM brand will launch a new large SUV called the XT6, which is expected to go on sale in the US in 2020. The new car, based on the Chevrolet Traverse, is part of a major model assault by Cadillac, which will include five new or redesigned models by the end of next year.

Lexus LC Convertible

A convertible variant of the LC Coupé will be on display, following a pre-show online reveal a week before. While Lexus is calling it a concept, the car is largely expected to enter production in 2020.

The would-be halo model should arrive with the same choice of 3.5-litre V6 hybrid and 5.0-litre V8 engines as the coupé, and retain its 2+2 layout. 

Read more

2018 Detroit motor show: our star cars

Matt Prior: the dilemma of modern motor shows

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Comments
8

2 January 2019

But the new mid engined C8 Corvette isn't there is it? For me the revived Toyota Supra ain't that much of a show stopper,please GM give us a sneak peak at the C8, we've only waited fifty years for a mid engined 'Vette

2 January 2019
Not another concept from Infiniti....they produce more concept cars than they sell production cars here in the UK!

2 January 2019
Not another concept from Infiniti....they produce more concept cars than they sell production cars here in the UK!

12 January 2019
geed wrote:

Not another concept from Infiniti....they produce more concept cars than they sell production cars here in the UK!

☺️

Myk

14 January 2019

There are already photos of the new Supra on the Toyota UK website, including the A90 launch edition.  All the spec's, colours, interior shots etc.

14 January 2019

That Prius!  Like a drag queen at a beauty contest.

I say my bit, then go. So although I'm interested in what you may initially say, I don't care what you think about what I've written, so I won't read whatever your reply is.

15 January 2019

Cool cars! The designs is so futuristic. free deer hunting games

15 January 2019

Infiniti design in a desperate attempt to be different has become increasingly ugly. Most of the other car designs broke no new ground. 

Mesumguy

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