I have never been to a motor show as quiet as the New York show. By the standards of Frankfurt or Paris this is a small show, but it’s not a lot smaller than Geneva and it’s actually less busy than last year’s lacklustre London motor show, an accomplishment I thought would never be achieved by any other motor show this decade.
It also feels distinctly unglamourous. American motor shows have been characterised (well, until the car industry fell into a black hole they were) by a layer of sparkle and glitz underpinned by exceptional optimism – the kind of optimism that takes you with it, makes you feel optimistic.
There was still a little optimism here, most notably the drop of exuberance that accompanied Chrysler’s unveiling of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. VP Jim Press’s body language and face were buoyant and upbeat, but the last year has aged him – he is stooped and small, and looks old. The car itself met with near universal approval from the domestic press and is a huge improvement over the current one, but the exterior is bland and the cabin is still a long way behind the best Japanese.
Over at GM it was all about the three core domestic brands – Buick, Pontiac and GMC. Actually, when I say 'all about' what I really mean is that there was one new car (the awkward and faintly ridiculous looking GMC Terrain, which looks like two cars joined together down the middle and has the squarest wheelarches of any production car ever) and we were told how much the new Buick LaCrosse (a re-engineered Insignia) will cost - $28,000 for the entry level V6. Even at today’s unfavourable exchange rate that’s still a shade over £19,000 for the equivalent of a well-specced Insignia.
I stopped at Land Rover to talk to design director Gerry McGovern about the future of the Land Rover and Range Rover brands; he was surprisingly upbeat about the future of an SUV-only brand but was under no illusions about the way the firm will have to position itself in the future.