On Monday at 1pm UK time the 2012 Detroit motor show will begin. For me, it’s a hugely exciting event in hugely evocative surroundings; so much so, that I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite motor show of the year.
Why? Well, for starters, its January date signals the start of another non-stop year of new car launches and industry buzz. It may only be a couple of months since the Tokyo motor show, but a new calendar year always makes Detroit feel that bit more significant.
It’s also a show where you can genuinely judge the mood of the industry and individual car makers. Sure, just like all shows there will be local bias, but there’s something about the Detroit show – big enough to attract most car makers, not so big that all the launches blur in to one – that gives you time to pick up on nuances in the show halls.
Frankfurt, Geneva and Paris tend to be chiefly about the new metal; Detroit has launches with a wow factor, but also runs at a pace you can genuinely keep up with, allowing you time to take in what you see, talk to the industry heads and really cultivate opinion.
This year I expect a show of overt vibrancy, mixed with shadows of caution from an industry seemingly doing well but which knows it stands, with much of the world, in a precarious place. There’s upwards of 40 launches of note, with three sticking out in my mind. That should certainly be enough to keep the Cobo Halls buzzing for two days.
First and foremost, I’ll hotfoot with the crowds to see the new Honda NSX concept, and most importantly understand what direction its makers have taken. Honda, you suspect, understand there’ll be no winning a horsepower race, and will want to let battery technology and their own intuition shout loudest.
More mundane but no less significant will be our first glimpse of the new Ford Fusion, which will change only fractionally in design to become the Ford Mondeo over here in 2013. Again, it’s not just the sight of the car that’s important, but how the people that have made it perceive it; under the ‘One Ford’ strategy, this Mondeo has been engineered and developed in America, and it will be intriguing to discover whether they think they have been able to maintain the flair that makes the current model so alluring.
Finally, there’s an Audi crossover concept to consider. Details are scant, and that’s kind of nice. It’ll mean an unseemly scramble to see exactly what the concept looks like when the covers off, but who doesn’t enjoy the odd surprise?
It’ll also be fascinating to hear what Audi’s bosses, and those from around the VW Group, say about their progress in conquering America. The VW Group’s ambitions to become the world’s largest car manufacturer are spoken about by people at the group in such open, almost braggish terms, but in America their sales leave little to crow about. It’s always better, I think, to listen to heavyweights talk when they are forced into being a little bit more reflective.