So here we are at the Detroit motor show – it’s cold and the city’s bleak, but if you love cars this is the best place to be right now.
This morning’s all-American trio of major press events started with Ford; the company took over Detroit’s Cobo Arena to launch its new F150 truck, show off some ‘Stangs and – more importantly for us Brits – reveal the four-door Verve (Fiesta) saloon concept.
This glorified press conference felt more like a football match. Ford bussed in ‘a few hundred’ factory workers from Dearborn so, once the world’s motoring press shoved in too, there probably was a crowd big enough to fill most League One footie stadiums.
Boom go the entirely unnecessary pyrotechnics as the new F150 – America’s biggest-selling vehicle – burst onto the stage. Cue wild whooping and applause from everyone on Ford’s payroll. A few local celebrities were wheeled out too, presumably the sort of people the Blue Oval’s marketing men reckon will appeal to the salt-of-the-earth Americans who’ll be buying themselves a new Ford truck. They included a professional bull rider (is that really a profession?), a NASCAR racer from the Craftsmen truck series and, best of all, a monster truck driver with a ridiculous shirt.
Eventually we got what we came for and the latest Verve concept was unveiled. It’s our best hint yet at the looks of the new Fiesta. And on this evidence, we’re in for a seriously good-looking small car. I run a Mazda 2, which shares the same platform, but the toned down production Verve could be even more appealing. Just imagine it without the low front bumper.
And for the first time Ford is pushing this supermini here in America. Company exec Jim Farley’s message was simply “Verve is our future”. No doubt the new CAFE regulations, which demand a 35mpg average by 2020, are having an influence.
Next it was outside to Chrysler. The company closed the road off to debut its new Dodge Ram. It’s not relevant to Britain, so I won’t bore you with details, but I will mention how impressed I was with new company exec Jim Press.
Chrysler’s recently appointed VP is a proper ‘man’s man’ with bucketfuls of charisma and passion. In the freezing cold he spoke fluidly and animatedly in front of a thousand people about the new Ram, and why he joined Chrysler after a career with Toyota. He even cracked jokes when a couple of bulls herded up alongside the Dodge Ram started mounting each other and collided with a safety barrier. Given his experience and apparent ease with the media, if he can’t turn around Chrysler’s fortunes I’m not sure who could.
It’s only 10:30 and we’re already onto our third major press conference of the day, sprinting inside to General Motors. The General unexpectedly announces that it’s refocusing on bioethanol to cut CO2, alongside long-term electric hybrids and fuel cells. Editor Hallet has the details <a href=” https://www.autocar.co.uk/blogs/autocarlive/archive/2008/01/13/gm-enters-the-fuel-business.aspx” target=”new”>here</a>.
This could prove to be one of the most important announcements of the show, and underscores how much things have changed. There’s suddenly urgency. GM wants to cut CO2 asap – developing hybrids and fuel cell technology for the future is no longer good enough. It’s a great example of the motor industry trying to respond to new social and political pressures.
Detroit may be a dying city, but during Auto show week, it’s as hectic as in its heyday. Roll on press day number two.