2015 Ford F-150Enlarge Photo
The show, in which automakers often manage to synergize and synchronize their messages through production-bound vehicles and prototypes, as well as some farther-off concept-car ideas and carefully curated messaging for press conferences, is all that.
Yet the F-150, with its extensive aluminum construction, 700-pound weight loss, and downsized, turbocharged engines (and its decision not to offer the big-displacement 6.2-liter V-8 right away), is a brave, brave move—one that we’ll probably look back on as forever market-changing. And it sets the tenor of the show not necessarily by what it is, but what every other new vehicle isn't.
2015 Chrysler 200 - 2014 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
Did Detroit pull the plug on electrics?
Conspicuously missing from the show—outside of the Tesla Motors stand, and a few other exceptions—was much mention of plug-in and all-electric vehicles, as well as fuel efficiency. Whether the industry is suffering from green fatigue, or whether it's a matter of product cadence, a number of automakers pushed high-performance niche vehicles out to the forefront, and sidelined any green announcements.
Infiniti's press conference, for instance, made no note of the light-and-lean focus it had been aiming for in recent years—instead Johan de Nysschen spent much of his speech speculating about how large and powerful of a gasoline engine the brand could install in its F1-inspired, Q50-on-steroids Eau Rouge sport sedan—and there was no mention of the [reportedly quietly shelved] all-electric model that had been teased and suggested in the past. Likewise, Lexus pushed out a flamboyant, V-8-powered RC F Coupe that appeals to serious driving enthusiasts and aims to bring more of them to the brand, while Toyota's FT-1 Concept hints at a future production sports car. Subaru officially added a new generation of its aggressive WRX STI, making 305 hp, while Kia teased its first true sports car in a concept, the GT4 Stinger. And BMW's new M3 sedan and M4 coupe, as well as the new 2-Series—all performance-oriented models—grabbed a lot of attention. And Volkswagen introduced its 296-hp Golf R, an all-wheel-drive high-performance hatch that new Volkswagen of America chief Michael Horn called “a real sports car.”
Outside of muscle and horsepower, a grab bag of ideas
VW was also on the green tack a bit more than their German counterparts. In addition to the Golf R, the brand showed both the Dune concept—a Beetle given an Allroad/Outback treatment that might be welcomed in the U.S.—as well as a special Passat BlueMotion Concept that demonstrates how the automaker might squeeze 42 mpg highway out of a non-hybrid gasoline mid-size sedan.
2015 Acura TLX (prototype) - 2014 Detroit Auto Show live photosEnlarge Photo