From day one of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, here are six stories that indicate where the auto industry is headed in 2017.
On the floor of Cobo Center in Detroit each January, trends begin to take form that will shape the auto industry’s direction through the year, and maybe for years to come. Here are six stories worth keeping an eye on in 2017.
Volkswagen has repurposed its historic microbus platform as a leading-edge autonomous electric vehicle concept called the I.D. Buzz, generating a happy vibe at the VW stand in Detroit and diverting attention from the automaker’s diesel emissions debacle. The I.D. Buzz features room for eight passengers and a 369-horsepower all-wheel-drive powertrain, and if it can deliver the claimed 270-mile range, the company could have a genuine contender in the electric vehicle category.
Performance enthusiasts are geeked about the possibilities for Kia’s Stinger GT, a finely chiseled rear-drive sport sedan that packs a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 rated at 365 hp. Available only with an eight-speed automatic transmission, says Kia Motor, and aimed squarely at the BMW 4 Series, the Stinger GT leaps from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Production reportedly begins next summer with prices to be announced.
Above, General Motors Executive VP of Global Product Development Mark Reuss is flanked by engineers Josh Tavel and Pam Fletcher as they accept the North American Car of the Year award for the game-changing Chevy Bolt. In winning the honor, the battery-electric Bolt bested two conventionally powered sedans, the Volvo S90 and the Genesis G90, among a jury of several dozen working journalists. With a street price in the $30,000 bracket and a range of 238 miles, the Bolt also picked up this year’s Motor Trend Car of the Year and the LA Auto Show’s Green Car of the Year awards.
North American Truck of the Year honors went to the Honda Ridgeline, a distinctly car-like pickup with unit construction and a trunk under the cargo bed. Reintroduced in America after a three-year absence, the second-gen 2017 Ridgeline is offered in seven trim levels with both front-drive and all-wheel-drive powertrains. And so far in 2017, sales have comfortably outpaced predictions, Honda insiders say.
Chrysler pretty much invented the minivan back in 1983, and the company has reaffirmed its investment in the vehicle segment with the all-new Chrysler Pacifica, which replaces the venerable Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan family haulers. Here, Tim Kuniskis of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles accepts the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award for the Pacifica, signalling that minivans still have their place among the trendier SUVs and crossovers in a highly competitive category. For now, at least.
Compact and intermediate pickups were once mainstays in the domestic product lineups of the Motor City, but as the market evolved, automakers found they served mainly to cannibalize sales of more profitable fullsize trucks. Now they’re back in the smaller-hauler game, and Ford’s entry in the category is the Ranger, a model last seen in the U.S. in 2011. The new intermediate pickup will be based on a Ranger already offered outside the United States (above), and it will be joined by a born-again Bronco, Ford’s original 4WD sport utility. Both vehicles, already greeted with enthusiasm by the trucking crowd, will be built at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan assembly plant around 20 miles west of Detroit.
Photos courtesy of North American International Auto Show, Volkswagen, Kia Motor, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Ford Motor Company.