The Paris Motor Show had the limited edition LaFerrari Aperta convertible. Geneva had Aston Martin’s dramatic Valkyrie. Frankfurt had a futuristic Mercedes described as “a road-legal Formula One car. Tokyo had all manner of weird and wacky autonomous pods. Detroit has trucks.
Flashy hypercars are noticeably absent from the Detroit Auto Show. Oh, sure, Lamborghini is launching its latest car here, but it’s a luxury compact SUV. Detroit is aimed at middle America, and middle America likes trucks. Big, brawny trucks. One in every seven vehicles sold in the US last year was a big pickup, up from one in every nine in 2009. The three most popular vehicles in the US for 2017 were all pickup trucks. Amazingly, Ford’s huge F-Series truck has been America’s best-selling vehicle every year since 1981.
General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford are all unveiling new trucks in Detroit. Fiat Chrysler will roll out a redesigned Ram truck, while Chevrolet is showing off the new Silverado. This year’s trucks look just like last year’s trucks, only a bit bigger and a bit more aggressive, with bigger grilles and more chrome. Market research shows that a meaner look appeals to truck buyers, who are mainly men. Eighty-three percent of big pickups in the US are registered to males.
Ford already rules the big truck market, and is now re-entering the small pickup market with a new version of the Ranger, eight years after Ford pulled it off the market in the US and Canada. Back then, the cheap but dependable Ranger was the best-selling truck of its size, but petrol prices were high, demand was dwindling and the struggling company wanted to devote more resources to hybrids. But now, things are different. Petrol prices are low, Ford is profitable and it has the cash to invest in new vehicles.
Of course, there’s more to the Detroit Auto Show than big, rugged trucks – there are also big, rugged off-road vehicles. Daimler launched the 2019 version of the Mercedes G-class SUV in an abandoned cinema in downtown Detroit once used as a set for the film “8 Mile”. The pumped-up Teutonic action vehicle was, fittingly, introduced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, wearing a Stetson.
Speaking of movies, Ford is making a special edition Mustang to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bullitt,” whose unforgettable car chase scene helped turn the sports car into an icon. It’s available in dark highland green, the colour of the car in the film, as well as black. It was driven onto the stage in Detroit by Steve McQueen’s granddaughter Molly.
Here are some of the other vehicles being unveiled at the show, which opens to the general public on Saturday 20 January.