The greatest and the lamest of Detroit’s 2013 auto show
Seldom was heard a discouraging word at this year's Detroit auto show, what with every major global automaker generating solid profits and a forecast for 2013 of an additional 1 million new cars and trucks to sell in the United States. While the new Corvette dominated the headlines, there was more than two dozen new concepts and production vehicles unwrapped, most to good reviews. Yet away from the smoke machines and Cirque du Soleil performances, not every new model stood up to close scrutiny. Here's what we took away as the best and the rest.
BEST NEW CONCEPT: From an unusually strong crop of design concepts — especially the Nissan Resonance and Lincoln MKC crossover — I'd give the Ford Atlas top billing. The production version of the new F-Series trucks won't arrive for another two years, but the Atlas showed how Ford was willing to push the F-Series design even though it's the top-selling vehicle in the United States. The contrast between Ford's ambitions and the conservative remake of the new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra wasn't lost around Detroit.
MOST OVERLOOKED: There's simply too many new models for even enthusiasts to pay attention to, and the Chrysler's updates to the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot fell by the wayside. Both small SUVs have never lived up to expectations for Jeep — they lack the off-road prowess that traditional Jeep fans demand, and don't offer enough distinction from the burgeoning crowd of soft-road crossovers to stand out. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne vows to stick with them until they work.
MOST QUOTABLE: Speaking of Marchionne, no executive produced quite as much business news during the week, from Chrysler's agreement to start building Jeeps in China again to Marchionne's politically incorrect description of Italian-based engines for Alfa Romeo. The most gregarious chief at a Detroit automaker now has the hardest job; blending Chrysler and Fiat's vehicles in a way that can make the combination profitable on two continents without alienating customers along the way. Chrysler still needs new mid-size sedans and larger people movers; the Dodge Dart's sales have been disappointing; Alfa Romeo's return to America keeps getting delayed. It's going to be a tough 12 months to talk through.