DETROIT—Once upon a time, the North American International Auto Show was a mighty thing indeed. The American auto industry ruled the world, and this was their home event with all the bells and whistles that implies. But the world has changed. For one thing, people can and do use the Internet to work out what car they’re going to buy. And with the LA Auto Show, CES, and NAIAS in such close proximity to each other on the calendar, there just aren’t enough new things to fill all three events. The take-home impression from NAIAS this year—hot on the heels of a mediocre CES—was of a lackluster performance with little in the way to stop one in their tracks.
Ford opened the events at the Cobo Center with a trio of new models that we covered early in the week. Mercedes-Benz had a new G-Class that looks almost identical to the 1979 model, an example of which could be seen embedded in synthetic amber outside the front doors. By midweek this nearly-50 ton act of corporate whimsy was roped off, riven by cracks thanks to the sub-freezing temperatures. BMW gave the i8 hybrid a mid-life bump, and Audi showed its new A7 on this continent for the first time.