Ford’s 22-foot-high, 37.5-ton replica of an assembly line is designed to give a peek into how some of the automaker’s vehicles are manufactured.
DETROIT — After wooing and wowing journalists and industry insiders earlier in the week, the North American International Auto Show opened its doors Saturday to the people who really matter: new-car shoppers who take their hard-earned money into showrooms.
Andrew Gierak, behind the wheel, and his daughter Anna Gierak of Leonard, Mich., examine a 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Mr. Gierak was impressed with the SUV.
The 2014 edition of one of the world’s great automotive exhibitions has plenty to deliver, and thousands filed into downtown Detroit’s Cobo Center to check it all out.
Andrew Gierak said he lives “way out” in Leonard, Mich., about 40 miles north of Detroit on an old dirt road. He and one of his daughters climbed into a silver 2014 Jeep Cherokee to see if it might fit the bill for them.
“My daughter has an old one, so we wanted to see the new one,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot about it and we’re totally Mopar Dodge Ram people.”
In addition to his daughter’s 2001 Cherokee, he has a Dodge Durango, and his wife drives a Jeep Wrangler. He walked away from the new Toledo-built Cherokee impressed.
PHOTO GALLERY: See more photos from the first day of the auto show
“They’re really nice inside. Sitting in there, it hugs you, feels comfortable,” he said. “I think it’s great. I’m glad they came back with the Cherokee. I think it’s going to be a hot one for you guys.”
The show, which runs through Jan. 26, features more than 550 vehicles from 35 brands, ranging from Kia to Bentley. Organizers said there were 50 new models introduced during the two-day press preview.
For the second straight year, the Corvette display seemed to be opening day’s big draw.
A year ago, Chevrolet unveiled the new Corvette Stingray, which was named 2014 North American Car of the Year to start this year’s show. But Chevy stole the spotlight again with the Corvette Z06, the high performance version of the already-hot sports car.
Still, practicality has a way of creeping in to even the most fun of dreams.
“I really want a Corvette, since I can kind of afford one now,” Rossford resident Paul Cieply said. “But then I see the Cherokee, with the snow we’ve just had. I drive a Chevrolet Cruze right now, and man it hates the snow. The Jeep has some amazing features.”
All three of the Detroit automakers drew sizable crowds Saturday.
For Ford fans, the show was likely their first chance to see the redesigned 2015 Mustang in person. But more importantly, the show was Ford’s first place to exhibit its next-generation F-150 pickup truck.
Not only is it Ford’s top seller, the F-series has been America’s best-selling vehicle for 32 years running. That success has been built on guys like Edwin Howe, a cement contractor from the Toledo suburb of Holland who bought his first Ford pickup in 1980.
University of Toledo student Isaac Nichols says he appreciated the engineering involved in the vehicles. The Wauseon native, who is studying mechanical engineering, says he doesn’t want to work in the auto industry, but he loves it.
“It gave me everything I liked and I just never needed to shop around after that — go get another Ford,” he said.
In the newest truck, expected to go on sale late this year, Ford replaced most steel with aluminum, a 700-pound weight reduction the company says will make the vehicle considerably more fuel efficient. That’s a big change in the segment, and being that the F-150 is one of Ford’s most profitable vehicles, it’s crucial buyers don’t balk at such a move.
Based on Mr. Howe’s reaction, Ford has nothing to worry about.
“The fact that they’re using aluminum and saving 700 pounds on the vehicle, I’m very happy with that,” he said. “It’s all about fuel mileage.”
Looks-wise, the 2015 F-150 isn’t a whole lot different from the 2014 F-150, though it does take many cues from the Atlas concept truck Ford showed last year.
“What’s kinda cool is they’re probably three years ahead of the competitors with the aluminum and some of the features they’ve put on them,” Mr. Howe said. “I’m happy they’re ahead again.”
Not everyone at the show is thinking about driving dynamics, fuel economy, or price.
Thirteen-year-old Steve Ilijanich, of Belle River, Ont., pumped his fist after snapping a photo of Toyota’s bright red FT-1 concept car before scurrying over to the Mopar performance display.
“I can’t keep up with him; he’s running at every car that looks like that,” said his father, the elder Steve Ilijanich, gesturing toward a lime-green Dodge Viper at the Mopar booth.
Gloria Wise of Troy, Mich., steps out of a 2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler at the show. She was joined by her mother, Jo Dunphy of Yellow Springs, Ohio.
The youngster said he was enjoying his first auto show, though that was clear to anyone in attendance. He said he liked the Camaro and the Corvette best — so far.
“I must be getting old, because I like the [GMC] Denali SUV,” Mr. Ilijanich said.
■ When: Saturday through Jan. 26.
■ Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday through Jan. 25; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 26.
■ Where: Cobo Center, One Washington Blvd, Detroit
■ Parking: Show officials recommend three parking sites. Joe Louis Arena, 900 W. Jefferson Ave.; Cobo Roof Deck, 625 W. Congress St.; Millennium Garage, 432 W. Congress St.
■ Cost: Adults, $13; seniors age 65 and up, $7; children 7 to 12, $7; under 6, free.
Others dug into the details.
Isaac Nichols, a Wauseon native who is now a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Toledo, looked forward to checking out Tesla. Mr. Nichols also liked the simulated assembly line that Ford set up to show how its F-150 is built.
The 22-foot high, 37.5-ton display — complete with robotics — walks attendees through the entire process.
“F-150 has been re-engineered to higher standards, and with more technology than it has ever had before. This display will help consumers understand the levels to which Ford’s engineering team went to bring it to life,” said David Tillapaugh, global auto show operations manager for Ford.
While the details may go over some attendees’ heads, Mr. Nichols thought it was a great peek into the engineering behind the truck.
“I wish I could work in the automotive industry, but it’s too stressful, too many hours,” he said. “But I love it.”
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at email@example.com or 419-724-6134.