DETROIT — Although the new Jeep Wrangler made its debut late last year in Los Angeles, the updated icon was having no trouble drawing big crowds in the Motor City.
“That’s what we’re here for,” said Willis McClure, who had driven up to the 2018 North American International Auto Show from Columbus. “I think the Jeep is the most interactive vehicle out there right now. It allows you to customize it once you buy it.”
The Toledo-made Wrangler was one of the stars of the year’s first major auto show, which reliably brings almost 1 million visitors to downtown Detroit every January. This year looks to be no different, with a huge crowd on hand for the show’s first public day on Saturday.
The Jeep Wrangler is surrounded at the North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center in Detroit.
There are people who like Jeeps. There are people who love Jeeps. Then there are people like Mr. McClure, who said he’d been to the first Toledo Jeep Fest and was eagerly awaiting this summer’s follow-up event. For him, Wranglers belong in the mud or the snow, not parked outside Dillard’s.
Like some other hardcore Jeepers, he was worried the Wrangler might get too soft in its redesign, but he was happy with what he had seen and read so far about the new Wrangler.
“I was kinda hoping they’d take away some things. Leather seats? Nobody wants leather seats in a Jeep,” he said. “But I like the addition to the lights, I think that’s pretty cool. A lot of the modifications that were out for us to change over are starting to show up as options on the Jeep, which is really good.”
While the week-long show gives the public a chance to see the industry’s newest models and latest technologies, it’s also a place where those who work in the industry can see the fruits of their labor.
Nic Oen, an engineer at Dana Inc., was checking out some of the driveline parts the Maumee-based company supplies to Ford for its pickups, including the F-250, F-350, and the new Ranger, which Ford showed for the first time just last week.
That truck, which was announced at last year’s show, will put Ford back into the mix with a mid-size pickup for the first time in almost a decade. Although the company hasn’t said when the truck will go on sale, or provided figures on pricing or power, Ford has said the Ranger has a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Ford also announced that Dana is supplying both front and rear axles for the truck, including an optional locker on the rear axle to help the truck off-road. A spokesman for Dana confirmed to The Blade last week that those parts will be made at the company’s recently opened factory in Toledo. That factory is already building axles for the new Wrangler.
Checking out the Jeep was also high on Mr. Oen’s list.
Commerce Township, Mich. resident Cameron Globish, 3, admires a Jeep Wrangler at the North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center in Detroit.
“It looks pretty nice. That’s a good car and it’s nice that it stayed in Toledo, too,” he said. “That helps out the city a lot. It’s got a lot of history in Toledo, Ohio, and Michigan. I’m excited to see that.”
Derek Messer, a junior engineering student at the University of Toledo, is also looking at a career in the automotive industry. After getting a co-op with a parts supplier, he checked out the Detroit Auto Show for the first time last year.
He was back on Saturday, where he said he noticed a big push in driverless technologies.
“There’s a drastic increase in the autonomous stuff,” he said. “I’d say it’s definitely trustworthy as long as we move toward everyone having it. Because it’s only trustworthy if there’s human factors and human drivers on the road with them.”
In addition to the Wrangler, some of the show’s other big hits were the new 755-horsepower Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, new full-size trucks from Chevrolet and Ram, the sleek Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept car, and Ford’s revival of a special edition Mustang in honor of the star car from the 1968 movie “Bullitt.”
For that car, Ford actually managed to put on display the original movie car, a vehicle that hasn’t been publicly displayed in decades.
“Just to see something unrestored, I’m even more appreciative. Somebody had it, somebody took care of it. It’s not pristine, but it’s amazing,” said Todd Roman, who lives in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Mr. Roman, who grew up in the original era of muscle cars, is excited to see how far those models have come back.
“I ordered a new car in ‘79. Horsepower was what, 185, on a Z-28 Camaro,” he said. “A car with 400 horse is low horsepower now. We never thought that would come back to what it is today.”
In the case of the Mustang, the regular V-8 GT makes 460 horsepower, while Ford is promising the Bullitt will make at least 475.
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