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Published: Sunday, 1/12/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Motor City welcomes back sizzle to North American International Auto Show

Concept cars return sense of excitement

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
At last year’s show, 795,416 people saw this Volkswagen display, the most since 2004. The days of industrywide worries are over for this year’s edition as organizers prepare for at least 50 vehicles to make their worldwide debut when the show opens Saturday. At last year’s show, 795,416 people saw this Volkswagen display, the most since 2004. The days of industrywide worries are over for this year’s edition as organizers prepare for at least 50 vehicles to make their worldwide debut when the show opens Saturday.
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DETROIT — Asked what he was expecting out of this year’s North American International Auto Show, one industry insider had a simple answer: Excitement.

A Hyundai Genesis banner is displayed outside Cobo Center, home of the North American International Auto Show, in downtown Detroit. More than 500 vehicles are expected to be on display. A Hyundai Genesis banner is displayed outside Cobo Center, home of the North American International Auto Show, in downtown Detroit. More than 500 vehicles are expected to be on display.
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Yes, that sounds like a cop-out. But it’s not.

“We are back to an exciting Detroit auto show,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “A couple years ago we were concerned about having any Detroit auto show.”

Slowly but surely, the emotion has returned to Detroit. Concept vehicles are back. A slew of important cars will make their worldwide debut in Detroit.

It also helps that the domestic manufacturers are showing life and imagination that hasn’t been seen in some time. Four of the six vehicles up for North American Car and Truck of the Year are from the Detroit Three — including the Toledo-built Jeep Cherokee. That’s after U.S. companies swept the two awards last year.

Mr. Brauer said the show’s 2014 edition is going to be like the glory days of old.

“It’s going to essentially remind everybody and re-establish Detroit is still an extremely important show and an extremely important city.”

In short, it seems as if the worries and restraint are gone. As with other top auto shows around the world, automakers are bringing what Mr. Brauer calls fun — and somewhat frivolous — vehicles.

“You don’t produce those when you are worried about your bills,” Mr. Brauer said. “You produce those when you have some spare cash and some spare confidence.”

Show organizers anticipate at least 50 vehicles will make their worldwide debut at the show, from sports cars to pickups.

Several other vehicles will be shown for the first time in North America.

“We’re always surprised, so we never have a full count until the press conferences are held, but we’re anticipating between 50 and 55 new vehicle launches,” said Joe Rohatynski, a spokesman for the show.

The show, held in the Cobo Center downtown, starts with a two-day media preview on Monday and Tuesday. The show opens to the public Saturday and runs through Jan. 26.

Officials said 795,416 people attended the show last year, the most since 2004.

This year, 17 manufacturers are scheduled to exhibit 35 separate brands. More than 500 vehicles are expected to be on display.

“It’s what we’ve been working toward since last January,” show chairman Bob Shuman said in a statement. “The manufacturers continue to show their confidence in the NAIAS and will once again bring their absolute best to Detroit’s world stage. The show is going to rock.”

Some of the most anticipated models include the super-fast Z06 version of the new Chevrolet Corvette, the M4 coupe and M3 sports sedan from BMW AG, and the coupe version of Cadillac’s ATS — last year’s North American Car of the Year. Porsche will show a new 911 Targa.

Ford Motor Co. is expected to show the redesigned 2015 F-150. America’s best-selling truck for nearly four decades running, the F-series is also Ford’s best-selling model by a wide margin.

The highly anticipated truck is likely to take some cues from the cool Atlas concept truck Ford showed last year in Detroit. How many cues remain to be seen, but the next F-150 will be shedding weight as Ford looks to improve its fuel mileage.

General Motors Co. will debut its new Canyon midsize pickup.

The big show news out of Chrysler Group LLC is expected to be the first look at the new Chrysler 200 sedan. It may not be the most exciting vehicle, but it’s important for the company, which needs a strong entrant in the high-volume midsize four-door sedan segment.

While the Chrysler 200 has been one of the top-selling models in metro Toledo, it hasn’t done as well nationally. Chrysler sold 122,480 of the model last year. That compares with sales of almost 300,000 from the Ford Fusion and nearly 367,000 for the Accord from Honda Motor Co. Ltd., two of the top competitors in the segment, which is the largest in the United States.

Analysts say Chrysler needs to do a better job of designing a car with a standout feature that allows it to compete from coast to coast, not just in the Midwest.

Several new concept cars also will be shown. Kia Motors Corp. is teasing its GT4 Stinger concept, a small sports car fitted with a 315-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Corp. Ltd., and Audi AG will also debut new concepts. Volkswagen Group is expected to have at least one, maybe more.

“I think that’s really a sign of recovery,” Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said. “In the lean years, car companies are not making so many concepts. They tend to be expensive and almost a luxury item for the auto show.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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