This would have been my fourth Detroit Auto Show (or North American International Auto Show as some would like you to call it) for Cheers and Gears. But due to a leg injury sustained a couple of weeks before the show, I was unable to make it. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise as I would miss out on dealing with individuals who break out tape measures and clipboards to note every little detail, along with journalists complaining about why the show isn't held during a warmer month. But it would turn out this year’s show would be a bit disappointing.
That isn't to say there were not any breakouts. The new Kia Stinger GT looks very intriguing as the new Lexus LS. I'm interested in checking out the new Toyota Camry (bet you weren't expecting that). Volkswagen's I.D. Buzz concept could bring something new in terms of electric vehicles (if it ever gets built). Plus Ford's announcement that the Bronco and Ranger were coming was some excellent news. But everything else landed with a bit of a thud.
So how did we end up here? A lot of this comes down to the past few years at Detroit being very bountiful with vehicles that caused jaws to drop and excitement levels to rise. The likes of the Acura NSX, Buick Avista concept, Chevrolet Bolt, Ford GT, and Lexus LC made our souls stir and revel in this magical time. But sooner or later, the well was going to dry up and leave a show that was lacking in spark.
At first, I thought it was part of a cycle. You have your high points before falling back down and then rising back up. But the more I thought about it, this might be a sign that the auto show is beginning to fade.
The past few years have seen a number of automakers hold events off site before the kick-off of the show. Looking at the various social media feeds on Sunday, I was able to count seven different events. Holding something offsite give an automaker a way of controlling the message. It also gives a bit more time in the spotlight, not having to fight with other automakers for it during a packed press day.
There are also more outlets for automakers to show their wares. The week before the Detroit Auto Show was the Consumer Electronics Show. The past few years have seen more and more automakers take part in regards to electric vehicles and autonomous driving. It has also been home for a small number of debuts; Volkswagen Budd-e, Chrysler Portal concept, and Faraday Future.
The combination of these two, along with some manufacturers pulling out of Detroit over the past few years resulted in this year's show.
Does this mean the Detroit Auto Show is doomed? Not at the moment. This year, organizers took a page from the LA Auto Show by doing more in terms of talking about the future of the automotive industry and mobility with press conferences and talks from various industry folks from Sunday to Tuesday.
But the writing is beginning to appear on the wall. Down the road, it seems the auto show will not be the place where news is made. Instead, it will be the place where vehicles are gathered for all to look at.
Before that day comes, we might get a couple more high points.