NAIAS 2017: Why Does Detroit’s Annual Auto Show Appear Lean This Year? – Forbes

Posted: Monday, January 09, 2017
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Image courtesy of Volkswagen of America

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz
Image courtesy of Volkswagen of America

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) kicks off this week in Detroit, Michigan, with key introductions due from Toyota, Chevrolet, Nissan, Honda and Volkswagen. While there are always surprises once the show kicks off, only a handful of concept cars may find their way to the stage this year. Two of them will be crossovers from Audi and Infiniti. Against the backdrop of increasing utility vehicle sales, important car introductions will include the Toyota Camry, BMW 5-Series and Lexus LS.  Kia is revealing a new mid-size car that it believes will firmly put it on the map with a premium entry. Overall, the mood is that this will be a quiet show. While some are looking for a storm on this horizon, the pace of introductions has more to do with industry cyclicality and product cadence.

According to IHS Markit data, there were about 65 new or refreshed products launched in 2016, which meant last year was a very strong year for new car reveals as well. Looking back over the past decade, roughly about 50 updated or all-new cars and trucks join the U.S. market. With an unusually strong pace in 2016, automakers had more news last year. In 2015, too, when the Ford GT and Acura NSX took everyone’s breath away, the industry was also looking to prove to itself that it survived the recession and would go on. In 2017, IHS Markit forecasts new-product launches will drop to about 50 and for about 55 in 2018. These factors, along with the fact that automakers have a much wider variety of platforms available for introducing new cars, are likely to make for a slower auto show circuit throughout the year. Against this backdrop, I take a brief look at the significance of a few of the introductions.

The Toyota Camry is the most significant all-new product introductions from a volume perspective; the sedan closed out 2016 again taking the title of best-selling passenger car in the US, according to Toyota. Though the mid-size car segment is under significant pressure from improved compact cars and CUVs, Toyota reports that 388,618 people bought Camrys in 2016, or about 18 percent of all Toyotas sold in the US in 2016–fewer than in 2015, but a substantial number nonetheless. According to IHS Markit registration data, through October 2016, 30.6 percent of vehicles registered in the U.S. were sedans. This figure has declined from about 36% from January to October 2013, but it would be a mistake for automakers with successful sedan formulas to step out the market segment. The Camry is among the most important family sedans in the country, and is a pillar of Toyota’s DNA of offering family-friendly, high-value products.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport Image courtesy of Nissan North America

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport
Image courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan adds to its utility vehicle range with the Rogue Sport. The Rogue Sport is a five-passenger, two-row vehicle, where the Rogue is a three-row offering. Nissan’s decision to introduce the Rogue Sport was encouraged by the positive response when Nissan retained the prior-generation, two-row Rogue alongside the new three-row version during launch of the current generation. While that situation was not meant to last, the performance of the Rogue Select helped convince Nissan there is demand for a vehicle in that size. Having one on hand made the question of whether to enter the space somewhat easier, though there are differences between the international market version and the U.S. car, including an independent rear suspension for the U.S. Rogue Sport. Nissan says the Rogue Sport will aim for singles or couples, trading on a fun-to-drive personality and emotional appeal with usable space.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse Image courtesy of General Motors

2018 Chevrolet Traverse
Image courtesy of General Motors

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