Detroit show pulls tens of thousands into automotive heartland – Toledo Blade

Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2016


Thrill of U.S.-made, snazzy new vehicles makes event sizzle

DETROIT — Chuck Felker and his two teenage sons hovered around a glistening olive green Jeep Wrangler, chatting up others who appeared similarly taken by the ride.

“We just love them,” Mr. Felker said. “They’re a great family vehicle because you can do so much out-of-the-ordinary stuff.”

The Felkers are Jeep people through and through — they plan their family vacations around climbing sand dunes, crawling over rocks, and scrambling through the mud — so it made sense that they’d head straight for the Jeep display at the North American International Auto Show, which opened Saturday.

And while they hail from a little town north of Detroit along Lake St. Clair, they couldn’t be happier to hear that Fiat Chrysler plans to keep Wrangler in Toledo.

Maumee native Patrick Nowak and his son Josiah, 8, look at a Ford Fusion V-6 engine.

Maumee native Patrick Nowak and his son Josiah, 8, look at a Ford Fusion V-6 engine.


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“I’m so excited about that. That and them keeping the solid axle, I’m just beyond happy,” Mr. Felker said. “My grandparents and parents all grew up working for the Big Three, so we’re very American-made proud. It’s just nice knowing we still have some great products made here in America.”

Though the auto industry is less centralized than it once was in America, Detroit remains its heart. 

At no time is that more evident than in mid-January when companies and visitors flock from all over the world to check out the North American International Auto Show.

This year, nearly 60 vehicles were unveiled in Detroit, ranging from crowd-pleasing concepts from Buick and Acura, to new minivans and family sedans, to performance cars pushing into the six-figure stratosphere. Organizers expect the nine-day public portion of the show to draw more than 800,000 people, and if the massive crowd on Saturday was any indication, they shouldn’t have much trouble.

IN PICTURES: North American International Auto Show

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Many people come back year after year, through there are always some first-timers.

Patrick Nowak came from his home in Wisconsin to visit his parents in Maumee and bring his 8-year-old son to the auto show.

“I’ve never been and neither has he. So far it’s been fun,” Mr. Nowak said.

Young Nowak was happy to say he loves cars and that he was hoping to spy a few robots too.

The auto show in Detroit is a popular event, with organizers expecting the event to draw more than 800,000 visitors.

The auto show in Detroit is a popular event, with organizers expecting the event to draw more than 800,000 visitors.


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Mr. Nowak? He was just happy to see his son so excited.

Though performance cars and concepts always draw full crowds, one of the busiest areas on Saturday was Ford’s sprawling booth. Many companies are trying to include more hands-on experiences, and Ford is at the forefront. The company has a number of simulators, including one in which visitors experience an interactive simulation of the bumps and bruises the company put its new 2017 Super Duty trucks through.

The Ford display was on the schedule twice Saturday for Chris Solly II, a junior electrical engineering student at the University of Toledo. He and his dad are both big fans of the Mustang, he said.

Last year they went to Chicago for a chance to drive Ford’s new turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang.

“They’re really fun to drive. There’s a lot of power, more than you’d expect,” Mr. Solly said. “They encourage you to push all the cars to their limits; just go as fast as you can while still being safe. It’s a lot of fun.”

Like the Sollys, Toledoans Brian Robinson and his 16-year-old son Colin Robinson said they come every year.

“I just love to see what they’re doing in the auto industry and the concepts they’re bringing out. I’m glad to see there’s performance and horsepower coming back to cars, to be quite honest,” Mr. Robinson said.

The two were checking out a sleek convertible made by BMW, a brand that’s never been accused of being boring. Finally other companies are following that pattern, he said.

“Cars are not just vanilla anymore. They’re putting excitement back into them. It makes you wonder why they’re even trying to make a self-driving car,” Mr. Robinson said. “The point of an automobile is to be engaged with it and enjoy the experience, not just to get from Point A to Point B. I can call Uber for that.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @BladeAutoWriter.


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