Gavin Green's Detroit auto show 2008 blog
24 January 2008 09:59
The Detroit show is usually a loud car carnival of chutzpah, chrome and courageous concepts. This year it was apologetic (‘we’ve been destroying the planet but now we’re doing something about it’) eco-fest of hybrids, hydrogen and new-gen battery cars. The green, clean world starts tomorrow though. For now, the production vehicles were mostly the same old blend of gas-guzzling giant pick-ups, SUVs and XXL-sized sedans. The only thing missing was the self-confidence. Motown was in a curiously meek mood this year.
The big winner was General Motors (hit!). Two years ago the company was woebegone and then Nissan looked odds-on to take control. Now GM has (almost) regained its old swagger. The latest Corvette ZR-1 is a perfect Yank muscle car – brash meets brawn – while the new CTS-V and CTS coupe Cadillacs show a distinctive and confident style direction. Even Saab, neutered under GM’s heavy hand, seems to have regained some its Swedish eccentricity. Its new 9-4X has a real quirky Scandinavian logic, never mind it will be built in Mexico.
Chrysler (miss!) used to dominate the Detroit Show with the same predictability that Federer wins Wimbledon. This year its concepts were anonymously bland or downright daft (the ecoVoyager). Ford (miss!) also had little of note. Like Chrysler, its car stand resembled a used-car lot more than a showcase into a brave new world. Only the four-door version of the little Fiesta-replacing Verve (hit!) lifted the gloom. And that was designed in Europe, where we all know Ford makes great cars. (So why can’t they do it in America too?)
BMW’s crazy X6 (miss!) – big, bulky, cramped and ugly – was the latest example of BMW’s style flailing from the fabulous (the CS Concept, 5-series) to the atrocious (X3, 1-series, now X6). But the other Germans didn’t do much better. Mercedes-Benz’s design also bounces around from brilliant to abysmal and the new small GLK 4x4 (miss!) looked like an ugly flat-sided Jeep. The only good news is that it’s not coming to the UK. Maybach (miss!) reached a new low in vulgarity (and that’s saying something for Maybach and for Detroit) with its hideous all-white open-roof 62 Laundalet. Volkswagen showed its Passat CC (miss!). It’s an additional Passat model with all new bodywork, same footprint, much the same style but only four seats. Its wanton illogic is proof that Dr Piech is back in charge of Volkswagen.
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