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We had the auto show mostly to ourselves

cover of First Monday featuring a photo of the Ford GT

There wasn’t a lot of traffic outside Cobo Hall on the first day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. My brother in law Todd Wright chalked that up to two things … autonomous vehicles and Donald Trump.

In my brother in law’s view, autonomous vehicles were designed by eggheads in California’s Silicon Valley and are for people who use Uber, can’t drive themselves and spend their lives on computers and iPhones.

And then there is Donald Trump, the now president of the second greatest country in the world, behind Canada that is.

Mr. Wright is a Donald Trump American who believes the president scared the hell out of car show goers with his rhetoric about ripping up the North American Free Trade Agreement and slapping a huge border tax on cars coming into the United States. His 140 character tweets created turmoil at a time when automakers just wanted to show off new cars, new trucks and new SUVs.

And so, there we were almost by ourselves as we parked on the fifth floor of the parking garage across from Cobo.

Todd Wright came to see cars, but mostly trucks and he had Cobo Hall mostly to himself. You see my brother in law is a typical American male.

He is in his mid 40s, lives in a comfortable area of Davison, Michigan, has a wife, two offspring, a boy and a girl and owns a motorcycle, a Jeep and a truck that will pass anything but a gas station.

He teaches auto and diesel mechanics and can fix anything that runs on hydrocarbon.

Todd Wright hasn’t the time, the patience or the inclination to wait for an electric vehicle to charge. Besides, he suffers from battery anxiety.

And so we spent a great deal of time hovering around the Ford F150 display with its aluminum body clinging to the slide of a pile of rocks. There was also the all new GT sports car that looks fast even when it is stopped and an assortment of Jeeps and Dodge Ram pick ups that were in a variety of precarious positions to show their strength and agility.

General Motors offered its Silverado pick up. It’s all steel and so far the largest vehicle manufacturer in North America has avoided the switch to aluminum. It continues to advertise the toughness of steel.

This year’s auto show could be divided into categories. Big and bold as in trucks, SUVs and all wheeled drives, sporty as in cars and concept cars with big engines and lots of speed, luxury vehicles like the Lincoln and Lincoln Navigator concept SUV and the Cadillac CT6 Escala concept sedan and electric and autonomous vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt that can travel 375 kilometres on an eight hour charge.

Telsa wasn’t in attendance but most companies offered some form of either hybrid  (gasoline and electric) or electric vehicles. BMW unveiled a new 5 series along with an assortment of impressive electric charge that offered more distance than in previous years.

Toyota Camry, which describes itself as the best selling car in America was nearby Honda Civic, which describes itself as the best selling car in Canada. Both had a substantial presence.

Lexus, the upscale side of Totota showed off a new concept SUV with swing out doors, 21-inch wheels, and dual exhausts and looked like it could conquer any terrain at any time.

Hyundai used the occasion to show off its 2018 Genesis G80 with a V8 engine and all wheeled drive. The new vehicle to be priced just north of $70,000.00 is aimed at the BMW 750i. It has advanced technology, an upscale appearance and a substantially lower price.

Hyundai plans to establish Genesis dealerships across North America.

All wheeled drive was a continuous theme as manufacturers offered safety and electronic intelligence. The Volvo V90 and the latest Subaru have lane departure, auto stop and the ultimate in Bluetooth phone and monitoring controls.

Which brings me to this.

At the show Ford showed off a 2017 P 51 Mustang by Roush Performance but announced that it was coming out with an all-electric Mustang within the next three years. It was a head scratcher for many in attendance.

The Roush Mustang featured 727 horsepower with a manual transmission. And it is now in its sixth – generation.

A few sidebars included Volkswagen and its diesel engine problem. The German car company featured massive amounts of technology linked to gasoline engines with mileage similar to diesels. But there weren’t any diesels. As an amusement, Volkswagen offered a concept Vanagon bus based on the iconic vehicle of the 1980s.

The three – wheeled Elio with five speed manual transmission was featured just outside the entrance to the main hall. My brother in law insists it would be a great vehicle for my wife Lisa, his sister in law to drive around Sarnia. “It would look cute at Sunripe” he insists.

Lisa isn’t buying it.

That being the case he moved on to the model at the Alfa Romeo display. He insisted we get a photo just to show there were models at the auto show.

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