NAIAS 2012: early thoughts

15 01 2012

During the several hours I spent at the Detroit auto show, I can’t recall a specific moment where my jaw dropped. None of the concepts blew me away, though the rear wheel drive Chevy Code 130R was intriguing. And though the show has bounced back in a remarkable way, I fear that the days of the glorious Jeep waterfall are over.

Instead, I was quietly impressed by the solid lineups shown by hometown players and their foreign competitors alike. From Ford to BMW to Kia to Chrysler, consumers in the market for a new vehicle have no shortage of great choices.

Photo Credit Graham Kozak


The range of small, efficient vehicles on display was perhaps the show’s most pleasant surprise.

I’m not talking about the overpriced hybrids or battery-powered scooters so popular with politicians and automaker PR departments: I mean the growing fleet of $20,000 compacts now on the market.

This is not to knock Detroit’s musclecar revival or the trucks and SUVs so popular with the public; their surging sales figures speak for themselves.

My practical soon-to-be-graduate side was drawn to the show’s Focuses (Focii?), Fiestas, and Darts. Kia and Hyundai have continued their recent tradition of building affordable vehicles that still possess a hint of character. And I’m not ashamed to say that I’d love to give the Fiat 500 a test drive, especially the hot Abarth version set to hit dealerships this year.

This new of state heightened small-car awareness is more attributable to automakers’ ingenuity and innovation than it is to any personal change of heart; I’m not going to ditch my trusty Wagoneer for an econobox just yet. But we can all appreciate the value and choice presented by 2012’s line of smaller vehicles – vehicles worth a second look without taxpayer subsidies or gasoline pushing $5/gallon.




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