Trucks, crossovers and sport-utility vehicles will get top billing when the world’s automakers convene at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week.
While some notable sedans will debut – like the next version of Toyota Motor Corp.’s top-selling Camry – the emphasis will be on taller and larger vehicles.
Buyers are gravitating to larger vehicles because gas prices are low, autos are getting better fuel efficiency and technology is making them easier to drive. Pickups, SUVs and crossovers outsold passenger cars in 2016 by more than 3.3 million vehicles and now account for six of every 10 new vehicle sales in the U.S.
“Larger vehicles will benefit from the democratization of high-ticket safety features,” said Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights for auto price forecasting firm ALG. “Costs will decrease as technology improves. Safety features like Blind Spot Monitoring and Around View Monitor will continue to gain exposure and make consumers feel more confident to drive larger vehicles.”
Shoppers are eschewing smaller vehicles. Sales of Toyota’s Prius, for example, plunged 26 percent in 2016 to 136,629 vehicles even though the automaker was offering a completely redesigned Prius.
General Motor’s Chevrolet brand will launch the show early Monday morning by unveiling its new 2018 Traverse crossover. The redesigned SUV promises segment-leading third-row legroom and maximum cargo space. It completes the brand’s crossover and SUV lineup, which includes recently introduced smaller vehicles – the 2017 Bolt EV and Trax and the 2018 Equinox.
GMC has been cryptic about its introduction, but the rumor mill is swirling. The brand may reveal its Terrain SUV, which shares architecture and powertrains with the Chevrolet Equinox, another 2018 model debut for GM. In addition to an alleged sleeker look, the SUV may also feature a smaller body.
Ford Motor Co., whose F-Series was the number-one selling pickup for the 40th consecutive year in 2016, will take the stage in the famed Joe Louis Arena, but has not provided details on what the company plans to reveal. Earlier this week, the 2018 F-Series was caught on camera perusing the streets of Detroit, but event-goers could be in for something completely different.
If the 2018 F-Series does reveal itself before the show, Ford will likely use the opportunity to show off an updated Expedition or hint at its next generation Explorer.
Rounding out the Big Three, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will introduce its Ram truck 1500 Rebel Black special edition pickup. The truck’s new dark features are meant to add additional intensity to the already aggressive Rebel, which has created a fan-favorite niche among its full-size off-road competitors. The Rebel Black will also be the first in its family to offer wheels, brush guards and an Katzkin leather interior – all in black.
The Volkswagen Group debut is highly anticipated as the teaser photos of the concept released in late-December had an uncanny resemblance to its iconic Microbus. This “multifunctional vehicle for a new era” will be another member of the I.D. family, which was introduced at the Paris Motor Show and promises a completely new fleet of electric vehicles.
Volkswagen is also aligned with this year’s technology theme in Detroit. The I.D. concept vehicle will be able to drive fully autonomously in the future, perhaps by 2025. The steering wheel retracts into the dashboard to relieve the driver while advanced safety technology features like laser ultrasonic and radar sensors and cameras monitor the road.
Volkswagen’s itinerary also includes showing off a variant of its 2018 Atlas, which the automaker introduced this past fall in Santa Monica. The 2018 Atlas’ R-Line package will add design enhancements and performance-inspired upgrades to its SE and SEL trims. The largest and latest SUV offered by VW is the company’s answer to U.S. consumers’ changing tastes.
Nissan Group has been covert about its Detroit plans, but the company is on the schedule and reports indicate that a crossover is on the docket.
Additionally, Nissan’s Infiniti brand said it will reveal the QX50 concept, the automaker’s vision for its next-generation mid-size premium SUV. Keeping with the brand’s “powerful elegance” design language, the cabin-forward silhouette, muscular lines and flowing surfaces convey a dynamic and practical SUV.
The QX50 concept also will preview the roll out of the brand’s autonomous drive support technologies. Central to the strategy is the belief that the driver should remain in control at all times therefore acting as a co-pilot for the driver instead of a complete replacement.
The Audi Q8 concept, another luxury SUV scheduled to make an appearance, will be the brand’s biggest entry into the SUV market. Audi Group claims this debut will inspire the design language for other models in its Q lineup. The concept vehicle emphasis interior space and comfort despite a flatter roof line.
Honda Motor Corp.’s all-new 2018 Odyssey minivan will make its global debut with a complete redesign that includes new powertrain technology, sophisticated styling and a host of innovative family features.
One other Japanese vehicle worth mentioning again is the Toyota Camry, which has been the top-selling sedan in the U.S. for 15 years in a row. Toyota will use the Detroit spotlight to unveil its all-new Camry model.
However, marketplace shifts mean that Toyota’s RAV-4 small SUV might steal the spotlight from the Camry in 2017. Last year, RAV-4 sales of 352,154 were right on the heels of the Camry, which hit 388,618. The RAV-4 is poised to overtake the sedan.