Here’s A Sneak Peak At The 2018 Detroit Auto Show Debuts

These off-site events are tempting for manufacturers because it allows them to control and stage-manage everything, including the journalists, whom they bus away from the convention center or hotels and stuff full of hors d'oeuvres and open-bar cocktails at the off-site event—the location of which, conveniently, makes it harder for them to wander elsewhere to cover news from other automakers. But when automakers give the cold shoulder to their own show, you know the game is up. If I’m running the Detroit show, or in charge of Cobo Center, I’d be furious at automakers who think they’re too cool to attend the house party. I’d threaten to hand their valuable show-floor space—which for years found automakers jockeying for the prime real estate—to another competitor, since they’re obviously not interested in using it.

Like traditional television networks that have been roiled by the rise of HBO, Netflix, and YouTube, Detroit’s energy has likewise been diffused by competition and media fragmentation. Detroit has always tussled with December’s Los Angeles show to be the preeminent industry event in North America. But automakers are now spurning Detroit to show cars, including some of their most innovative, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, whose focus on tech gadgetry brings the attention of Silicon Valley and millennial media that fusty automakers crave. By the time automakers show their wares in Frankfurt or Paris in the fall, Los Angeles in December, and now CES, there’s not much left over for Detroit.

The enervated state of Detroit also shows an industry at a crossroads, talking that big game on EVs and autonomy even as it doubles down on trucks. Honda showed its new, Civic-based Insight hybrid, which promises better than 50 highway mpg, and that’s fine. But game-changing innovation was nowhere to be found, unless you’re all that excited about a mild hybrid system on the 2019 Ram pickup, or its enlarged 12-inch touchscreen. (Jalopnik called it “an insane 12-inch touchscreen,” so apparently they are quite excited.) Honestly, in terms of design and market significance, the Ram was indeed among the show stars. Between the Ram and Silverado, these half-ton battlers will surely find more than one million buyers in 2018 alone, accounting for roughly one of every 16 vehicles sold in America. So, yes, that's big business. People were buzzing about the Ram's muscular, Dwayne Johnson body and lavish interior, far more than for Chevy’s more-subdued Silverado, even if the Chevy brings more substantial weight savings (up to 450 pounds) and clever engineering of its own. Damn, that Ram looks kickass. And in Fiat Chrysler fashion, it helps to have a great ad

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