The 2018 North American International Auto Show’s press days are behind us, and the show can be summed up in one word: Trucks. Well, maybe two words: Trucks and SUVs. We saw the new Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150 diesel, BMW X2, Ford Ranger, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen and Jeep Cherokee. That’s just the production stuff. Indeed, the U.K.’s Car Magazine said Detroit could become “a very interesting commercial-vehicle show.” Don’t know if I’d go that far, but I see where they’re coming from.
Yes, pickup trucks are still where the sales are and thus the profits, and sales are supposed to go up yet again this year if you believe the analyst types. The good news for Ford, GM and FCA is the new entries look good. I loved the new Ram’s styling and was especially impressed with the interior –- it embarrasses more than a few luxury cars. The Silverado’s big news is it adopts the complex mixed-material construction system launched a couple years ago underneath Cadillac’s CT6. Chevy said the new beast is 450 pounds lighter even though it’s a bit bigger. Another cool Silverado trick is its new fuel cutoff system, firing on only the cylinders needed, so a V8 could potentially run on just two cylinders at a steady speed.
As for the Ranger, no doubt Ford has been watching the midsize truck class come on strong in just the last four or so years and thought “we better get in on that.” With a Ranger in some form on sale everywhere except here anyway, this was an easy launch.
How much longer can trucks continue to rule? Bets are being hedged for sure: Autonomous cars and EVs were a red-hot topic, too. Automakers fell all over themselves telling us about our glorious, non-driving electric future. The message? If a car company doesn’t already have EV and autonomous strategies in place, it will in the next 11 minutes or so. We media types were inundated with announcements about hardware, software and new investments.
Ford, for example, said it is doubling its EV investment to $11 billion, adding it is planning 24 plug-in hybrids and 16 full EVs in just four years. GM said it is going to spend around $1 billion on autonomy — not long term, this year. And let’s not forget late last year FCA said it is teaming with BMW and Intel to develop its own, turnkey autonomous driving system.
Just you watch: Next year someone is going to show an electric pickup that drives itself, can adjust your home’s thermostat before you get there and has dinner waiting on the dining room table.