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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Design: Motor City Malaise -- Detroit Auto Show Disappoints

Perhaps it's a sign of the dire straights that America's home-grown auto manufacturers once-again find themselves in but this years Detroit Auto Show seemed bereft of interesting designs or game changing products.

Most depressing of all is how Chrysler -- once an industry design leader -- has completely lost the plot. It's three concepts showed a design team adrift. GM and Ford fared better though neither was visionary or mind blowing.
Dodge Zeo was one of a trio of muddled Chrysler concepts...

Here were the highlights:

I haven't been a fan of Hummer's design language which I've generally found to be contrived but shrinking it down to Jeep Wrangler size and sweating the details has produced this cool, rugged concept HX. A version of this is likely to see production. This concept also played into one of the overriding show themes -- scrambling to meet upcoming Corporate Average Fuel Economy while still providing the SUV like vehicles the North American market craves.

GM had another winner with the Cadillac CTS Coupe concept, a version of which is tipped to go into production within the next two years. The radically sloped sail panels and rear quarter windows give this coupe a profile that is almost hatchback-like...unusual for a market that is not hatchback friendly and is especially hostile to them in a premium car. The look works though, and the blending of the taillight forms into the side profile and roofline are quite pleasing. I expect a less-radical roofline when production commences.

My runner-up for best in show would be Land Rover's LRX concept.
This is another take on the small SUV idea. The purity of it's wedge-shaped theme and the skillful details and balanced forms set this apart from most of the other vehicles at Cobo Hall.