As the temperatures dropped quickly outside Cobo Center, the excitement heated up inside on the show floor of the 16th annual North American International Auto Show. Over 6500 Journalists attended the press preview days from January 4-6, 2004, and none were disappointed with the busy schedule of concept and production model introductions over the three days.
Chrysler started things off with a breathtaking supercar prototype, a two-seater fuel efficient sports car, and a mobile rescue command center. The ME Four Twelve Prototype houses a mid-mounted, quad-turbo, twelve cylinder engine kicking out 850bhp, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Dodge Slingshot uses a three cylinder 90bhp engine resulting in 45mpg fuel efficiency. Jeep presented its previously released Treo Concept to the NAIAS press and the new Rescue Concept to compete with GM’s Hummer lineup.
General Motors presented their “think small” approach, using the newly developed Kappa Architecture as the basis for three introductions. The Pontiac Solstice was presented in its production ready form, as well as the Saturn Curve and Chevrolet Nomad concepts.
Ford completed the “Big Three” press conferences in Cobo Arena, with lots of muscle. First on the stage was the final production version of the GT. Ford promised the public a 200mph supercar for less than US$150,000 and they’re certainly delivered. Ford’s future flagship sedan, the Five Hundred followed, offering more interior and cargo space than its competitors, but is smaller than a current Crown Victoria. The premiered Freestyle fills Ford’s crossover segment with three rows of seating in a low-slung sport utility body. The long-awaited 5th generation Mustang rolled out to an applauding media audience with Bill Ford in the passenger seat. Its retro exterior styling has been widely accepted since its concept debut at last years NAIAS. The interior however is very modern, with many gauge and colour options for the consumer. Ford concluded their presentation with another throwback concept with the new Bronco Design Study, sporting lots of square edges and carved billet aluminum.
Sunday’s festivities continued with sport truck or sport utility debuts from Toyota, Infiniti, and Honda. Porsche presented a special edition Boxster celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 550 Spyder. Audi showcased their production version 6.0L W12 A8, while Subaru revealed their previously released B9SC and R1e concepts.
The first full day of press previews was capped off with two highly anticipated speed demons. Ford held a private dinner presentation to introduce “Project Daisy”. This was the name given to the top-secret prototype created in a remarkable six months with the involvement of racing legend Carroll Shelby. The Shelby Cobra Prototype utilizes a 605hp 6.4L V10 to propel it to 60mph in under 4 seconds. Chevrolet took the media out for an evening on the town at the Detroit Opera House for the introduction of the 6th generation Corvette. With its Gen4 LS2 V8 engine now displacing 6.0 litres, the C6 is the fastest production built Corvette to date, running it up to an estimated top speed of 180mph.
Worldwide or North American debuts on day 2 included the Aston Martin DB9 Volante convertible, a redesigned 2005 Jaguar S-Type sedan, the Volvo S40 sedan and V50 station wagon, Land Rover’s Range Stormer concept, and two from Mercedes-Benz including the McLaren SLR supercar and the hybrid engine powered Vision GST. Mitsubishi displayed a sport truck concept and the “exotic, affordable and fun” Eclipse Concept-E.
BMW debuted a 6 Series Convertible to compliment it’s recently re-released 6 Series lineup, while Ferrari held a first-ever North American exclusive premiere of the 612 Scaglietti, to commemorate their 50 years of sales in the United States. Nissan and Volkswagen presented some ultra modern concepts in the Actic and Concept T respectively while Toyota’s Scion brand brought their third model, the Tc. Lincoln’s production-ready Mark LT pickup was joined by the Mark X and Aviator concepts. A few more concepts rounded out the day from Hyundai, Suzuki, and Mazda.
Lexus began the day with a hybrid SUV and the new 245hp GS Sport Sedan followed by Kia’s debut of a 2+2 sports car concept, the KCV III. Chrysler had one final opportunity to arouse the press with three new convertibles. The PT Cruiser Convertible, Crossfire Convertible, and Jeep Wrangler Limited illustrated Chrysler’s intention to continue as “the American convertible company, from the top down”.
The worsening weather conditions and frequent terrorist alerts to the United States may have dampened some of the enthusiasm of this years Detroit Auto Show media attendees, but the automakers of the world united once again to do their best in presenting us with a spectacular selection of production models and concepts to look forward to this year and in the years to come.