Whether you make the Houston Show or not, 2014 is a good year to visit an auto show. Not only is it a way to check out all the new cars and trucks currently available, it’s your opportunity to check out some potential game-changers coming out this year.
One must-see for any car fan is the new Corvette Stingray, the 2014 North American Car of the Year. It’s not really a game changer but it is the latest generation of a tradition stretching back six decades. The sleek blue coupe on display in Houston is a far cry from the small white roadster with its six-cylinder engine that took its first bows in 1953.
Chevrolet sold 17,291 Corvettes in 2013, 22.4% more than in 2012. Over the years, the ‘Vette has become an American icon: quite a change from the early days when Chevy almost axed the car because it kept getting throughly trounced by the Ford Thunderbird.
Another American icon with a major makeover is the Mustang, which celebrates its 50th birthday in April. The styling that melds traditional Mustang cues with the current Ford design language derived from the 2011 Ford Evos concept is striking and modern. One major change for the new Mustang is the independent rear suspension that hasn’t been standard on Ford’s pony car since the Falcon-based original took the stage at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. There’s also a new EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that begs the question of why Ford thinks Mustang buyers would want it.
Ford was also showing the next-generation F-150 pickup, one of the real game-changers coming this year. It’s a good-looking truck with several innovative features including an aluminum alloy body that lightens the truck, increases fuel economy and improves handling by lowering the center of gravity. However, the fact that pickup owners tend to be more conservative in their buying habits means the new aluminum alloy body could have a major impact on early sales. It also means that businesses that use magnetic vehicle signage are going to have to make other arrangements. See more about the new F-150 here.
Chrysler had two big shows: the first was the national reveal of the new “Altitude” models from Jeep. Allpar has a really good write-up on the Altitudes, so we’re not going to reinvent the wheel.
Chrysler Group’s second introduction and the real news was the 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan. The new mid-size sedan has shed the last vestiges of the DaimlerChrysler/Cerberus era to become a very good-looking, sleek automobile that’s impressive inside and out. This one is a must-see at any auto show as it could well be Chrysler’s best mid-size car in years and should give the company a bigger slice of the retail family car pie. The 200 is one of the industry’s game-changers for 2014 as it looks to be a serious contender in a very competitive segment.
GMC was showing off the new Canyon and Colorado pickups. While a lot of industry watchers have questioned GM’s decision to stay in what is seen as a sement that is stagnant at best, the company sees potential. The goal is not just to capture sales from the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma but to regain buyers lost to full-size pickups and to other vehicle types. To that end, GM is not only going to make a clear differentiation between the new junior pickups and the new full-size line, it is going to offer a wide array of vocational and sporting cargo management accessories designed specifically for the Canyon and Colorado. Though the Colorado kitted out as a lifeguard truck was a bit much, the Canyon is a good-looking truck: if GM can deliver on its promises of class-leading capability, the compact pickup segment could have a new lease on life.
Toyota was touting the new Highlander SUV but the new Corolla is worth a close look; we had a chance to experience one recently and it’s a sweet package.
Volkswagen had the next-generation GTI on the stand; it’s the first version of the seventh-generation Golf that will go on sale in the U.S.and the new 1.8-liter turbo four is a worthy successor to the previous two-liter engine.
After three years of double-digit growth, 2013 saw sales gains slow significantly. Manufacturers want to hit the 16-million-unit mark in 2014 so there’s going to be some serious pushing to move the metal. This could be a good year to get a good deal and a visit to an auto show is a great way to do the things you can’t do on the Internet, such as getting up close to the actual vehicle and trying it on for size with a few minutes of seat time. And if you just want to window shop and dream, that’s okay, too. I’ve been a car nut for more than sixty years and rose-tinted nostalgia notwithstanding, the cars and trucks coming out this year are worth dreaming about.