5 Things We’ve Learned From the Detroit Auto Show

by Dan Seitz

Just recently, Detroit wrapped up its big auto display of muscle cars, concept cars, and future designs that will never quite make it to market. And we learned a lot: where cars are going, what cars will be sold in the future, and, most importantly, that automakers kind of want to kill you.

#1) The Future of Car Controls is Extremely Dangerous

As Jalopnik pointed out, auto makers are extremely excited to give you a slick, futuristic dashboard that consists entirely of touch screens. As they also pointed out, this is an incredibly bad idea because switches, knobs, and buttons have distinctive shapes that let you fiddle with controls without taking your eyes off the road, whereas touch screens require your eyes, and they don’t look quite as good when you rear-end somebody while fiddling with the radio. We’ve got to agree with Jalopnik here (and we’re sure the auto insurance companies agree with us, too): the technology is neat, but just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.

#2) Ford May As Well Give Up And Bring Back the Ranger

When the second biggest story to come out of the Detroit Auto Show is that your executives got called out repeatedly for bumping off a model of pick-up in the US, while still selling it in the rest of the world…well, Ford had better be thankful the 2013 Fusion was such a hit with journalists. Speaking of which…

#3) Everybody’s Going Green, and Also Small

The 2013 Fusion was a good example of the greenness seen all over the show: coming with three different types of power plant, it’s just one example of auto makers focusing on green energy. Volkswagen debuted a Jetta Hybrid, and also the e-Bugster, an electric plug-in. Smart, the tiny car people, had a tiny pickup truck concept at the show. Even Mercedes, Lexus and BMW had hybrids on display. Even if they didn’t have a high-profile hybrid, many had at least a small, fuel-sipping vehicle to show off: witness the second coming of, believe it or not, the Dodge Dart. Which brings us to…

#4) Everybody Wants To Sell Their Cars to Twentysomethings, Even Though Nobody Understands Their Car-Buying Habits

It’s not unreasonable: there are 80 million twentysomethings in the US. The problem is, as everybody desperately trying to sell them a new car admitted, that most of them were buying sedans instead of coupes, and most of them were buying used, and that nobody knew why, precisely. After all, the marketing research had told them young people love coupes. So instead of looking at the buying habits, they went ahead and built a bunch of coupes anyway.

Gee, we wonder why we had to give them so much taxpayer money a few years back…

#5) Some Things Never Change

Among all the hubbub and hype about the concept cars that will never see production, it’s nice to see that some people don’t change that much. Witness Porsche, and their 2013 Boxster. Trends may come and trends may go, but it’s nice to see that ostentatious sports cars that are impossible to insure cheaply don’t change much.

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