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Detroit Auto Show 2018: the cars, news, and excitement from NAIAS

Every January, the auto industry gathers in Detroit for the (terribly named) North American International Auto Show. It falls just after CES and reminds us that, for all the futuristic tech we saw in Las Vegas, car companies are mostly concerned about selling cars today. This year is no different. We have a handful of concepts that could become cars in a matter of years, not decades, but the bulk of the show is new SUVs, crossovers, and sedans that you’ll be able to buy within a few months. We’re in Detroit covering our favorite new cars and important stories from the show that will affect the auto industry for the next year, at least until next January when we’ll do it all over again.

  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 30, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    It’s 2018, so where are the self-driving cars?

    Autonomous cars are supposed to be just around the corner, right? Well, not exactly. Every year, car companies flock to CES and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to show off their cool self-driving car concepts. This year was no different, with a plethora of weird wheels from Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan, and others making their debut. And while cars are undoubtedly getting smarter and the technology is getting better and better, the day that you’ll be able to buy a self-driving car, or even ride in one, is a lot further away than you probably think.

    It’s 2018. Where are we in the world of autonomous vehicles? The big takeaway from CES and Detroit this year is that automakers and tech companies have, for the most part, stopped demonstrating their self-driving technology and started talking about how these cars are going to be used and make money. That’s a pretty big deal, and it will probably lead to a lot of people thinking that they could start seeing driverless cars rolling down Main Street any day now.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Jan 21, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    The 2018 Detroit Auto Show in pictures

    Photo by Sean O'Kane / The Verge

    The Detroit Auto Show has a weirdly duplicitous vibe these days. The biggest companies that attend make sure to talk about things that make them sound future-focused, almost benevolent. They talk openly about autonomy, electrification, and even embracing other forms of transportation. But they do this while doling out product announcements that are very much about meeting the current demands of consumers who, enjoying low gas prices, want trucks and crossover SUVs.

    Take Mercedes-Benz, which made the biggest splash of the show with the new G-Class. This mega-expensive off-road SUV is explicitly for the wealthy, and was treated by the company as a vehicle so brawny that it hired Arnold Schwarzenegger to appear at the unveiling event. When Schwarzenegger lightly pushed Dieter Zetsche on whether the G-Class would get an electric flavor, the head of Mercedes-Benz semi-flubbed a scripted, non-committal answer about how the company has promised to electrify all its cars in the next decade. (Both before and after this, the new G-Class was celebrated with plumes of fire.)

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  • Tamara Warren

    Jan 19, 2018

    Tamara Warren

    We were promised smartphones on wheels

    Many people say cars are smartphones on wheels, but after a visit to the Detroit Auto Show, it’s clear that’s not the case.

    On the contrary, the newest in-car technology we saw shows that automakers are still playing catch-up with features already available in the iPhone X, and they haven’t reconciled how to keep pace. The result is more confusing infotainment systems for customers whose top priorities are the best, effortless-to-use tech features.

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  • Tamara Warren

    Jan 18, 2018

    Tamara Warren

    Bill Ford says smart cities aren’t ‘just a science project’

    New Models Debut At North American International Auto Show
    Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    In many ways, Ford Motor Company’s future is defined by its past. Bill Ford, the chairman of the company, and the great-grandson of its founder, announced plans to invest $11 billion in electrified cars at the North American International Auto Show. I spoke to Ford at the show, who expressed his enthusiasm over the company’s shift in direction to a broader vision for transportation than the cars, SUVs, and trucks it currently sells.

    I love the idea of the social justice component of smart cities, but how do you reconcile that with the present where there’s such a mess with public transportation in so many areas, like New York where I live?

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  • Zac Estrada

    Jan 18, 2018

    Zac Estrada

    Acura hides a slick Android-based interface in yet another SUV

    Acura RDX Prototype.
    Acura RDX Prototype.

    Another auto show, another luxury SUV you’re probably going to look at if you’re shopping in the $40,000-$50,000 range. This time, it’s the turn of the 2019 Acura RDX Prototype, a thinly disguised version of a car that will go on sale in the second half of 2018 and shown for the first time at the Detroit Auto Show.

    Acura has been rather lost in the woods lately. Even most of the less expensive Honda models have features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, whereas the supercar NSX has screens that felt dated a decade ago. The new RDX promises more space and performance than the outgoing model that’s a rival to the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X. It has a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine — derived from the hot Honda Civic Type R hatchback — replacing the 3.5-liter V6 that used to go in stuff like a Honda Pilot SUV.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Jan 18, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    Honda’s HoloLens demo was the first time I’ve found AR to be really useful

    Honda is offering a simple augmented reality demo at the Detroit Auto Show using Microsoft’s HoloLens. It involves strapping on one of the headsets, walking around, and getting into the car, which takes between five to 10 minutes total. And it’s probably the most useful augmented reality demo I’ve had yet.

    The demo is really just a fancy new way to show off the specs and features of one of Honda’s new cars. HoloLens isn’t exactly comfortable. I also didn’t have my contacts in, which meant I had to squint through the entire experience.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Jan 18, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    The Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept is a futuristic rose gold stunner

    The Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept is gold, though in person it somehow doesn’t feel obnoxious. The exterior features nips and tucks and curves, but it doesn’t look overly ridiculous. The inside of the car is full of screens and gizmos, and yet it feels fairly realistic, almost familiar.

    The UX Concept that Lexus brought to the Detroit Auto Show last year was all of these things that the LF-1 isn’t. It was brash, outlandish, and overdone, a concept car so aggressively futuristic that it was hard to see what parts Lexus would be able to translate to any future production vehicles. It honestly felt a little goofy.

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  • Jan 18, 2018

    Verge Staff

    The best, worst, and weirdest cars from the 2018 Detroit Auto Show

    The Detroit Auto Show is considered by many to be the biggest car event of the year. And while we got a handful of interesting new reveals this year, like the Mercedes G-Class and a trio of new trucks from the Big Three, the show was less about the new models on display, and more about what the automakers were (and were not) saying.

    If you looked past all the gleaming new trucks and SUVs, you would hear GM announcing its plan to release a self-driving concept car without a steering wheel or pedals in 2019, Ford talking about investing $11 billion in electric car production (more than double its previous commitment), Ferrari promising to build a battery-electric supercar, and many of the big carmakers talking about the hundreds of millions of dollars they expect to lose as a result of investments in smart mobility.

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  • Tamara Warren

    Jan 17, 2018

    Tamara Warren

    It’s a pickup truck showdown at the Detroit Auto Show

    photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

    When I was a teenager, my dad thought it would be a great idea to bring my mom and I along as his guests to the annual Farm Bureau convention. That year it was held in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s hard to find a more authentic urban locale to experience agrarian culture than the land of line dancing. My dad wasn’t a farmer, though he secretly dreamed of being one. Instead, he invented a marketing campaign that allowed him to make friends with farmers all over the country. Every year, as part of Dodge’s sponsorship of the Young Farmers of America, he gave a free Ram pickup truck to one lucky member of the organization that had an award-winning bright idea about the future of agriculture. When it comes to farmers, talking about pickup trucks makes them swoon. Two of my dad’s loves, Chrysler Company — where he worked for 30 plus years — and cowboy boots, had finally come together. He wanted us to come along to share in his delight, and also because farmers tend to be family-friendly people.

    Despite my teenager mortification about all things attached to country music culture, I learned a lot about farmers and their trucks watching my dad talk shop at the convention. The farmers circled him for hours, and I soon gained an appreciation for payload, and his ability to persuade Ford and GM customers that his Ram had something to offer as they entertained him with stories about their crops. What I learned still holds true and explains why when it comes to the most consistent customers in the truck market, the details are essential. For farmers, construction workers, artists, surfers, ski bums, and skilled tradespeople, their pickup trucks are essential to their livelihoods. The truck that’s most attuned to their personal needs wins, and serves as a symbol of personal autonomy. The only way to woo pickup truck owners is to convince them that a different truck can make their lives even better.

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  • Zac Estrada

    Jan 16, 2018

    Zac Estrada

    Is BMW going to make you pay for Apple CarPlay every year?

    BMW 5-series with wireless Apple CarPlay
    BMW 5-series with wireless Apple CarPlay
    Harman

    Unlike many automakers that offer Apple CarPlay in their new cars, BMW makes you pay for it on all of their models. That’s unlikely to change, but it may soon cut a break to those who don’t use iOS or don’t like Apple’s smartphone integration system for the car.

    The automaker next year will turn CarPlay into a subscription-based service rather than treating it as a one-time option, Don Smith, technology product manager for BMW North America, told The Verge at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show on Tuesday.

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  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 16, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Nissan’s Xmotion SUV is rugged on the streets, zen in the sheets

    Photo by Sean O'Kane / The Verge

    The Detroit Auto Show was pretty light on concept cars this year, which maybe is a sign that automakers are more interested in showcasing the cars they actually intend to build than impressing people with their visions of the future. Which, as someone who gets a huge kick out of outlandish futuristic concepts, was incredibly disappointing to me.

    Thank god Nissan was here with a totally silly-looking, totally weird concept in the form of the Xmotion SUV crossover. With its American counterparts caught in a truck-measuring contest, the Japanese automaker threw a bunch of ideas together and called it a concept. It doesn’t totally work, but it was the quixotic shot in the arm that I needed to keep me awake during an unusually somnolent auto show.

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  • Zac Estrada

    Jan 16, 2018

    Zac Estrada

    BMW and Mercedes-Benz will also try out subscription plans for new cars

    2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
    2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
    Photo by Sean O'Kane / The Verge

    Not to be left out by rivals, BMW and Mercedes-Benz appear to be joining the world of automotive subscription models that cover all of the fees required with car ownership or leasing under one payment.

    Both BMW and Mercedes are expected to announce pilot programs for a subscription service that covers not only car payments, but maintenance and insurance, Automotive News reported on Tuesday. They would join the likes of Audi, Cadillac, and Porsche in offering customers a simplified payment structure and the flexibility to swap to a newer car sooner than a traditional lease or finance plan, or a higher-quality vehicle than a daily rental from the airport. BMW Group and Daimler, Mercedes’ parent company, already run car-sharing firms.

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  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 16, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Ferrari will make an electric supercar (and an SUV)

    Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

    Ferrari will build a battery-electric supercar in a bid to challenge Tesla for a piece of the high-end, eco-conscious luxury market. CEO Sergio Marchionne, who also heads Fiat Chrysler, said that the Italian racecar company would also make a Ferrari SUV — after previously dismissing the idea as ridiculous.

    Speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Marchionne didn’t offer any specifics on the electric Ferrari, but indicated the company would release it before the Tesla Roadster hits the road in 2020.

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  • Tamara Warren

    Jan 16, 2018

    Tamara Warren

    The return of Ford Mustang Bullitt tugs at auto lovers’ heart strings

    Photo by Sean O'Kane / The Verge

    The original 1968 Mustang Bullitt is at the North American International Auto Show. It’s a Detroit carmaker’s move from an old playbook, a reference to the glory days of the pony car era, but it’s still hard to resist. In the shadow of its smart city initiatives, Ford revealed the newest model from its iconic Mustang brand on Sunday afternoon: a new Bullitt Mustang. It was a tug at Mustang lovers’ heart strings and a reassurance Ford hasn’t abandoned those who hunger for nostalgic cars.

    Most of us are too young to have seen the movie attached to the car in theaters 50 years ago, or to understand the thrill it created among car enthusiasts that is now legend. Its legacy can be summed up in a 10-minute car chase, in which the Mustang is driven by the Hollywood legend Steve McQueen. The film won the Academy Award for best film editing and a nomination for best sound, presumably attributed to the growl of those V8 engines. It’s a cult classic, and it still looks fresh in an old-school cool way. Smoke burns from the tires as the Mustang twists and turns through the streets of San Francisco.

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  • Zac Estrada

    Jan 16, 2018

    Zac Estrada

    BMW is bringing its wireless charging pad to the US

    BMW

    In another move to improve charging practices for plug-in electric vehicles, BMW is set to expand the availability of its wireless charging pad for one of its vehicles to the United States. Finally, no more untangling a charging cord for your car!

    The BMW Wireless Charging Pad, shown last year, will be available in the US only on the 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid, John Kelly, BMW North America product planner, told The Verge on Tuesday at the Detroit Auto Show. The system was on display at the BMW stand, but Kelly wouldn’t commit to a timeline on if it would be available by the end of 2018. A representative for the German automaker previously said the technology was a few years away from reaching the US.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Jan 16, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    Infiniti’s new concept car is a land yacht for movie villains

    The hero of the story has foiled your plan. You must make a quick escape, so you slide into the back seat of the Infiniti Q Inspiration and speed off.

    It’s a scene that seems increasingly plausible the more I look at the Q Inspiration up close at the 2018 Detroit Auto show. The concept is dastardly cool, thanks to an unusually balanced blend of smooth curves and sharp corners.

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  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 16, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Google nipping at Big Auto’s heels in the race to build self-driving cars

    Last year, the company that arguably made the biggest splash at the North American International Auto Show wasn’t even a company that made cars. Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, came to Detroit with its autonomous minivan in tow with the unspoken intent of striking fear in the hearts of the auto industry. According to a new report released today, it’s working.

    Waymo didn’t bother to show up to the Detroit Auto Show press days this year, but the shadow it casts is long. The Silicon Valley company has surged passed legacy car companies like Ford, Daimler, and Renault Nissan to grab the No. 2 spot in Navigant Research’s annual autonomous driving scorecard. General Motors is still in the lead, but Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s self-driving spinoff is nipping at the auto giant’s heels. (This is despite its complete inability to manufacture a car at scale.) Hey Google, not too shabby.

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  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 15, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    The Enverge is a deadly looking electric car from a company you’ve never heard of

    You probably haven’t heard of GAC, the Chinese automaker with big designs on the US market. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GAC is seeking to up its profile in advance of its 2019 US launch with — what else? — an eye-catching, futuristic, mostly irrational electric car concept.

    The Enverge certainly attracted a lot of attention here in Detroit with its gull-wing doors, “floating” digital dash-screen, and alleged range of 370 miles on a single charge. That would place it over the Tesla Model 3, which is, of course, a real car and not a concept like this. GAC also unveiled the GA4 midsize sedan that will go on sale in China later this month.

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  • Zac Estrada

    Jan 15, 2018

    Zac Estrada

    We climbed into the new Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen

    With the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, everything new is made to look old. It’s not that Mercedes went out of its way to make a brand new, $100,000-plus SUV feel 40 years old, rather that they insisted on keeping classic touches that keep the character of the old alive.

    As I pored over the new G-Wagen, as it’s known, on Sunday night at the Michigan Theater in Detroit, it was immediately clear that the work paid off to make what was an old car with a patchwork of new tech a more harmonious and unified experience befitting a luxury car. The doors open and close with a solid sound that inspires confidence. The cargo door in back still swings open wide and reveals a flat floor. The G-Wagen’s boxy shape makes the interior airy and upright, giving off another feeling of confidence that you’re above everyone else on the road.

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  • Zac Estrada

    Jan 15, 2018

    Zac Estrada

    The 2019 VW Jetta is an accessible car with accessible technology

    2019 VW Jetta
    2019 VW Jetta
    Volkswagen

    On first mention, the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta may not sound like it’s worthy of making much of a splash. Yet Volkswagen used the 2018 Detroit Auto Show to launch a new version of the Jetta, its bread-and-butter sedan in the US. While the company promises a whole new range of EVs (some of which are retro-inspired), its compact sedan is still in charge of keeping the lights on for the automaker’s US arm.

    Still, it’s tough to get too emotional over the exterior. While the 2019 Jetta certainly has more flair than the deeply plain outgoing model, it retains a conservative profile that is unlikely to offend anyone. There is more chrome and more LED lighting accents on the outside than ever before, although the Jetta still straddles something between mainstream and premium.

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  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 15, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Infiniti’s Q Inspiration is a gorgeous futuristic sedan that should be electric

    Infiniti’s Q Inspiration midsize luxury sedan concept has all the design accents that scream “the future,” but the engine under the hood is rooted in the past.

    Nissan’s luxury vehicle division revealed the Q Inspiration Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The car is a stunner, with a Tesla-esque windshield-sunroof hybrid, short hood, and swooped, coupe-like roof line. And even with an onboard computer brimming with all of Nissan’s advanced driver assistance capabilities, it still feels like it’s a “driver’s car” rather than anything meant to inspire a glimpse into our automotive future.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Jan 15, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    Here’s what CarPlay and Android Auto look like on the new Ram’s 12-inch touchscreen

    A Ram infotainment system at a trade show

    The new 2019 Ram 1500 has many things you’d expect from a truck: vast towing capacity, a bountiful maximum payload, and loads of horsepower. But it also has something you might not expect: a massive 12-inch touchscreen display embedded in the dashboard that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

    The display is just shy of the 17-inch behemoth found in the Tesla Model S or X, but after spending a few minutes with it on the show floor here in Detroit, it feels just as vibrant and sharp. It’s also just about as responsive as the one that Tesla uses, which is to say it’s not particularly speedy or accurate. It’s easy to swipe or tap so fast that the system doesn’t keep up so well, multitouch inputs are hit or miss, and at least one of the trucks on the show floor already suffered a pretty bad bug that slid the menu icons down “below” the viewing area. Hey, at least there are still plenty of physical controls surrounding the screen.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jan 15, 2018

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Apple’s CarPlay is finally coming to Toyota and Lexus vehicles

    2019 Toyota Avalon
    2019 Toyota Avalon
    Photo: Toyota

    Toyota’s new 2019 Avalon was just announced at the 2018 North American International Auto Show, and the new model includes a long-awaited and welcome addition: Apple’s CarPlay platform, a first for a Toyota car, according to AppleInsider.

    Toyota has famously abstained from adopting either CarPlay or Android Auto in its cars. Back in 2015, John Hanson, the national manager of Toyota’s advanced technology communications, commented to The New York Times that the company “prefer[red] to use our in-house proprietary platforms for those kinds of functions.” Even when Toyota switched to another company’s system in 2016, it was to adopt Ford’s SmartDeviceLink app platform, not Apple or Google’s software. Last year at NAIM 2017, Toyota and Ford founded the SmartDeviceLink Consortium, with a focus on extending iOS and Android apps to car dashboards without having to cede control to Apple or Google.

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  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 15, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    The Nissan Xmotion SUV is more screen than car

    Image: Nissan

    The Nissan Xmotion may look like an SUV on the surface, but to take a step inside is to enter a dense forest of technology. The concept car, revealed today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, has a total of seven digital touchscreens inside, making it one of the more aggressive attempts by an automaker in recent memory to sweep aside the manual controls of the past and fully embrace a pixelated future.

    Is it overkill? Sure. We’re already hearing complaints about the Tesla Model 3’s hyper-minimal all-in-one touchscreen approach to the traditional instrument cluster. It’s not clear that what consumers want in their cars is more screens. But you have to hand it to Nissan for not shying away from this trend.

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  • Andrew J. Hawkins

    Jan 15, 2018

    Andrew J. Hawkins

    Ford is throwing $11 billion at its electric car problem

    Verge gif contest

    Ford Motor Company said Sunday that it would more than double its investment in the production of electric vehicles, promising to spend $11 billion on the technology by 2022. The auto giant will roll out 16 fully electric cars within five years, the first of which would arrive in 2020.

    It was a dramatic escalation in Ford’s crosstown rivalry with General Motors, which has seen its stock prices rise thanks to its commitments to both electrification and autonomy. GM has said it plans to roll out at least 20 new electric cars by 2023, a goal that puts it in a position to bring battery-powered driving to the mainstream. Last week, it unveiled a concept autonomous car without steering wheel or pedals.

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