GO TO YOUR VROOOM: Auto innovations are revved-up at Motor Trend show at Las Vegas Convention Center
The cicada rhythms of doors (ka-thunk), trunks (ka-thunk) and tailgates (ka-thunk) latching back into place were the sonic template of the Motor Trend International Auto Show Las Vegas Sept. 13-15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall – a vast and, frankly, shiny landscape of more than 350 cars, trucks and SUVs dutifully attended to by a quiet army of shammy men, polishing up new rides from Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Dodge, Chrysler, and a dozen more.
(Well, except for the matte black Lamborghini from Royalty Exotics sporting “Do Not Touch” signs all around it. When a car looks that much like the Batmobile, you don’t even chance fingerprints on the doors. Bruce Wayne could swing by any minute to pick up his ride.)
To your right when you walk in, a prototype of the Toyota 86 Hakone Edition, with a sloping fastback rear, and painted in a deep Steve McQueen green (officially British Racing green, but who’s counting?) is soon coming to America. To the left, opposite the 86, is a menacing blood-red Shelby GT500 Mustang from Ford. Put them together and you’re halfway home to a souped-up Bullit remake.
What becomes immediately evident though, at this show (estimated to draw 17,000 attendees) is that 2020 and beyond are going to be lean years for fans of the mom car, that erstwhile utilitarian, practical kid-hauler available in every shade of beige, sand and taupe to grace grocery store parking lots and soccer fields from coast to coast. When the new Honda Accords sport a front fascia that snarls, you know something’s in the air.
“For a while when the market went down, Toyota had sports cars and then got out of it. They were going the safer route,” Lance Paul, a Toyota product specialist, said. “They wanted to bring sexy back into the line, so we started doing redesigns to the Camry — we had the T86, the FR-S from Scion. We have the brand-new Supra which we’ve been working on in partnership with BMW. We’re bringing sports cars back to the line.”
Ka-thunk. A father makes vroom, vroom noises to his son behind the wheel of a Fiat 124 Spider, a sleek convertible answer to Fiat’s button-nose 500s. Ka-thunk. Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” mumbles out of a Lincoln Continental’s sound system, a once-mighty lord of the grandpa cars still drawing attention, even right next to Lincoln’s massive display for the relaunched Aviator, back in the line for the first time since the ’05 models.
But car show attention and sales don’t always correlate, and the downward trend in sedan sales nationwide – passenger cars have fallen from 68 percent of sales in 1988 to 32 percent in 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal – is on full display.
Ford notably slashed its passenger car lines last year, and the trend was evident across every manufacturer as trucks and SUVs dominated floor space, none signaling a new status quo quite so much as the Jeep Gladiator, a traditional Jeep cab with a truck bed growing off the back. Even staid Camry’s claim on Toyota’s top spot fell to Toyota’s RAV4, and RAV4 hybrids are the top seller there, highlighting a continued move toward more electric vehicles industrywide.
The technological side of things continues unabated, as features from Alexa integration to key fobs that remember personalized settings like radio stations and seat positions come into play. Everything on four wheels comes with a screen mounted front and center. If only the Edsel could have included an iPhone, we’d all be lining up for 2020s today.
Motor Trend, though, was still a place for the enthusiast.
Car club Team Hybrid was in its 10th year of showing off customized whips at the show, from all corners of the car universe. Michael de Guzman, a Hybrid member, was there with his 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer, tricked out with stark white rims, a carbon fiber hood and lowered almost all the way down to the pavement, among other enhancements.
“Some of the stuff I’m seeing, the look of [these cars] is a lot different now, not traditional. Carbon fiber is always hot, especially on the interior,” he said. “Projector lights, carbon fiber is standard now. More LEDs, more carbon, more sleek, elite cars.”
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