My Car Quest

January 20, 2019

Los Angeles Auto Show 2018

Yes, it’s near the end for sports cars

by Wallace Wyss –

Photos by Richard Bartholomew –

I hafta say, that this was an unusual Los Angeles Auto Show for me because I saw so little cars that lit my torch as in becoming ‘A Car I Have to Own’, none in fact.

So another reason I can justify the $25 parking fee is that I wanted to see how much life style the automakers are communicating as a part of selling the car.

First of all the show was mostly about SUVs and pickup trucks because that’s what is selling. In fact only days before the show GM announced the dropping of several models including sedans.

The biggest news I saw was the reintroduction of a Jeep pickup. That is interesting because Jeeps are selling like crazy anyhow and pickups are selling like crazy so this is the melding of the two.

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler

Oddly the video they showed of it negotiating huge rocks, showed the vehicle being driven without doors. I wonder if your passenger forgets to put on their seat belt, you might lose one along the way. But apparently it’s legal to run a car without doors. At least Jeeps do it.

You can choose a variety of engines in the Jeeps, I think the 4-cylinder is too small but maybe the 3.6-liter V6 would do. They are also going to offer a diesel.

The Auto Show this year actually started Monday with all sorts of electric car intros but being the last man alive who still yearns for internal combustion I went to the general preview on Wednesday. I noticed the increasing influence of alternative power plants with two new players this year one of them American start-up Rivian, with a pickup truck that may beat Tesla to market. The R1T is a pick-up with four electric motors, each producing 197 bhp. That means 14,000 Nm of torque and a claimed 0-60 mph time of around 3 seconds which us gear heads remember is about 1.7 seconds faster than a 427 Cobra. Although primarily for the US market, it could be coming to Europe in 2021.

Rivian

Rivian

Joining the R1T was their R1S SUV. The all-electric seven-seater shares its powertrain with the pick-up and yet will be an off roader, with their bragging of a three-foot wading depth, underbody protection and performance.

Inside the tent where they have press conferences there was two slick vehicles from China, called Byton brand. Byton president & co-founder is Daniel Kirchert who with co-founder & CEO Carsten Breitfeld is aiming to make it a premium brand. Kirchert is the ex-managing director of Infiniti China. Breitfeld was the former head of BMW’s i8 program.

So they are coming out of nowhere planning on a yearly output of 250,000 to 300,000 EVs Their motor maker is Bosch but no battery maker is named yet. They have a $1.1 billion facility in Nanjing, China.

And don’t forget autonomous driving. The Byhon will also come with a level 3 (L3) self-driving system using lidar and millimeter-wave radars. It will be upgraded to L4 and eventually L5 in the future. Their name is supposed to be a cute play on words, i.e. “bytes on wheels,” but I found it annoying. And they don’t like SUV, they want you to call it an SIV.

There is big money behind it from China and lots of talent form Europe helping design it (styling was done in Germany). Theoretically it could go on on sale in 2019 followed by a sedan in 2021 and an MPV in 2022. I would call their opening price of $40K makes it a luxury car. What was mind blowing was their dashboard—one hunka screen with narry a switch or dial to distract.

PORSCHE DOES 911 AGAIN

I remember when Porsche tried to do away with the name 911. It didn’t work, internally with friends they would say 996 or whatever and then go right back to saying “my 911”.

So they brought out a new one at the LA Auto Show, again doing that double talk, saying the real name is 992 but then when people go to the dealer they will say “I want to see the new 911.”

It has a same basic shape as recent 911 models though it borrows a bit of the advanced styling of the forthcoming Mission E. It’s still a flat six. At last the interior has been updated more, heavy on digital these days. There were vague promises of an all electric 911 in the future. But don’t roll your eyes, gents, Ferdinand Porsche had an electric truck in production something close to 100 years ago so what goes around comes around.

It is a little off putting at Porsche to see so many different shapes, but then you realize that, hey, if it wasn’t for the fact they were able to talk Porsche fans into different configurations there wouldn’t still be a 911.

Over at Honda they had yet a re-do of the Passport. It’s the right time for the 2019 Honda Passport which boasts a 280-hp V6 but it has a lot of competition.

LINCOLN LIFE STYLE

I liked the Lincoln booth because of the Aviator model and Navigator, and how they have gotten away with “stealing” the Bentley grille. A Bentley designer grumbled about it a few years back but suffice to say that they have, for such a boxy shape, managed to convince me that this is American luxury. The interior even has Bentley like wood, and one I sat in had brushed aluminum swirl patterns on the console like a prewar Bugatti.

The driver’s seat had endless positions and this I really needed because of some temporary ailment that requires me to lie down every few minutes.

Lincoln’s really going for it. The three-row Lincoln Aviator premium SUV is situated between the upcoming Nautilus and their flagship Navigator. It features innovative technology, such as reverse brake assist and Suspension Preview Technology – a system which scans the road for imperfections and preloads the suspension to maximize passenger comfort.

The standard engine in the Aviator is a 400-hp V8 Plus there is a plug in hybrid with 450 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. Not only do I like the Aviator name because it conjures images of Charles Lindbergh but I liked the display because they had some design renderings (which looked suspiciously Land Rover inspired) and even a couple pictures of Swedish inspired furniture. Now I can hear you asking “What the hell does furniture have to do with it?” and I’m here to tell ya, when you spend more than $50,000 on a SUV, you are buying not just a vehicle but, according to hip markets like those at Lincoln, a life style, like ownership of their rig implies if you bought a car designed with such good taste you naturally live on a lake and have a back deck outside your chalet with that same Swedish furniture.

With Jeep it was all I-can-Climb Rocks, so to me the successful marketing at the show was in the videos showing the worlds that car they’re selling takes you to.

Audi laid down another threat to the Tesla with a very stylish prototype new four door E-Tron GT which gives you a stylish roofline and can you believe it, a horsepower rating of 582 hp. It boasts Quattro all-wheel drive, and a 427 Cobra 0-60 mph of 3.4 seconds won’t be on the market for another two years.

Infinity Concept

Infinity Concept

The race in the future with chargeable E-cars is how long it will take to charge. Audi says that the 800-volt battery system can be charged up to 80 percent in just 20 minutes, quicker than Tesla’s Supercharger method, but will Tesla do more innovation in two years? I can say the Audi concept is better looking than the Tesla.

The interior features a minimalist layout, but appears largely complete for a concept car.

PORSCHE TAYCAN FITS BETWEEN CAYMAN AND PANAMERA

Porsche showed a four door sedan E-car, the Taycan, which will be positioned below the brand’s Panamera sedan when it reaches markets next year, with a likely starting price above 80,000 euros, which could be around $100K. It is officially a 2021 model.

The e-tron GT is slated to enter production in late 2020, as a 2021 model.

ALL-ELECTRIC RIVIAN SUV JOINS PICKUP AT LA AUTO SHOW

Rivian, the new Michigan-based all-electric car company, introduced its second vehicle at the LA Auto Show. The R1S will be a five or seven-passenger SUV and get the same 400-plus mile range as the R1T pickup.

Mercedes had their sports car covered and I hafta say that when I entered the show, the car covered was as exciting as the car itself. This year they showed the AMG GT coupe and roadster with several updates, all fairly minor updates to interior and exterior but for those who have to have something special there is the new AMG GT R Pro model, with its own redesigned front fascia and many exterior body panels made from carbon fiber. If you are not a boy racer, you can give up ordering the wrap that includes racing stripes.

BMW Inext

BMW Inext

ALFAS ABOUND

Alfa Romeo made a big splash at the Los Angeles auto show. By having such a profusion of models. They included the Stelvio Ruadrifoglio, the Stelvio Ti Lusso, the TI Sport the Quadrifoglio Carbon, the Giulia Quadrifoglio Nero Edizione, the Giulia TI sport and the 4C Spyder Italia.

I haven’t heard that Alfas are selling that well, and haven’t passed a single dealership in Los Angeles, but here they are with a wild profusion of models.

One car dealer, Galpin, arguably one of the nation’s largest car dealers with several dealerships in a row on Roscoe in the SF valley, had a display of a Mustang of their own design, using the talents of Hendrik Fisker, once designer of a car carrying his own name, and skills that were honed at Aston Martin and other luxury car makers.

Ford also has brought back the Bullitt, named after the car in the iconic Steve McQueen movie. It is tasteful and gives a not-so-cop-attracting alternative to the Shelby Mustangs.

Several of the brands I used to see at this show, such as Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls Royce, were missing and I am trying to fathom why these luxury brands collectively snub their noses at the audience for this show, when they still sell a lot of cars in Los Angeles. I can’t help but think the owners of those cars are insulted that they have no booth to go to in order to see the newest model or talk about their present one. I guess the more focused events like the Quail event are more certain to draw their type of customer (income wise) so they figure it’s a waste of money appealing to the general public.

All in all, I saw less support at the show for showing a life style (with clothing, pictures of houses, etc.) that you envision coming to you if you buy such a car. Of course the visuals, on screens as wide as 150 feet, showed that, but I still remember the Volvo booth a few years back that had rustic wood furniture and pictures of Sweden and that would have helped this year dispel the knowledge that Volvos are now Chinese. Volvo thought they were real clever this year, having a display area in the main hall but no cars, just a hunk of wood, I mean what were they trying to say: “Our cars aren’t worth looking at”? I think they have some mushy headed people in marketing that don’t know people go to car shows to sit in actual cars and see how they look.

VW by the way, paid a great tribute to their heritage by inviting owners of old Beetles to display their cars outside in a tented over area outside the main entrance and I was amazed at seeing the early ‘50s Hebmuller coachbuilder modified Beetle open cars, some of them two seaters that either preceded or co-existed with the VW soft top air cooled cars. They also had a ratty Baja runner, and some water cooled modern beetles fixed up for racing. It’s all a swan song as they are killing off the Beetle for the second time and this year is the Last One (but never say Last One in the auto industry…)

One reason I go to auto shows is to meet designers and marketers and movers and shakers. This year I met a Detroit reporter who has two shows on TV in Detroit about the industry. He agreed with me that a good topic for his show is designer’s renderings. Are they fine art or just throwaway studies on future design proposals? I agreed to send him a proposal for a show on that.

Oh, and I always go to these shows hoping to run into some old acquaintance from my early days in the scribe trade, and I ran into Gary Witzenberg, of Michigan, author of many car histories, who agreed with me that things have changed in the auto history world and that the “gloves have come off” in car histories now, with some of the foibles of the high and mighty being revealed such as Harley Earl’s penchant for swearing a blue streak, as revealed in the new book FINS by yet another historian.

And not forgetting that novel I have a-molderin’ in a drawer, I tracked down a Porsche loving director at the Porsche display and promised to send him one.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss, the author of 18 automotive histories, was last seen shopping his action thriller around Hollywood. He’s reachable at photojournalistpro2@gmail.com

 
 
 
 
 
 

More photos are in the two slide shows below.

 

 

Bonus photos below by Wallace Wyss.

Summary
Los Angeles Auto Show 2018
Article Name
Los Angeles Auto Show 2018
Description
The LA Auto show was mostly about SUVs and pickup trucks because that’s what is selling. Only days before the show GM announced the dropping of several models including sedans.
Author

Comments

  1. Rob Krantz says:

    Sounds like a much better show than the San Francisco Auto Show, which had zero concept cars. The Lincoln’s were nice. Cadillac was not even present and the vehicles on display were mostly SUV’s and crossovers. Boring! Next year….L.A.

  2. wallace wyss says:

    The fact that Cadillac wasn’t present at an auto show in a city where houses start at one million shows they have lost their way marketing wise. I think Lincoln, at least in the SUVs, has achieved some sort of niche penetration into the luxury car upper tier (for American cars) but Cadillac has lost the zeal they had for awhile when they had de Nysschen, the ex-Audi ex-Infiniti man in charge. Back then, it looked like they knew where the market is. That small SUV they have just doesn’t do it, like we’re supposed to accept a four cylinder as a luxury Cadillac!
    Bob Lutz, in Road and Track goes into the failure of Cadillac at length, and I agree with him:

    Says Lutz; “Expensive advertising campaigns showing emaciated, scraggly-bearded, tight-jacketed metrosexuals posed in rain-drenched back alleys, urging the viewer to
    Dare Greatly—at what?—flopped miserably. Moving the brand headquarters to New York City, always a bit of a mystery to me, was of little reputational value, but served to distance the Cadillac marketing people from GM’s powerful Detroit-based planning and product development groups.

    What was the deciding factor in de Nysschen’s departure? I doubt that there was a single, explosive event. Like a bad marriage, there came a point when both sides saw it was never going to work. Johan was never going to get the “pure Cadillac” crossover-heavy product line he and his dealers felt he needed. The GM organization is not prone to doubling down on unprofitable ventures that show no signs of imminent recovery. GM’s powerful Detroit-based planning and product development organization never really relinquished their tight grip on design and portfolio decisions‎. Perhaps they trusted their experience, data and instincts more than they trusted a bunch of effete East Coast marketing genii. Outgunned by the bulletproof reputations of the Germans, the onslaught of competitor crossovers, the relative failure of the new Cadillac sedans, the lack of traction of marketing initiatives and the steadily-sinking profitability of the brand, circumstances conspired to lead everyone concerned to one conclusion—let’s end it.”

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