North American International Auto Show 2019: U.S. and European OEMs

U.S. automakers continue focus on crossovers, utilities and trucks



Ford Explorer
Ford Explorer

  The 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) was held from January 14 through January 27, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan, opening to the public starting January 19. There were 774,179 attendees at the show, a decrease of approximately 35,000 visitors compared to 2018. A major snowstorm hit the Metro Detroit area during the show's first weekend, resulting in approximately 33,000 fewer visitors compared to the same weekend in 2018.

  While not necessarily reflected in attendance numbers, NAIAS has seen a recent decline, resulting from CES and automakers unwilling to share attention for product reveals. Automakers unveiled 30 models at the 2019 NAIAS, compared to 69 reveals in 2018. Furthermore, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz were absent, joining other automakers who chose to not attend in recent years such as Porsche, Jaguar and Volvo. In response, the Detroit Auto Dealers Association announced that NAIAS would move to June starting in 2020.

  Following the restructurings announced by GM and Ford in 2018, U.S. automakers continued to emphasize utility vehicles and trucks. Ford debuted the next-generation Ford Explorer, with performance and hybrid versions. GM unveiled the Cadillac XT6, a luxury mid-size crossover highlighting the brand's shift away from sedans. Building on the Ram 1500 which debuted in 2018, FCA revealed the Ram Heavy Duty pickup. In contrast, Volkswagen focused on the sedan segment by launching the Passat for the U.S. market.

  This report is the first of two reports which will highlight notable vehicle models displayed at the 2019 NAIAS. This report focuses on models shown by U.S. and European OEMs, specifically Ford, GM, FCA and Volkswagen. A second report featuring Asian OEM models at NAIAS will be released in the future.


Related Reports:
CES 2019: Production models (Feb. 2019)
GM: Halting production at 5 plants in N. America, cutting 14,000 workers (Jan. 2019)
OEM Operations in the U.S. (Dec. 2018)
North American International Auto Show 2018
U.S. OEMs: Automakers focus on pickup truck and SUV segments due to regional demand
European OEMs: Variety of models underline Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen strategies in U.S.
Asian OEMs: Concepts and prototypes from Honda, Toyota and Nissan preview future vehicles


Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator reinforce Ford's SUV lineup

  Ford's exhibit highlighted the debut of the Ford Explorer and emphasized its restructured lineup. This was reinforced by a series of announcements during and following the 2019 NAIAS. On January 14, 2019, Ford and Volkswagen announced a global alliance to collaborate on the deliveries of pickup trucks globally and commercial vans in Europe. The automakers will also jointly collaborate on electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. On February 7, Ford announced a USD 1 billion investment in the Chicago Assembly and Stamping Plant to expand production capacity of the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Aviator and Police Interceptor Utility.

2020 Ford Explorer SUV

  Representing the all-time best-selling SUV in the U.S., Ford unveiled the next-generation Ford Explorer at the 2019 NAIAS. The sixth-generation Explorer features increased power, technology and functionality versus its predecessor. Its rear-wheel-drive architecture enables a lower and more athletic appearance, with a steeper sloping roofline and shorter front overhang. However, the Explorer retains distinctive visual features such as blacked-out A- and D-pillars. With available folding third-row seats and E-Z entry second-row seats, the Explorer can accommodate 87.8 cubic feet of cargo space.

Ford Explorer Ford Explorer interior
Ford Explorer Ford Explorer interior

  Two EcoBoost engine options are available on the baseline Ford Explorer. A standard 2.3-liter turbocharged I4 provides 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, while an available 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 generates 365 hp and 380 lb-ft. Both engines are paired to a new ten-speed automatic transmission. The Explorer ST uses a tuned 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 that outputs 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, and the Explorer Hybrid features a 3.3-liter hybrid powertrain producing 318 hp with a range of approximately 500 miles. Rear-wheel-drive models feature five selectable drive modes while all-wheel-drive versions have seven.

Ford Explorer ST Ford Explorer Hybrid cutaway
Ford Explorer ST Ford Explorer Hybrid cutaway

  An available safety feature on the Explorer is Active Park Assist 2.0, which enables it to park itself at the push of a button. Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Speed Sign Recognition is also available, which automatically adjusts the vehicle's speed based on speed limits. Ford's Co-Pilot360 driver-assistance suite is standard, with Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Information System, and Lane-Keeping System. FordPass Connect is another standard feature, providing remote vehicle access and 4G LTE Wi-Fi. A dual-wall dashboard and acoustic glass reduces cabin noise. A 10.1-inch center stack touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster are also available.

  The 2020 Ford Explorer will be assembled at the Chicago Assembly Plant, and will launch in the summer of 2019. The starting price for the Ford Explorer is USD 32,765.


2020 Lincoln Aviator Mid-size SUV

Lincoln Aviator
Lincoln Aviator

  Debuting at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Lincoln Aviator provides advanced technologies in a mid-size luxury vehicle. One example of this lies in the Aviator's available powertrain options. The standard powertrain is a 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbocharged engine paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission to provide 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The Aviator Grand Touring uses a hybrid powertrain, combining the twin-turbocharged engine with an electric motor to generate 450 hp and 600 lb-ft. The lithium-ion battery is located under the Aviator's floor, preserving leg and cargo room.

  The Aviator's advanced technology also improves comfort, convenience and safety. Through the Phone As A Key technology on the Lincoln Way app, users can locate, lock, open the trunk, start and drive using a digital key on a smartphone. The Adaptive Suspension with Road Preview feature uses a forward camera to detect potholes and then adjusts the suspension to minimize impact. The standard Lincoln Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist features includes Traffic Jam Assist for improved adaptive cruise control, Evasive Steering Assist to avoid collisions with slower vehicles, and Active Park Assist Plus to provide automatic parking.

  For comfort, Perfect Position seats with 30-way adjustability, massage and lumbar support functions for the front seats are available. An optional Revel Ultima 3D audio system provides an immersive sound experience through 28 cabin speakers. The suspension system lowers the Aviator as the driver approaches the vehicle as a way to greet the driver while enabling easier loading and unloading of cargo. Power outlets are located throughout the cabin, and a Wi-Fi hotspot is standard.

  The Lincoln Aviator, like the Ford Explorer, will be manufactured at the Chicago Assembly Plant and be released in the summer of 2019.


2020 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 Sports Car

Ford Shelby Mustang GT500
Ford Shelby Mustang GT500

  Ford unveiled the Shelby Mustang GT500 in Detroit as its most powerful street-legal vehicle. A 5.2-liter supercharged aluminum V8 engine generates more than 700 hp. The engine shares the same block, bore and stroke as the GT350, but features an altered block and head structure, improved oil and cooling capacity and a cross-plane crank to boost its power. Mated to the engine is a Tremec 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is capable of shifting in less than 0.1 seconds and provides support for various drive modes including normal, slippery, sport, drag and track.

  In order to maximize performance, the Shelby GT500's design includes several features that improve aerodynamics and thermal management. A double front grille opening along with additional front fascia openings provides more air flow, while composite materials in the rear diffuser further improve thermal management. Six heat exchangers increase cooling pack air flow by more than 50%. The 31-inch x 28-inch louvered hood vent includes a removable aluminum rain tray that results in increased downforce and improved air flow.

5.2-liter V8 engine Tremec 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
5.2-liter V8 engine for Shelby Mustang GT500 Tremec 7-speed dual-clutch transmission for Shelby Mustang GT500

  Assembled at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, the 2020 Shelby Mustang GT500 will be available in the fall of 2019.



GM shifts to crossovers with Cadillac XT6 and Chevrolet Blazer

  As with Ford, GM announced significant restructurings in 2018, shifting its lineup away from sedans towards larger vehicles. GM's displays across its brands highlighted its retargeted focus with models including the premiering Cadillac XT6 and the Chevrolet Silverado which debuted in 2018. In contrast to 2018, Cadillac was the only GM brand which held a press conference for the 2019 NAIAS. 

2020 Cadillac XT6 Premium Mid-size Crossover

  As a model designed to expand Cadillac's crossover lineup, the XT6 was unveiled at the 2019 NAIAS. Two trim levels are available, a performance-focused Sport trim or luxury-focused Premium Luxury trim. A 3.6-liter DOHC V6 engine powers both versions. Paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, the engine provides 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque. Active Fuel Management technology improves fuel efficiency by enabling the engine to operate as a V4. The Sport trim comes standard with all-wheel-drive, with continuous damping control and a faster steering ratio, while the Premium Luxury trim has optional all-wheel-drive, and a quieter cabin.

Cadillac XT6
Cadillac XT6

  Emblematic of the Cadillac brand, the XT6 includes a variety of driver assist technologies. Standard driver assist features include Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Optional features add more capability and convenience with Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control, HD Surround Vision, a Surround Vision Recorder, and an Automatic Parking Assist system with braking.

  A new version of the Cadillac User Experience is on the XT6, with new interface systems and control methods. Features include phone pairing through near-field communication and a new rotary controller with a jog function that enables the knob to be tilted for easier and more intuitive navigation. Other available connectivity features include cloud-stored user profiles that can be shared across other GM vehicles, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

  The 2020 Cadillac XT6 will be manufactured at GM's Spring Hill, Tennessee plant and be available in the spring of 2019.


2019 Chevrolet Blazer Mid-size Crossover

  Unveiled in June 2018 at a private event in Atlanta, the Chevrolet Blazer reinforces the brand's SUV and crossover lineup, fitting in between the Equinox and Traverse. The Blazer offers four different trims, each with slightly different exterior features. For example, the Premier trim level features chrome on the exterior, while the sporty RS model has a blacked-out exterior. The interior of all versions provides up to 64.2 cubic feet of cargo space when the second-row seats are folded. Premier and RS trims include a Cargo Management system with rail and cargo fence.

Chevrolet Blazer Chevrolet Blazer trunk
Chevrolet Blazer Chevrolet Blazer trunk

  Two engine options are available: a 2.5-liter I4 producing 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque and a 3.6-liter V6 that generates 305 hp and 269 lb-ft. Both direct-inject engines feature intelligent stop-start technology and are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. A twin-clutch all-wheel drive system is standard on the Premier and RS trims, while front-wheel-drive is standard on the other two trims. Traction Select technology is standard and allows drivers to select between various driving modes based on road conditions.

Chevrolet Blazer interior
Chevrolet Blazer interior

  An eight-inch color touchscreen with Chevrolet Infotainment 3 is standard on the Blazer. RS and Premier versions also include a navigation system and remote start system. Chevrolet Infotainment supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and can provide 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Safety features include a standard HD rear vision camera and Passenger Sensing System. Standard driver assist features on Premier and RS levels include standard Lane Change Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Rear Park Assist. Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Automatic Braking are optional.

  Production of the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer takes place at GM's plant in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, Mexico. The Chevrolet Blazer is currently available and has a starting price of USD 29,995


2019 GMC Sierra Full-size Pickup Truck

  Revealed in Detroit in March 2018, the GMC Sierra is a sibling model to the Chevrolet Silverado which was revealed at the 2018 NAIAS. As a sibling model, the GMC Sierra shares many of the same features as the Silverado. The Sierra has the same powertrain options, with a 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8, 2.7-liter turbocharged I4, 6.2-liter V8, as well as a 3.0-liter I6 turbodiesel. Three automatic transmissions are available for the engines, a six-speed for the 4.3-liter and 5.3-liter, an eight-speed for the 2.7-liter and 5.3 liter and a ten-speed for the remaining two engines.

GMC Sierra GMC Sierra interior
GMC Sierra GMC Sierra interior

  The biggest differences between the Sierra and Silverado are in the cargo bed and tailgate. An industry-first carbon-fiber cargo bed is available as an option, offering reduced weight with increased physical and corrosion resistance. The Sierra also includes the MultiPro Tailgate, a segmented, foldable tailgate with six different configurations. The MultiPro Tailgate can be configured for easier access to the cargo bed, partially unfolded in order to load longer items, or organized into a standing workstation.

GMC Sierra MultiPro Tailgate GMC Sierra MultiPro Tailgate
GMC Sierra MultiPro Tailgate GMC Sierra MultiPro Tailgate

  Other differences between the Sierra and Silverado include additional advanced technology. The Sierra has an available Rear Camera Mirror that can operate as a traditional rearview mirror or a camera screen. A multi-color head-up display is also available. Additional features include available Adaptive Ride Control and an available ProGrade Trailering System which offers trailering technologies such as tire-pressure monitoring and hitch guidance.

  The GMC Sierra is produced at Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S. and is available at a starting price of USD 37,800.



FCA expands on capabilities of Ram 1500 with the Ram Heavy Duty

  FCA's exhibit highlighted the debuting Ram Heavy Duty full-size pickup truck, showcasing multiple trim variants. The Ram 1500, which debuted at the previous year's exhibit, was also shown to compare the two models, highlighting the Ram Heavy Duty's expanded capabilities and technologies.

2019 Ram Heavy Duty Full-size Pickup Truck

  The debuting Ram Heavy Duty improves upon the capabilities of the Ram 1500, making it the most powerful and capable pickup in the segment. Notably, the Ram Heavy Duty is the first pickup to feature an engine generating 1,000 lb-ft of torque, with the available 6.7-liter turbodiesel I6 producing 400 hp. Other options include an available variant on the 6.7-liter engine which generates 370 hp and 850 lb-ft and a standard 6.4-liter V8 engine which produces 410 hp and 429 lb-ft. The 6.7-liter turbodiesel engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, while the V8 is paired with an eight-speed automatic.

Ram Heavy Duty (3500) Ram Heavy Duty cargo bed
Ram Heavy Duty (3500) Ram Heavy Duty cargo bed

  The Ram Heavy Duty has a best-in-class towing and payload capacity of 35,100 and 7,680 pounds, respectively. Its frame is comprised of 98.5% high-strength steel, which improves capacity, reduces weight, and increases torsional rigidity. The use of lightweight materials in the frame, powertrain and hood reduces weight by up to 143 pounds compared to its predecessor. Frequency Response Damping shocks on the Ram Heavy Duty improve ride quality, while an available rear air suspension features Bed Lowering, Normal, and Trailer-Tow modes for those specific applications.

Ram Heavy Duty interior (2500)
Ram Heavy Duty interior (2500)

  Advanced technology on the Ram Heavy Duty focuses on supporting its towing and carrying capabilities. A tire-pressure monitoring system can track up to 12 trailer tires in addition to the vehicle's own tires. The Ram Heavy Duty also has a cargo-view camera to monitor the truck bed. An available 360-degree surround view camera with trailer reverse guidance allows drivers to see both sides of a trailer on a single display to assist in maneuvering. UConnect 4C with navigation on a 12-inch reconfigurable touch screen featuring split-screen capability is standard.

  The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty will go on sale in the spring of 2019 and is produced at FCA's Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Coahuila, Mexico.



Volkswagen focuses on sedan segment with new Passat

  Volkswagen's exhibit highlighted its ongoing efforts to build its standing in the U.S. market, as it made several announcements during its press conference showcasing its work in the country. Beyond the new Passat, Volkswagen announced that it would invest USD 800 million in Chattanooga, Tennessee for a new facility to manufacture electric vehicles by 2022. The facility will assemble the production version of the ID Crozz concept. In a more social example of its involvement in the U.S., Volkswagen also announced that it would be the presenting sponsor of U.S. Soccer through 2022.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Mid-size Sedan

Volkswagen Passat lineup
Volkswagen Passat lineup

  While U.S. automakers have focused on larger vehicles for the U.S. market, Volkswagen showcased its commitment to the sedan segment by unveiling the 2020 Volkswagen Passat. As the second-generation model offered in the U.S. market, the Passat features upgraded technology and a redesigned exterior. Though the 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine remains the same, a new torque converter and software increases the torque to 207 lb-ft while maintaining a maximum power of 174 hp. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission which provides the Passat with front-wheel drive.

  The exterior has been redesigned to give a sportier look, with a coupe-like roofline and new grille. Slim LED headlights and taillights are standard and further emphasize the Passat's more aggressive appearance. In the interior, the Passat focuses on providing comfort and convenience in a modern package. Available features include heated front and rear seats, a dual-zone climate control, an adaptive front-lighting system, keyless access and voice controls.

Volkswagen Passat Volkswagen Passat interior
Volkswagen Passat Volkswagen Passat interior

  The MIB II infotainment system is standard on the Passat with a glass covered touch screen. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are all supported by the infotainment system. A number of advanced driver-assist features are standard on the Passat, including Front Assist with Pedestrian Monitoring, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Traffic Alert. Optional driver-assistance features include adaptive cruise control, Lane Keeping Assist which steers the Passat back into its lane if it starts to drift, and Parking Steering Assistant.

  The 2020 Volkswagen Passat, assembled in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will be available in the U.S. market starting in the summer of 2019.

NAIAS, NAIAS2019, Auto Show, FCA, Ford, GM, Volkswagen

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