The media advertised the 2011 Detroit Auto Show as being all about saving the planet. Green activist Ed Begley Jr. crowned Ford electrics the polar bear’s best friend. Toyota unveiled a family of “zero-emission” Priuses. Ford and GM rolled out tiny, fuel-sipping, earth-preserving Euro-cans.
And when the public entered Cobo Hall’s vast display . . . they ignored the green and went straight for the muscle.
With the mercury hovering around a bone-chilling 10 degrees (and sub-zero wind-chill numbers) in the show’s last weekend, consumers arrived in their SUVs and made straight for the new SUVs. Light trucks and crossovers with roomy comfort and four-wheel heft to negotiate the real world outside — not the fantasy world inside pols’ heads — dominated public interest.
Displays of government-preferred small cars attracted little more attention than they have on dealer lots the last 12 months. With gas prices well below $4 a gallon, sedan sales have slipped and hybrid sales have plummeted to just 2.4 percent of the market.
Hi-tech exotics like the plug-in $40,000 Chevy Volt attracted plenty of attention for their novelty, but small cars like the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta — relentlessly pushed by the press a week ago — suffered from neglect. Meanwhile, the public swamped the GMC truck display adjacent to the Sonic, swarmed the Ford F-150 platform, and ogled the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Speed and luxury also turned heads from Audi’s gorgeous A8 to Corvette’s ZR-1 to the sparkling Cadillac line.
Detroit is Big Three country and foreign nameplates always play second fiddle to the hometown heroes. Still, the lack of customers around the Prius family was striking on my Tuesday tour of the show — as was the virtually empty electric Chinese BYD display. While China’s push for alternative energy is the envy of the Obama administration and the New York Times, the public seemed unimpressed.
Read more at The Michigan View.com here.