The auto industry’s premier promotional event of the year — the North American International Auto Show in Detroit — kicks off with two days of media events on Monday.
2015 was a great year for automakers, with vehicle sales topping 17 million and surpassing the record set in 2000. Sales were up by nearly 6 percent. Riding that wave of optimism, automakers including Ford, Cadillac, Volvo and Buick will be unveiling new models in Detroit.
“We still have relatively cheap and easy financing, pent-up demand — with the average vehicle in America 11-years-old, and gas prices have gone down,” said Karl Brauer, senior industry analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “You have plenty of people willing to not only buy a new car, but maybe buy a more expensive car, and/or a less fuel-efficient car, than they normally would have.”
New SUVs and pickups will be heavily hyped at the auto show, to help keep the sales juggernaut in those high-profit vehicles going strong in 2016. But Stephanie Brinley, auto analyst at IHS Global Insight, said that does not mean most buyers will drive away in new gas-guzzlers.
“These vehicles have gotten more efficient,” said Brinley. “So people can now buy that body-type that’s attractive because of its utility, without feeling guilty about having a low fuel-mileage vehicle.”
Luxury-car sales have been flying high, with sales at Jaguar, Land Rover, Tesla, Lexus, Audi and Porsche all up by double-digits in 2015. Ford will join the race with a new limited-production supercharged version of its GT sportscar, expected to cost $400,000.
Some of the world’s premier luxury brands, meanwhile, won’t be represented at the Detroit auto show this year, including Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati and Rolls-Royce, according to Bloomberg. Brauer said the decision to pass up on Detroit is not a slight at the Motor City. He said those automakers don’t have major new models to launch, and it’s not worth the estimated $5 million cost to show up.
After Detroit, the international auto-show season continues with major shows in Geneva, Paris, Beijing, Los Angeles and New York.