DETROIT — On opening weekend, attendance for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) increased by 5,000 more people over the same period last year. I visited the Detroit auto show on Tuesday afternoon to find out which cars were drawing the biggest crowds.
Let’s start with the Lexus UX concept. It drew lots of eyeballs. The UX features kinetic seats with back rests and seat cushions that can move to make the driver and passenger more comfortable.
One of the most popular vehicles at the auto show is a Lego Batmobile in the Chevrolet display. It was unveiled on Saturday, Jan. 14, the first public day. The vehicle was there to promote the upcoming “The Lego Batman Movie” coming to theaters on Friday, Feb. 10.
“It’s completely amazing,” said Matthew, a young auto show goer from Davison, Mich. “It took them a really long time to do it and look how huge it is! It’s like actual size, probably. I’m just wondering, how did they get all of the Lego pieces? It’s probably 1,000 Lego pieces or something. I like Batman and I like Legos and so it’s a mixture of those so that means I super like it.”
Virtual reality is alive and well at the 2017 NAIAS. Denso offers attendees the chance to experience how futurist vehicles can communicate with one another in three scenarios: the city, the country and off-road.
Over at Ford, the automaker showed off its own virtual reality experience. Theirs allows visitors to watch the Ford GT race through a wind tunnel, view the new transmission for the Ford F-150 and see the all new Ford Ecosport compact SUV.
“The displays are amazing that they always put out,” said Shalisa Goodman, an attendee from Ypsilanti, Mich. “There’s a lot more interactive things this year. I like to see all of the SUVs. I’m a little wary about self-driving. It’s a little weird to me. I kind of like to be in control of things. It is cool to see how we’ve advanced in the last 100 years of cars.”
Her boyfriend, Chris Seidl, added: “The games are really cool. I liked the Mustang I saw up there. The F-150 was nice, too. I can dream. Autonomous cars are a really cool technology to see. There’s a Ford one over there that I want to take a closer look at.”
Ford also introduced its all new 2018 Mustang–not during press days, but during the public show. It comes with a 10-speed transmission with more power from its V8 engine and an all-new digital dashboard.
Chinese automaker GAC Motor showed off three new vehicles at the auto show. One of them is a concept car called the Enspirit. They are looking to begin selling cars on the U.S. shores beginning in 2019.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Barry, an attendee from Cincinnati, Ohio. “A lot of the manufacturers change their displays as usual. There’s a lot of concept cars. The sales people are very friendly. When you ask them, they are intelligent and they know what you want. I like the Alfa Romeo and I like the new 650 BMW. My question is…if two self-driving cars have an accident, who’s at fault? There’s a lot of things that we’re going to have to work on.”
His ladyfriend, Monica, added: “I actually love the new minibus from Volkswagen. I thought that was cool. It brings back a lot of memories. This is much more exciting here than it would be locally. I love driving and to just sit and be a passenger takes too much away.”
Hyundai allows attendees to get behind the wheel of the N 2025 Concept Car in the video game Gran Turismo 6. Each visitor is given three minutes to play the game.
Visitors can also race a Dodge Challenger within the FiatChrysler area of the show. Strap in because the ride will get bumpy.
“It’s very good, there’s been a lot of improvements,” said Val, an attendee from metro Detroit. “It’s very much focused on virtual reality. The Alfa Romeos are my favorite cars at the show. They are very nice, a good design. I’m not in the market to buy a car right not, but later on I will be. I’m just looking for now.”
We spotted a moose in the Volvo display. It was there to demonstrate that the self-driving Volvo S90 can detect and avoid large animals on the road.
There’s still a few more days to make your way down to Cobo. The auto show runs until Sunday, Jan. 22nd. Remember to get your hand stamped this weekend for free admission to the Winter Blast at Campus Martius Park.
For tickets and more information about the 2017 NAIAS, visit www.naias.com.