(Paul Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau) The New York International Auto Show is the last of the big U.S. car shows before the industry takes a summer break and it takes on more significance than it has in years with at least two dozen new cars, trucks and crossovers scheduled to make their debut at the Jacob Javits convention center in the coming days.
Automakers are hoping that the timing of this year’s New York Auto Show coincides with the continuing revival of the U.S. automotive market. Sales surged at a double-digit pace last year and are echoing that growth so far in 2013. By some of the more optimistic forecasts, the market could jump from 14.5 million to as much as 15.5 million this year – though that is still below the record numbers of early in the new millennium, when Americans bought as many as 17 million new vehicles in a single year.
Industry analysts suggest that major car shows can deliver a surge of new momentum to the market, especially in the surrounding community – and metro New York is already one of the biggest automotive markets in the country.
The flood of new models rolling into Jacob Javits reflects, to some degree, the delays forced by the industry’s worst downturn since the Great Recession of the 1930s. Many makers had to postpone or slow the pace of development due to budget cuts. Others simply slowed things down to wait out a market revival rather than launch critical offerings at a time when consumers might not be interested.
The Chevrolet Corvette unleashed at the Detroit Auto Show in January was a good example, the launch of the seventh-generation 2014 “C7” Stingray delayed by two years due to the maker’s bankruptcy.
According to the automotive data tracking service R.L. Polk, there will be 141 product launches this year, a 57 percent increase from 2012. (For more details on specific models, see full post here.)
Luxury brands dominate this year’s show, in fact, accounting for at least half of the debuts planned, depending on which brands you include. That’s no surprise considering the wealth of the NY region – it is, for example, the single-largest metro market for the new Range Rover model. Cadillac clearly is hoping to gain traction in the traditionally import-oriented Big Apple, a key reason for launching the new model in the city.
For those on a budget, there are some more affordable new products on display, including the Kia Koup and the update for the Scion tC sports coupe. There are also some significant new family models, including the next-generation Toyota Highlander and Honda Odyssey minivan.
Reflecting recent trends, the NYIAS has slightly more new passenger cars than utility vehicles to tantalize potential buyers with. Sedans, coupes and even sports cars have been regaining some of their own momentum as fuel prices head upward.
That’s not to say the American fascination with utes is dead. They remain a major factor in U.S. sales – or at least more car-like crossovers do. The number of traditional, truck-based offerings is steadily dwindling. Both the new Nissan Pathfinder and that Range Rover Sport, for example, have migrated to car-based “architectures” in their latest incarnations, as has the new Jeep Cherokee.
That old nameplate is making its return after a long absence from the market, the 2014 Cherokee replacing the aged and slow-selling Jeep Liberty. Its distinctive design could make it one of the more controversial models at the New York Auto Show this year, even Jeep officials acknowledge.
While the SUV arm of Chrysler contends that the new Cherokee will retain its off-road capabilities, they also promote the fact that it will deliver significantly improved mileage. And while the 2013 NYIAS isn’t the greenest of auto shows, the environment is nonetheless an important topic for carmakers and car buyers alike.
There will be a handful of new battery-based models making their debut, starting with hybrid versions of two Nissan models, the recently redesigned Pathfinder and the QX60 from the maker’s Infiniti brand. Subaru, meanwhile, will unwrap its first-ever gas-electric model, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid. And Mercedes-Benz will roll out the first pure battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, targeted at the U.S. market. The Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, in fact, will be the only version of that small people-mover sold in the States.
Automakers are already teasing their NY introductions, even releasing images and details on a few models, like the 2014 Buick LaCrosse. There’ll be an assortment of sneak previews for the media on Tuesday evening and then the doors open on Wednesday morning at the Javits.
The public will have to wait a few days but close to a million potential buyers could stream into a city better known for mass transit in the weeks ahead to check out the auto industry’s latest offerings.
A longer version of this post originally appeared on The Detroit Bureau.