There's an anecdote I like to use when I'm around folks in the auto industry. My first day at Plastics News, I tell them, was the day General Motors introduced the Aztek. And luckily, my future was brighter than that of the ill-fated crossover. (While the Aztek had many features drivers liked, including an integrated cooler, it had the look that only a mother — or corporate management — could love.)
I've seen a lot at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit over the years since then, including performances by musicians and acrobats, 1,000-horsepower motorcycles and a herd of longhorn cattle on a downtown street for a pickup truck introduction.
What I hadn't really seen until the 2022 edition was lack of big applause for at least a few of the new vehicle introductions. Not that the media and others at the show didn't like the cars, but with reduced attendance, there simply wasn't the same crowd to hype up the cars.
This year's show — the first since January 2019 because of COVID-19 — is very different. Because of the pandemic, automakers have found new ways to introduce car models. They no longer have to rely on just a handful of big auto shows, but instead can use targeted events to unveil new models.
That's not to say that there was no media hype at the show. (The biggest event at the show was one that the general press media weren't invited to attend: a private walkthrough from President Joe Biden, which led to increased security for everyone attending, including a person with a dinosaur costume for a display on the show floor at Detroit's Huntington Center.)
Will this low-key show be an example for the future? Or just a one-time post-COVID adjustment? As always, we'll have to wait and see.