The environmental focus from the past few years of car design and marketing has largely evaporated in this year's North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Even more than last year's show, green cars are comparatively few and far between in the displays at Detroit.
This is not to say that green technology is absent from this year's show. While the cutaway vehicles that showed how hybrids work are mostly gone, the hybrids and other green vehicles are still a part of many manufacturers' lineups. For a visitor who has seen several of these shows, the increase in fuel efficiency requirements is apparent with more cars that get over 30 MPG, but it is disappointing to find that there are also still many cars with performance under 20 MPG.
Some automakers that have previously had notably green cars as part of their mix in previous years have nothing highlighted in this year's show, including Volvo and Audi. And the technological angle has taken a backseat, overall, to presenting cars as part of a lifestyle. The theme park aspect of last year's show is also far less of a presence, with only a few interactive ride-style displays.
For other builders, green cars have become significantly mainstream. The Chevrolet Volt, Nissan LEAF, Toyota Prius and other green cars are simply integrated into the overall manufacturers' displays, and prominent 'eco' badging and side decal identification of green cars is largely absent. The emphasis is no longer on these cars as special offerings that are somehow significantly different from the rest of the line. They now sit as just another car in the manufacturers' range of offerings.
Despite this general trend, there are some interesting new concepts being unveiled this year, as well as green technology arising in some unexpected places. We'll have more specific reports on some of these forthcoming.
And, for the most overused graphic of the year, we'll nominate the car driving on a computer-generated ribbon that then dives and twists like a roller-coaster. Only partway through the first day of the show, and we've already seen this too many times.
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