Wednesday, January 13, 2021



This is the first January in my lifetime that downtown Detroit hasn't been a buzz hosting the North American International Auto Show.  The glamor of auto shows has faded over the years as car manufacturers marketing has evolved and other other events have competed for consumers attention. The pandemic combined with the local dealership association, DADA, that hosts Detroit's auto show plans to revitalize this iconic even put the January event in deep freeze. While the show may re-emerge as a Summer or Fall event in the future, the grey winter skies of January make the month a lot gloomier without the shine of the auto show bringing Auto Show crowds to the Motor City.

January isn't totally devoid of automotive news though. Motorheads will appreciate the techy industry highlights that have been coming out of this year's CES technology conference.  A number of players in the automotive industry have been showcasing the next generation of cars at the Consumer Electronics Show. I've enjoyed the inside look at how the automotive industry is evolving while participating in CES 2021 and it has filled some of the void this car guy has felt with the absence of the Detroit Auto Show.


Headlining CES this year was a keynote presentation by General Motors Chairman & CEO Mary Barra. She highlighted how GM is moving forward with the next gen of cars by introducing a new tech industry inspired logo and discussing how the company is evolving from gasoline powered engines to an electrified future. Bara noted that currently electric powered cars and trucks make up only 3% of global vehicles but GM will invest 25 billion dollars now through 2025 in creating battery powered transportation. She believes the world is at an inflection point of an all electric future for the automotive industry.

GM provided an overview of a battery platform developed in partnership with LG that is adaptable for uses in a variety of consumer and commercial vehicle configurations ranging from cars to suvs to trucks. This battery technology will allow GM battery fueled vehicles to travel 450 miles on a full charge. They also noted that these batteries are quick charging and that a vehicle would be able to traverse 90 miles on just a 10 minute charge. As part of the GM investment into electrification, the car maker will be working to ensure that charging stations will be accessible to their customers as gas stations so that drivers can continue to enjoy the freedom of the open road like they do now. We will need to stay tuned for more updates but the next four years looks to be an exciting time in the evolution of cars and trucks.

GM battery chassis

GM also made a super announcement about an upgrade coming to its vehicle lineup. After debuting in Cadillac models the super cruise hands free driving system will be available in 22 models across all the GM brands. This adaptive cruise control uses real-time precise positioning, cameras, sensors and LiDAR map data to help navigate a car without the need for hands-on control of a steering wheel. My wife and I tend to purchase Buick and GMC vehicles so I'm intrigued that this feature is being expanded beyond luxury brands. 

GM even brought some sci-fi to CES introducing its version of the Jetsons' "flying car" as a Cadillac. The Cadillac VTOL (Vertical Take Off / Landing) that it envisions one day will have people from rooftop to rooftop at the reasonable speed of 56 miles per hour. Why sit in traffic when you can go over it?!


Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) made a final hurrah before the company merges with Peugeot to create Stellantis, which will become the world's fourth largest automotive manufacturer. FCA created a virtual auto show floor at CES featuring mostly Jeep vehicles as well as a couple of Fiat cars, Ram trucks and a Dodge suv. Videos showed you around the interior and exterior of the vehicles plus there was an augmented reality simulation of going off-roading in a Jeep. I enjoyed roaming around this virtual auto show display at CES.



Mercedes-Benz showed off a futuristic concept car. The Vision Vision AVTR looks like it could be a prop for a TRON movie or an animal from AVATAR. Its open sides and unique angles make this vehicle standout from anything that is driving on the road now. It also introduced a new concept for electric power using renewable plant-based materials to construct the batteries that fuel it instead of mined metals and minerals the automotive industry is relying on now for its next generation of cars. This was a car designed to make people geek out over it!

BMW promoted its new heads up displays. GPS map apps on phones have replaced old school paper maps and now these new LED dashboard displays will allow people to be more informed than ever before when it comes to knowing where they are going while safely viewing driving directions within their line of sight.


When I go to auto shows a highlight for me is checking out race cars on display. So I appreciated seeing the Indy Autonomous Car Challenge Race Car on display at CES. Universities from colleges in eleven different countries are competing to see who can win a race where the winner earns a million dollar prize. The race takes place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 23, 2021 involving actual Indy cars that can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour. 

There is a catch to this competition ... the race cars can't be steered by humans in the vehicles or by remote control.  Each entrant must maneuver the track competing in the race controlled by artificial intelligence. This competition is all about designing an autonomous driving system that has robotic cars driving around the speedway. This race is going to be very interesting!

indy autonomous challenge

Audi also introduced an all electric powered car called the RS e-Tron GT. This car looks sharp! Plus its performance stats make it seem as the car will run as good as it looks. If these stats are true to fact than this car will ride just as fine as any internal combustion luxury GT-style car on the market today.


Luxury brand Lotus even made an appearance at CES to announce they were designing their first ever all electric powered sports car. They didn't share a picture but it is not like I'll ever be able to buy one of these so not that big of a deal. There announcement though further points out that battery powered vehicles are really gaining a lot of traction right now. It will be exciting to see how these announcements are updated at CES during the next few years. I foresee that we will be seeing a lot of change in how we picture cars and trucks through the remainder of this decade.

So that is my roundup of next gen cars at CES. What is your favorite industry announcement or vehicle on display at CES 2021? While I was impressed by the Audi RS e-Tron what really excited me was that hands free driving is moving beyond luxury brands and into mainstream vehicles more quickly than I expected. Autonomous driving is going to be here before we know it, but until then I'm thrilled that  super cruise hands free driving will probably be in the next car I get.

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