Top 10 Trends at the North American International Auto Show 2012

Nowshad Rizwanullah , 13 Jan 2012

Summarizing NAIAS is not easy – but after a full day of trolling around the different pavilions and watching exclusive product launches, here are my top 10 car trends to watch out for in 2012. If you’re looking to buy a car, here’s everything you need to know to stay in tune with the times.

1) It’s All About Technology.

By far the most common theme across all brands this year is a heavy focus on advanced driver and passenger technologies. From slick personal device integration to state of the art drive assist systems, everyone from Kia to Bentley is proving that software is increasingly become as important as hardware.

2) Green No Longer Means Ugly.

Eco-friends, rejoice! It’s unclear why it took so long, but automobile manufacturers have finally stopped treating hybrid vehicles as their ugly step-children. Remember this monstrosity?

Honda Insight

This year, you’d be hard pressed to see the difference between regular cars and their hybrid cousins. Just take a look at this sexy new Ford Fusion Hybrid: looks like a Jag, drives like a Prius (actually, better, according to Ford).

Ford Fusion Hybrid

3) Small Cars Can Be Cool Too!

It used to be that driving a small car made you look like a goofy clown (sorry Maruti 800). Not anymore. This year, some of the most stylish rides with the biggest barks are compacts. From the stylish soft-top Fiat 500 to the muscular Mini Cooper Roadster, driving small and standing tall are no longer mutually exclusive.

Fiat 500
Mini Cooper Roadster

4) Big or Small, Bright Colors Are In.

Electric blue. Canary yellow. Neon green. Cherry red. Other than slick technology, the most common theme among almost every manufacturer this year is bold, bright colors.

Audi RS5
Mazda CX5
Chevrolet Camaro Hot Wheels Concept
Ford Focus

5) Less Curves, More Angles.

2012 appears to be the year of defined lines and angular accents. Expect to see more sharp edges in the upcoming year.

Cadillac XTS

6) Audi is the German Car to Beat.

As you would expect, the biggest crowd-pleasers this year continue to be the luxury automobile makers from Germany. The last couple of years have seen Audi make impressive strides in catching up with leaders BMW and Mercedes, and this year they continue to steal the limelight with more dazzling, eye catching models on display than their rivals (and we’re not just talking cars).

Audi S7
Audi S4
Audi R8 GT Spyder

7) Steve Jobs Lives!

We all know that Apple’s founder revolutionized the worlds of personal computing, operating systems, animated movies, music players, music retail, high street retail, cell phones and tablet computing. Well add to that the art of the sale. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this years auto show is the incredible showmanship with which auto executives are selling their cars. Slick graphics, catchy animations, dramatic pauses, and yes – “there’s one more thing.” No one sold better than Steve, but everyone sure is trying.

Bill Ford at Ford Fusion Press Conference
Ford Fusion Press Conference

8) WiFi Sucks, Even in the U.S.

Ok this has nothing to do with cars, but sorry NAIAS, it’s true. Get your act together.


9) Japan is Lost…

Perhaps the biggest disappointment at NAIAS 2012 is the sad showing from Japanese manufacturers. Aside from a couple of concept vehicles from Lexus and Acura, most of the offerings from Asia’s powerhouses are dull, timid and uninspired, often recycled or retouched versions of tired and played out designs. Even Korea’s Hyundai – which has made great design strides lately – has a limited display. I never thought I would say this but perhaps the only bright spot for Asia is Kia, which appears to have finally broken free of the notion that cheap cars have to look cheap too.

Kia Optima

10) … But America is Back.

Although the Germans may rule the Flash, by far the biggest, boldest and most impressive ideas this year have been put forward by US manufacturers. Yes, I know, we’re in Detroit. But as the world’s largest car market, every manufacturer comes to Detroit to bring it. From fuel efficiency to cutting edge technology and design, American car makers have been the most aggressive this year in proving they are ready for a new automotive age. Looks like living on the brink of bankruptcy can really spur you into action. (Also, Ford was the only car company to invite social media “influencers” so aggressively to Detroit, which on it’s own, I think says a lot).

Ford Display at NAIAS
Chevrolet Miray Concept
NAIAS 2012

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