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The Thrill Is….Gone?

Despite record auto sales a great malaise of “ho-hum” has overtaken the nation’s auto industry. Even the blogger born with the most auto DNA, Auto Extremist Peter De Lorenzo, in his January 25 Rant, “The End of Cardolatry” sees the industry on the “edge of a cliff” facing a “monumental shift” that he attributes to the commoditization of transportation, autonomous connected cars and “the last remaining auto-fueled generation slowly but surely shuffling off of this mortal coil.”

Very possibly De Lorenzo’s jeremiad was prompted by a series of  General Motors moves as reported by Joann Muller, Forbes Detroit Bureau Chief  “It (GM) invested $500 million in Lyft and said it will work with the ride-sharing company to develop a fleet of on-demand autonomous vehicles. It also announced a technology partnership with MobileEye to crowd-source advanced mapping data for self-driving cars. And it introduced the Chevrolet Bolt, the first long-range, electric car real people can afford to buy – which also happens to be the perfect car for the sharing economy.”

Or it might have been triggered by the $500 a ticket Motor City car show for the “1 Percent” prior to the North American International Auto Show. It featured cars from the high-end of the market which De Lorenzo derided “because it has been devoid of rhyme or reason for well over a decade now.” De Lorenzo’s appraisal is a far more inclusive and pervasive indictment than Wally Wyss’ nostalgic lament in the December Newsletter about the death of performance. That brought a few dissents and some concurrence.

De Lorenzo’s rant is buttressed by the lackluster media response so far to this year’s auto shows. Even the Consumer Electronics Show where car companies have been making news that did not stay in Las Vegas in recent years was a bust. As blogger Otto Blopnik noted in his spoof news report, “There was chaos, calamity and confusion at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when it was discovered among the more than
2,000 actual exhibits that a useful gadget had ‘inadvertently’ been put on display.” The mammoth show established bigger is not necessarily better.

The much anticipated Faraday Future reveal at CES was what Motor Trend writer Scott Evans deemed mostly an assembly of various existing technologies encased, in what another writer deemed a “schoolboy’s dream design.” According to Autoweek’s Mark Vaughan the showpiece will never be built and while what Faraday says it will build in a new billion-dollar plant outside of Las Vegas sounds good, it also sounds like a faraway dream. Possibly enough smoke and mirrors however to cajole more dollars from Faraday’s backer, reportedly one of China’s richest men. Meanwhile the numbers are up for auto show attendance but the excitement is down and very possibly cars are no longer the “heart beat of America.”