Blog: Graeme RobertsDetroit Day One - becoming more familiar

Graeme Roberts | 10 January 2012

Hours after its reveal, camera video crews were still shooting the new Dodge Dart

Hours after its reveal, camera video crews were still shooting the new Dodge Dart

Day One of my first Detroit show was great. The Americans know how to get a product noticed and the music that heralded the Dodge Dart was loud enough to make ears bleed over in Canada. I wasn't in the main audience but, on a far corner of the stand, it still felt like an earthquake.

The true successor to the Neon, on its Fiat/Alfa platform with European MultiAir engine options, etc, is a nice looker though cabin materials and fit/finish, though way ahead of the Neon, are still below the standard of a European Focus, Astra or Golf. That won't worry US buyers used to low-rent domestic interiors. There are a few styling cues - the dashtop screen demister vent, for example - reminiscent of the Neon. I didn't find the driver's seat particularly comfy and the rear is a bit cramped. Expect it soon on airport rental lots, just like its predecessor.

We may not like small sedans much in Europe/UK but they're popular in America and the Dart drew a huge crowd for its reveal and TV crews were still filming it hours later. If the number of fingerprints on a car is a guide to the interest in its launch, the Dart is Detroit's show winner. It's got some nice features - one of many options includes a customisable digital dash display, not unlike the Cadillac CUE system I told you about earlier.

Amongst numerous other highlights were Chevrolet's two concept coupes aimed at Millennium buyers - the 18 to 30s - and, as Glenn Brooks has reported, the new Ford Fusion which looks so like a Mondeo from the rear. I wonder if the new Mondeo will be as big? I've also been catching up on US products - giant SUVs with interiors bigger than some British flats, their truck cousins and certain sportscars with V8 engines.

Detroit is routine for most of the British journalists I have caught up with and getting lost in the Renaissance Center is apparently also routine. I don't think I have managed to take the same route anywhere twice. A security guard seeing me twice in 10 minutes handed over a map and wrote in the points of compass and the roads alongside, which is handy. Apparently it takes new employees in the complex a couple of months to get a sense of direction of the multiple floors, glass walkways and so on. GM employees in the building for years tell me they still get lost - "just as you get used to a layout, they change it," one said.

I also like the elevated monorail People Mover (much like London's Docklands Light Railway) which, for US$0.75 a ride, winds round a circular track, one way only. That means a few stops from RenCen to Cobo Center for the show and an aerial tour of downtown as you make many more stops on the way back. Some of the guys walk but, with my success navigating RenCen so far, I'd probably end up across the river in Canada.

Turns out the Marriott will supply tea bags on request. Ever tried tea made in a coffee maker? With coffee whitener? I'll get my Liptons at the show, thanks.


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