RealWorldRoadTests is back home from the Press Days for the 2012 New York International Auto Show. We’ll begin posting articles throughout the upcoming days about individual manufacturers, cars, and trends, but for now here’s your very own press preview on what to expect in 2013 and beyond.

  • The mood of the auto industry seems to be “very good”. Manufacturers are reporting increased sales and increased optimism…
  • The number of “hybrid”, “eco”, “i-“, “e-“, plug-ins, electrics, low/zero emissions offerings was surprising. It seems like every manufacturer, if not offering an outright “eco” solution, was making some reference to improved fuel efficiency and/or lower emissions. “Eco” was the prominent theme among most displays; so much so that if they also offered performance cars or trucks – e.g., Ford – those performance models were placed in a distinctly discrete location, away from the “eco” stuff. So we wonder, is this a result of increased consumer demand, or is it because of the looming CAFE standards…? Or both? While at the show, we were able to sit down and interview GM pertaining to our forthcoming articles about Electric Vehicles and the Volt.
  • Similarly, there is a lot more good diesel solutions coming. Even Mercedes-Benz is putting a 4-cylinder diesel into the S Class (and the USA gets that engine in the GLK). Maybe the manufacturers are noting VWs success and think the US consumer is ready for more? We at RWRT like well-done diesels and would love to see more of these hit our shores.
  • However, motorsports was glaringly noticeable by its absence. Only Mazda (one of our favorite supporters of grassroots motorsports) had actual race cars in its display (well, except for Porsche’s 917). Cadillac only had background videos of their CTS-V successes, and the show’s “motorsports display” was pretty sparse. There was one outdated F1 display car, some exotica available for track days, and an F1 racing game. That display was placed  “around the corner” far off the main display area. Pretty much nothing else. Manufacturers used to tout their racing activities as tools toward the goal of “improving the breed”; today it ominously seems to fly in the face of the current pulse of the market, fuel efficiency and low emissions.
  • On the other hand, walk down to Level 1 where all the trucks, SUVs, SAVs, and performance cars are and your heart will shine with the available options. Need a good-ole American muscle car?  It’s in there. Want a big working truck? You got it. Want a Japanese high-performance all wheel drive turbo monster? No problem.
  • Also missing was the references to “safety”. We don’t think it’s because safety doesn’t sell any more (it does), we just infer that consumers now accept auto safety as a “given” so manufacturers are no longer using it as differentiators.
  • We saw several references to a “new” car segment described by one manufacturer as “sub-compact sport activity vehicle”. Basically, this represents a reduced-size Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV), which is itself a reduced-size Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). You and I will recognize this “new” car segment as…a wagon. But just don’t call it that.

Bottom line: the number of quality and choices in vehicles today is truly staggering. Were you an auto enthusiast that had yourself cryogenically frozen in the “bad old days” of the 70’s and 80s and then woke up today, you’d think you’re in automotive heaven. The number of quality “low-end” automobiles is truly inspiring. The RWRT staff had a deep discussion (in a bar hoisting a few) trying to think of a “bad” new car, something truly horrible in performance and quality; we couldn’t come up with even one. Yes, there are economy cars, but they’re really not that bad; and there are quirky cars. And on the flip side, the number of automobiles of truly supercar status is excellent, and the choices in “every man” muscle cars, updated to today’s quality standards, is amazing. We’ll wager there’s something in between it all that meets exactly what you’re looking for. And it won’t suck. So you’d be correct, you truly have woken up in car heaven.

The New York International Auto Show opens today (4/6/12) at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City and runs through April 15th. Grab a pair of your favorite comfy walking shoes – you’ll need ’em – and spend a day (or two) there, it will be worth your time. And stayed tuned with us here on RealWorldRoadTests as we bring you more detailed information on the manufacturers, cars, trends, and technologies from the show — then come back and tell us what YOU liked and disliked!

For more info on the show, browse to