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High-performance vehicles steal the spotlight at Detroit auto show

(WWMT/Mike Krafcik)

The 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit features a lineup that is heavy on trucks and SUVs with a few high-profile debuts of sports cars.

Yet, it was the high-performance vehicles that took center stage.

Experts said customers are increasingly demanding faster cars and performance sport utility vehicles because of lower gas prices.

This year's auto show lineup could also be considered a glimpse of car lots of the future, crammed with trucks, sport utilities and high-performance sports cars.

“We think sedans are going to keep falling by the wayside. We’ve seen that happening, Ford re-thinking the way they’re doing their lineup. We’ve seen that at GM,” said Jenni Newman, editor in chief at Cars.com.

Ford announced in 2018 that it is phasing out sedans, but it’s going all-in on horsepower for its 2020 models. The newly revealed 2020 Ford Explorer ST packs a 400-horsepower engine. Many said the new version appeals to 9-to-5’ers and soccer moms looking for an edge.

“A lot of customers want to have the ability to have their vehicle take them to and from soccer practice with their kids but as soon as they drop off their kids, they want to have an experience,” said Lauren Putnam, product planner for Ford Motor Co.

As for sports cars, Ford is doubling down by the unveiling the 2020 Shelby GT 500. The 700-horsepower Shelby is the most powerful street-legal production Ford has made.

“I think there’s something about these sporty cars that gets people excited and really want to dive into these brands,” Newman said.

It’s not just domestic automakers getting in on the fun. Toyota made a big splash by announcing the return of the two-seater Supra after a 20-year hiatus.

“I think the public is going to be impressed. They’ve been begging for this vehicle to make its comeback,” said Emerson Niemcheck, a product specialist with Toyota.

Experts have said cheap gasoline has helped sports car, sport utility vehicle and truck sales continue their dramatic climb, but what about electric vehicles?

Just two electric vehicle concepts were rolled out at the auto show, including Nissan's IM. The concept vehicle has fully autonomous drive and can go 380 miles on a single charge.

Experts point out the price of new cars have continued to increase.

“Car prices continue to go up. There’s a gap between what people think a car costs and what it actually costs. That leads to problems,” Newman said.


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