Filip Babalievsky will be representing Verona High School–and the state of New Jersey– as the state champ in Automotive Services Marketing at the DECA International Career Development Conference this weekend in Orlando. Last weekend, he was at the New York International Auto Show, and filed this report:
This year’s car show represents a return to form for the domestic manufacturers and for the industry as a whole. When one enters the Jacob Javits Convention Center, one sees a towering statue of the Transformer Bumblebee, posing beside the Camaro he shape-shifts into and guarding the entrance to GM’s separate wing. In that wing, one is confronted with an array of vastly-improved models that are breathing down the throats of the Japanese and German competition. One of the highlights was the 2013 Malibu, sharper and more elegant than its predecessor and with styling cues like its LED taillights lifted from the Camaro.
Meanwhile, its crosstown competitors Chrysler and Ford have been making similar leaps in quality, with the name “Ford Fusion” now spoken of in the same breath as “Toyota Camry.” Across the Pacific, the Korean automaker Hyundai has been making comparable strides, with vehicles released by its namesake brand and sub-brand Kia matching cars from Toyota and even Lexus in quality, while undercutting them in price and surpassing them in aesthetic flair. The Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima are worthy rivals for the Camry and Accord, and the Hyundai Genesis and Equus are both excellent Korean luxury sedans.
However, what with the global interconnections in the modern auto industry, it is hard to say exactly what constitutes a Korean or American car maker. Case in point: the Saab PhoeniX, a wild concept car with two looped spoilers jutting out of each side. Its designer, Jason Castriota, was born in the United States but earned his stripes designing gorgeous Italian sports cars; it debuted at the Geneva show in Switzerland; its parent company is Swedish but is owned by a Dutch manufacturer; and the Saab 9-3, whose successor the PhoeniX foreshadows, is built on a chassis derived from Opel, the German wing of GM, an American automaker. It not only previews the new look of the Saab brand, it also previews the future of the industry, for beneath that hood is a hybrid drive train.
“Green” vehicles have been a staple of past auto shows; usually in the form of futuristic concept cars powered by expensive fuel cells, and wrapped in impractical bodywork. The difference this year is that most major automakers proudly displayed a practical, affordable vehicle that will be or already is in production. GM had its Chevy Volt, Nissan had its Leaf , Ford had a slew of hybrids and its upcoming electric Focus, and Hyundai had its affordable Sonata Hybrid. Toyota, not wanting to be left behind, expanded the lineup of its long-serving Prius sub-brand with a larger Prius-V, a plug-in hybrid, and a concept previewing a smaller Prius model. The German luxury brands weighed in as well, with BMW showing an electrified 1-series and Mercedes showing a fuel-cell powered subcompact.
Perhaps the biggest story from the auto show is that the electrification of the automobile, once the realm of show cars and science projects, is finally filtering down to the masses.
The New York International Auto Show runs through Sunday, May 1 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. One of the easiest ways to get there from Verona is by water taxi from Weehawkin, and you can buy combo tickets here.