2012 NAIAS: A Glimpse into the Future of the Automotive Industry

December 20, 2011
4 min read

January 9th is the official opening of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), and of course Mintel will be there to cover all the exciting new production and concept vehicles. NAIAS dates back to 1907, when the first auto show was held at the Beller’s Beer Garden in Detroit. The show has been held annually since 1907, with a exception between 1943-1952. In 1989 the auto show was renamed North American International Auto Show, and has been held in the iconic Cobo Center since 1961. For the automotive industry, NAIAS is a mix between New York Fashion Week and the Academy Awards. Automotive companies plan new vehicle and concept introductions for the press and industry analysts. The show is also the platform where the North America Car and Truck of the Year are announced. The winners of the NACTOY are selected by a group of automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada.

The show itself was a true spectacle in pre-recession years. One of the biggest attention grabbing events was for the launch of the 2009 Dodge Ram, which was a true game changer product. Chrysler, which is the parent of the Dodge brand, has always been known for its stunts at NAIAS. The company has crashed a Jeep through the front of the Cobo convention center, and when Chrysler unveiled the Chrysler Aspen, there was a simulated indoor snowstorm in Cobo.

In an attempt to outdo itself, Chrysler, took to the streets of Detroit and launched the 2009 Dodge Ram with a herd of 120 cattle. The Dodge Ram trucks drove the herd of cattle down the streets while riders on horseback made sure the cattle did not stray too far.

While extravagant events such as cattle drives through the streets of Detroit have stopped since the 2008 recession, there may be some show stopping plans this year.

The 2012 NAIAS will bring a large list of new product launches and concept vehicles to Detroit. With 35-40 new vehicles expected to debut at NAIAS. A partial list is below.

2012 Bentley Continental GT V8

2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe (North American Debut)

2012 BMW 3 Series (North America Debut)

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5

2012 Mini Roadster

2013 Acura MDX

2013 Ford Fusion

2013 Buick Encore

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

2013 Cadillac ATS

Ford Evos (North American Debut)

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

Nissan EV Van Concept

2013 Dodge Dart

Lexus Concept Car

2013 Honda Accord Coupe Concept

Volkswagen EV Concept?

AMP Electric SUV

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Concept

Acura ILX Concept

Buick Encore

Acura NSX Concept

Lincoln MKZ

Smart Forus

However, the show is more than just debuts. The NAIAS will also award the winner of the 2012 North American Car and Truck of the Year. The respective finalists for the 2012 NACTOY are:



Ford Focus


Hyundai Elantra

Honda CR-V

Volkswagen Passat

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

Though the Detroit automotive companies are staging a strong comeback, the final six nominations features only a single car from the Detroit 3, The Ford Focus. However, the list dominated by foreign brands does not indicate that they are favored to win, but only that they have a statistically better chance of winning.

The Car of the Year award has been awarded to a Detroit 3 brand ten times, a European brand four times, a Japanese brand three times and Hyundai, the Korean automotive manufacturer won it once. On the other hand, the Truck of the Year award has gone to a Detroit 3 brand 12 times, a Japanese brand four times, and a European brand twice. While the award does not guarantee that the vehicle will be an instant success, it is a great accomplishment for the automotive company, especially in the spotlight of such a big event.

North American Car of the year winner

North American Truck of the year winner


Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Dodge Ram


Chrysler Cirrus

Chevrolet Blazer


Chrysler minivans

Ford F-150


Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

Ford Expedition


Chevrolet Corvette

Mercedes-Benz M-Class


Chrysler 300M

Jeep Grand Cherokee


Ford Focus

Nissan Xterra


Chrysler PT Cruiser

Acura MDX


Nissan Altima

Chevrolet TrailBlazer


MINI Cooper

Volvo XC90


Toyota Prius

Ford F-150


Chrysler 300

Ford Escape Hybrid


Honda Civic

Honda Ridgeline


Saturn Aura

Chevrolet Silverado


Chevrolet Malibu

Mazda CX-9


Hyundai Genesis

Ford F-150


Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Transit Connect


Chevrolet Volt

Ford Explorer

Look back to the Mintel Blog for updates on the NAIAS and coverage of the event on January 9-10.

George Augustaitis
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