Who "won" Day 1 of the New York International Auto Show?
We think there was plenty of good news to go around. Intense global competition is pushing the automakers to bring their "A" games like never before, and we saw it on display today with important new models from the luxury brands at old rivals Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM).
Ford's Lincoln Continental Concept wowed the crowds early on. It's a big, long, big, low, wide, (and did we say big?) luxury sedan with an opulent, spacious interior that offers a clear vision of what Ford executives are calling "quiet luxury." It's officially just a concept car, but CEO Mark Fields told us that it's a close preview of the Lincoln Continental sedan that Ford will put into production next year.
Like its old American rival, GM's Cadillac brand debuted an all-new big sedan, the CT6 -- and like Lincoln's Continental, the new CT6 is designed with both American and Chinese tastes in mind. China's booming market for luxury cars has offered both brands an opportunity to boost their sales and expand their portfolios, and as with Lincoln and the Continental, the CT6 is intended to serve as a "halo car" that elevates the overall Cadillac brand.
But the two brands are taking very different approaches, informed by very different points of view on "luxury." While Lincoln is emphasizing quiet, cosseted cruising with the plush Continental, Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen emphasized that the surprisingly lightweight CT6 will have the agility of a top-drawer sports sedan -- something that he says Cadillac's German rivals seem to have bred out of their largest cars.
Both sedans are impressive. But in our view, the day's most significant debut might have been another, much more pedestrian GM product. The all-new Chevy Malibu needed to be seriously impressive to have a chance in the mainstream midsize sedan market -- and the good news is that the new Malibu is indeed an impressive model.
GM has given its midsize mainstay a whole new lease on life, with a new platform that sheds pounds while adding legroom, a striking new body design that has a strong family resemblance to the successful Chevy Impala, and a long list of high-tech features -- including a no-excuses hybrid system that, GM promises, will deliver 45 miles per gallon.
It's all here in our Day 1 report from the floor of the New York International Auto Show. Check back tomorrow for our Day 2 edition, which will feature important new models from Toyota, Honda, and Nissan -- as well as a surprise or two.