DETROIT — Even as the ongoing negotiations between the three Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers labor union overshadowed all else in the industry, some companies used this year’s edition of the Detroit Auto Show to show off new and revamped models on Wednesday.
The discussions around a new four-year contract have been tense, as the union threatens costly strikes if the sides do not reach an agreement by 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday night, when the current contract expires.
Given that backdrop and challenges auto shows have faced since the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not surprising that most automakers chose not to reveal their newest models — or even attend the show at all. But there was still one all-new model, a redesign of GMC’s popular Acadia crossover, and significant updates to a few others unveiled at the event, properly called the North American International Auto Show
Here’s what CNBC saw at the show.
All-new: 2024 GMC Acadia
The show’s one big new model reveal came as General Motors unveiled the completely redesigned 2024 GMC Acadia on Wednesday morning. The all-new Acadia remains a midsize crossover, but it’s larger than the outgoing model, with a brawny new look that’s more in line with its GMC brand siblings such as the smaller Terrain crossover and Sierra pickup truck.
The new Acadia will be powered exclusively by a new 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 328 horsepower and 326 foot-pounds of torque – more than the outgoing model. Inside, there’s a standard 15-inch center control touchscreen and a host of new safety and convenience technologies, including GM’s hands-free Super Cruise highway driver-assistance system.
Making the Acadia larger is correcting what GM executives have come to see as a mistake made with the outgoing model. The company shrunk the size of that vehicle, to the dismay of current owners and dealers, according to GMC head Duncan Aldred.
“It was a pretty easy decision for us really to go bigger because we know that customers want it, they value that space, we think it will lead to more success,” he said during a media event.
Production of the 2024 Acadia is expected to begin early next year at a plant in mid-Michigan, with vehicles slated to hit dealer showrooms during the first quarter. GM has announced a third shift for the plant to produce the Acadia and its Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave sibling crossovers.
The Acadia is a big seller for the upscale GMC brand, with just over 40,000 sold in the U.S. in the first half of 2023. Among the brand’s SUVs, only the big truck-based Yukon sells more.
A big refresh: 2024 Ford F-150
Ford Motor didn’t do much at the show Wednesday, but it wasn’t left out. The company revealed its refreshed 2024 F-150 pickup truck lineup Tuesday night to a large crowd in downtown Detroit, not far from the show floor.
The revamped truck, a huge seller that is crucial to Ford’s profits, features updated engines and new interior and exterior designs. The latter includes a new tailgate that allows customers to access the vehicle’s bed like a standard door as well as a traditional drop-down tailgate.
The big news of the night was that the company plans to double U.S. production of a hybrid version of the F-150 to roughly 20% of trucks produced for the 2024 model-year.
The hybrid plans follow Ford CEO Jim Farley saying in late July that the Detroit automaker would quadruple the company’s production of gas-electric hybrids as it continues to increase EV production — but at a slower pace than previously announced.
“I certainly think that hybrid, our PowerBoost hybrid, help folks transition into full electric,” John Emmert, Ford truck general manager, told CNBC in an interview. “Hybrid is a step toward electrification, and for some people right now that electrification isn’t the best solution for them.”
A new face: 2025 Cadillac CT5
General Motors also revealed a refreshed version of its Cadillac CT5 sedan at the show on Wednesday morning. The CT5, the larger of Cadillac’s two remaining internal-combustion sedans, will get a restyled front grill and a refreshed interior, including a big new touchscreen, for the 2025 model year.
The refreshed CT5’s dash adopts the large 33-inch touchscreen seen in other Cadillacs, giving drivers extensive customization options including Google-powered navigation and entertainment services. Outside, its new front end includes a bolder grille, inspired by recent Cadillac show vehicles, and redesigned lighting.
The new advanced technologies enhance the driver’s personal connection in a sedan already renowned for its driving spirit, comfort and technology,” said Alex MacDonald, the CT5’s chief engineer.
The rear-wheel-drive CT5 is well-regarded by critics for its sharp handling. But while it’s Cadillac’s best-selling sedan, its sales trail those of most of the brand’s SUVs and crossovers.
GM sold about 10,000 CT5s in the U.S. in the first half of the year, roughly double the smaller CT4 sedan’s total. But it was far less than the nearly 21,000 sales of the luxury brand’s bestseller, the big Escalade SUV, over the same period.
Production of the updated CT5 will begin in the second quarter of 2024. Updates to the high-performance versions of the CT5, the CT5-V and CT5-V Blackwing, will be shared at a later date, GM said.
Some timely updates: 2024 Jeep Gladiator
Stellantis revealed a lightly overhauled version of its Jeep Gladiator, a pickup truck based on the brand’s iconic Wrangler. The Gladiator will get a refreshed version of the iconic Jeep grille for the 2024 model year, as well as an upgraded touchscreen “infotainment” system and some new off-road features.
Not surprisingly, the Gladiator’s new grille is very similar to the revamped grille that the Wrangler itself will be sporting for the 2024 model year. The two models are built side-by-side at the Jeep brand’s flagship factory in Toledo.
Inside, Stellantis has made its 12.3-inch touchscreen system – originally an upgrade option – standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Buyers of the revamped Gladiator will also be able to opt for new power seats that have been “tested for water fording,” said Senior Vice President Jim Morrison, who leads the Jeep brand in North America.
Combine all of that with its folding windshield, three roof choices, two different door options or taking the doors off altogether, and Gladiator is the only truck in the business that can celebrate this kind of open-air freedom and still do real truck stuff,” Morrison said.
New “X” versions of the Gladiator’s Mojave and Rubicon trims, which are even more focused on off-road driving, add a full-time transfer case and an integrated off-road camera, as well as steel bumpers at both ends. But Stellantis has discontinued the Gladiator’s optional diesel engine, leaving buyers with just one powertrain choice — a 3.6-liter V-6 with 285 horsepower. Unlike the Wrangler, the Gladiator isn’t offered in a hybrid version.
The Gladiator’s sales are only a fraction of the Wrangler’s – about 27,000 Gladiators versus over 84,000 Wranglers in the first half of 2023 – but it’s still an important, high-profit product for Stellantis. The company said dealers can order the revamped truck now, with deliveries expected to begin before year-end.