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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 12, 2018 1:00 am

Trucks highlight auto show

Ford, GM to show off their updated pickups in Detroit

Kyle Stock and Hannah Elliott | Bloomberg

Next week, Detroit goes back to the future.

After auto executives spent years trying to convince the world they can beat Silicon Valley to electric cars and autonomous driving, they are finally getting a chance to crow once again about what they do best: trucks.

The highlights of Detroit's perennial auto fete, the North American International Auto Show, will be pickups and SUVs – a whole mess of them. Each of the hometown brands will pull the cover off of a new flatbed, while at least three of the luxury brands roll out new SUVs. Tesla Inc. won't even be there. And for the first time in months, tow ratings will be discussed more heatedly than “transportation clouds” and Lidar algorithms.

The main event will be a monster-truck war between Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet. GM will show off the newest iteration of its Silverado, a full-size pickup that has been trounced of late by Ford's F-150. GM's Allen County truck assembly plant produces some of the Silverado pickups, along with GMC Sierra models.

Chevy already teased the truck in Texas, showing a sleeker rig with tiny LED slashes for headlights and creased body panels that ape a sports sedan more than the boxy aesthetic typical to the class. Next week, we're sure to get all the dirty details about performance capabilities and engines. Inc. analyst Jeremy Acevedo says he won't be surprised by something bold such as smatterings of carbon fiber.

“At this point, you'd think anything would be game,” he said. “Nothing's off the table for them.”

Meanwhile, Ford steers back into the small(ish) truck race with its Ranger. Ford hasn't sold a starter truck in the U.S. since 2011, deciding instead to pitch its Transit van to urban cowboys and HGTV wannabes. In the meantime, General Motors grabbed a huge share of the market with its midsize Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Ford never stopped making the Ranger abroad, but it assures that the U.S. version will be “all-new.”

Finally, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles will add another layer of intrigue with an all new Ram 1500 pickup. The old Dodge work rig is perennially the bronze medalist in the U.S. truck race. Nevertheless, it still wins 1 in 5 U.S. truck buyers and enjoys the kind of rabid fandom reserved for underdogs.