2020 Auto Shows: Takeaways and Trends

As a true car dork, I had the pleasure of attending two auto shows in as many weeks. First was the New England International Auto Show in Boston, Massachusetts, and then the Northeast International Auto Show in Providence, Rhode Island. Though both of these shows are a fraction of the size of what you’ll find in New York, Los Angeles, or Detroit, they were at least close by. I could hardly call myself Tom the Car Pro if I didn’t spend hours wandering around every show I can, taking nearly a thousand photos in total, so that I could share my thoughts with you! You’re welcome.

Here are nine takeaways and trends after visiting these two little shows.

Auto Show Takeaway # 1: The C8 Corvette

The new 2020 Chevrolet C8 Corvette is a radical departure from the car that has existed for the past 67 years. And it. Is. Stunning. If you don’t think this car is sexy, there’s something wrong with you. Now that the engine sits behind the driver instead of in front, the proportions of the car are totally different, in an amazing way. It looks expensive and exotic, like most mid-engine sports cars usually are. While the back of the car looks more angular than the smooth, clean styling of the front, I’m nitpicking here. The C8 has 490 horsepower from a proper 6.2L V-8 (no small displacement turbos here). At around $60,000 to start, the new Corvette is an insane bargain for what you get.

Auto Show Takeaway # 2: The Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Mustang Mach-E is probably one of the most controversial model introductions in recent history. But that controversy is why it’s already a success. Ford took a gamble by calling this all-electric crossover a Mustang, angering the hoards of Mustang devotees, but I think that was smart and strategic. The name has whipped auto publications into a frenzy and made social media commenters foam at the mouth. Whether you think it’s cool or an abomination, we’re all talking about it. If Ford called it anything else, it might only get lost in the shuffle of upcoming introductions.

Auto Show Takeaway # 3: Low Sedans

A trend I noticed after sliding behind the wheel of several new mid-sized sedans is how low they are. I bet automakers assume that if you’re shopping at this price point and need an upright seating position and easy access through big doors, you’ll just buy an SUV or crossover. But sitting in the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and all new Hyundai Sonata, I had to crouch down into the low driver’s seat while taking care not to bang my head on the sloping roofline. As the previous owner of many sedans, if this trend continues, my 6′ 4″ frame may not have any choice other than an SUV in the future.

Auto Show Takeaway # 4: Nerdy Subcompact Crossovers

Looking at some new subcompact crossover SUVs, I couldn’t help but think they’re a little… dorky. With the new Chevy Trailblazer and Hyundai Venue, I think it’s in the way each takes styling cues from the automaker’s larger SUVs and applies them to these tiny, tall vehicles that makes them look cartoonish in their proportions.

But I don’t think that this is true of all subcompact SUVs. The Nissan Rogue Sport is proof that a small crossover can look sleek. The Jeep Compass shows a more successful way of using styling themes from a brand’s larger SUVs on a much smaller vehicle.

Auto Show Takeaway # 5: Genesis

At both the Boston and Providence shows, the Genesis display was one of the busiest. Listening to the showgoers around me, they responded well to the styling of these cars and understood that they’re a premium brand. Many didn’t seem to know that they’re produced by Hyundai.

Auto Show Takeaway # 6: Lincoln

I think that Lincoln is really starting to hit its stride. The brand’s lineup has felt lost and confused for the past one or two decades, but checking out the Lincoln display this year, they are alive and well once again. I think it’s the liberal but tasteful use of sparkling chrome that looks uniquely American, distinctive, and cohesive without relying on gratuitous styling gimmicks or retro nonsense. Lincoln’s interiors are gorgeous, and use truly top-tier materials. And check out the blue interior of the Navigator – this is not the blue leather that you last saw in a Buick from the 1980s.

Auto Show Takeaway # 7: Nice Small Cars

Even if consumers are crazy for SUVs and crossovers, I was impressed with some of the offerings available to small car shoppers. The Hyundai Accent is a handsome little sedan, and has a spacious interior that feels solid and well-made. The Nissan Versa has been an unpleasant little penalty box for a long time, but the new 2020 version looks like a mini Maxima. It has a surprising amount of space inside for the front passengers. Although, this may be at the expense of rear seat space since it seems to have lost its limousine-like rear accommodations. Automakers must be tempted to phone in their entries for this ever shrinking category, if not kill them off entirely. But I was happy to see that some brands are still making an effort.

Auto Show Takeaway # 8: Retro Badges

What was I saying earlier about retro nonsense? Maybe it was the fun I had snapping photos of classic car emblems at the Newport Car Museum a few weeks ago (click here to read that blog post, and click here for a full photo album), but I got a kick out of spotting these retro-styled badges on the Dodge Challenger and Toyota Land Cruiser.

Auto Show Takeaway # 9: Chrysler Voyager

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who even noticed this minivan at the Providence show. I’m a little embarrassed by how excited I was to see the Voyager nameplate again as a basic version of the Chrysler Pacifica. Growing up in the 1980s, Plymouth Voyagers and Grand Voyagers were everywhere. I’m happy to see this name back from the dead.

What do you think? Am I way off base in my assessments? Does nothing on my list get your blood pumping like the Chrysler Voyager? Does the existence of the Mustang Mach-E cause your rapid descent into madness? Leave a comment and let me know. Thank you for reading!

1 thought on “2020 Auto Shows: Takeaways and Trends”

  1. Well written article! It may surprise you but my choice out of those 9 categories would be the Hyundai Accent. It’s no dream car, but I’ve always liked/respected the amenities it has at such a low price point. It’s always the car I recommend when someone wants to buy something new, but not spend a lot.

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