Chevy, Chrysler Unveil Models, Win NAIAS Awards

DETROIT – The first day of the North American International Auto Show kicked off with the announcement of the car, truck and utility vehicles of the year. Two American brands took home awards, as the Chrysler Pacifica minivan was named utility vehicle of the year, while Chevrolet’s electric Bolt was given the honor in the car category.

“The Bolt EV fulfills Chevrolet’s promise to offer an affordable, long-range electric,” said Mark Reuss, vice president of GM global product development, in a statement. “It’s a game-changer that is not only a great electric vehicle; it’s a great vehicle, period.”

The Bolt was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January, a week before going into further detail at the 2016 Detroit auto show. The car has an EPA-estimated 238-mile range on its electric motor.

The Pacifica was announced at the Detroit auto show last year as well, as Chrysler sought to update its minivan line. In addition to its standard engine, a hybrid model is also available.

“It’s the recognition from our customers and respected opinion leaders like the North American Car of the Year jury that helps to reinforce Pacifica’s status in the marketplace as the no-compromises minivan, and highlights what a great job the entire team has done in developing, building and selling the all-new Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger car brands for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles- North America, also in a statement.

Following the award announcement, Chevrolet kept its presentation fairly tame at the first major auto show of the year, revealing only a redesigned Traverse for 2018. The new look applies the brand’s design cues throughout, replacing many of the rounded edges and curves from the current iteration with straight lines, giving it a boxier, almost truck-like look.

Throughout the presentation, Chevrolet Global Brand Chief Alan Batey noted that the model was “designed and engineered to fit the active lives of our customers.” Among the features are seating for up to eight people, a best-in-class storage capacity and General Motors’ Smart Slide system, which improves access to the back row of seats even with items on the middle row of seats.

To improve cargo space, 24 compartments were added throughout the car, including a 10-inch deep area under the third row. GM’s line of safety features is also available, including collision detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and a back seat reminder system.

Two new trim levels will be added for the 2018 model year: the High Country trim, featuring all-wheel drive and several off-road driving features, and the RS trim, with a two-liter turbo engine and an all-black exterior.

“The 2018 Traverse was built for style and purpose, inside and out,” Batey said. “It’s the final piece of our broad new lineup of Chevrolet crossovers and SUVs. We now have a vehicle for every customer and every lifestyle. … The segment continues to grow and we’ll continue to expand our portfolio to offer customers more choices than ever before.”

Chrysler opted not to have a presentation at the North American International Auto Show, instead debuting its Portal minivan concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.

The van, with the tag “designed by Millennials for Millennials,” features an electric motor with a 250-mile range that can be charged in less than 20 minutes. Among the technology included in the Portal are facial recognition to save preferred settings for each driver, connection with mobile devices, and “Vehicle-to-X” communication, allowing vehicles to “talk” and share information about traffic signs, approaching emergency vehicles and crash warnings.

Chrysler alone did not design the six-seat van. Contributing to the concept vehicle were Panasonic Automotive, Samsung Electronics, automotive seating company Adient and auto lighting company Magneti Marelli.

“The Chrysler Portal concept is backed by significant research on the millennial generation. Millennials have clearly defined that they want a vehicle that will grow with them as they experience life changes,” said Kuniskis. “Fiat Chrysler is a leader in family transportation and it was essential that we fully explored the idea of what a vehicle could look like for this emerging generation.”

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