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'2 Dudes' see big trends at the Detroit auto show

Pras Subramanian
Producer/Reporter

Ahh, another North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in the books. January on the shores of the Detroit River gives new meaning to phrase “chilled to the bone.”

Freezing weather aside, we did encounter a couple big trends at this year’s show, as Rick Newman and I discuss in the video above.

Year of the pickup

The pickup wars escalated in earnest this year. From Chevy (GM) teasing the new Silverado only weeks before the show to Ford (F) debuting the new midsize Ranger on Sunday night and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) busting out its new 2019 Ram full-size pickup, it was all-truck, all the time. Never in recent years has one show been dominated by so many big pickup announcements.

The 2019 Ram 1500 debuted at this week’s 2018 Detroit Auto Show with a new look, its first hybrid system, and more tech than ever. Will that be enough to beat rivals Ford and Chevrolet?

“Trucks were the big introductions, there were some cars introduced, but nobody seems to care about the cars,” Newman notes. With the markups so huge and a seemingly high number of buyers, it’s no wonder the Big 3 were keen to step up in this growing segment. Newman felt the new Ram pickup was the most impressive.

The big winner on the truck side for me was the new Ford Ranger. As Ranger fans will sadly remember, Ford discontinued the smaller brother to the F-150 back in 2011, and these fans have been waiting for a rebirth.

The 2019 Ford Ranger pickup truck is introduced during the media preview at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 14 January 2018. (Abierto, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Well now they have it, and it looks really good, especially in Lariat FX-4 off-road trim. It isn’t the fanciest looking truck, but it’s got a handsome, compact look, off-road capability and a powerful EcoBoost engine (reportedly making 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque.)

Sedan wars: A new hope?

One of the big debuts on the sedan side was Volkswagen’s (VOW.DE) all-new Jetta, one of the brand’s top sellers. Styling has been tightened up, and the interior gets a welcome refresh, including a fully digital cockpit as an option. This is a big deal when you think about how competitive that mid-size sedan segment really is.

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta is displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Speaking of mid-size sedans, has their death been overrated? Sales have been slipping for years now, but as we see with promising entries like the new Jetta and now the new Honda (HMC) Accord, which just won North American Car of the Year, maybe the pendulum is swinging back to more traditional vehicles.

The price points are improving, and the tech, features, ride quality and performance are now such that a buyer may have to think twice next time he or she considers splurging for an equivalent CUV or SUV that typically cost more than the similarly equipped sedan—especially if (or more likely, when) gas prices start to rise.

For more on the show from Detroit, including some fun oddities, watch the complete video above.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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