DETROIT — The top-selling vehicle in America will get a bit of a face-lift next year, one of just a few new or updated vehicles that will be shown off this week at Detroit’s big auto show.
Ford unveiled the latest version of the F-150 pickup Sept. 12 at an event next to Huntington Place, the convention center that is hosting the North American International Auto Show starting with media day Sept. 13.
That’s far short of the 40 or 50 new models that were often unveiled during the show’s heyday. During the past four or five years, automakers have been shunning auto shows as the preferred places to reveal new models. Instead, they’re opting to show them online for less money and at times when they don’t have to share the limelight with others.
Detroit automakers are also in a standoff with the United Auto Workers union, with the two sides seemingly far from reaching a new contract agreement before a deadline Sept. 14.
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The Detroit show will instead focus more on experiences for consumers, including an indoor electric vehicle track and on-street ride-and-drives. Tesla, absent from the show for years, returns for those events and with a display on the floor.
The F-150 will get a new front grille, dark-colored headlamps and some new vents as well as added features. Ford will drop a 3.3-liter V6 engine as the base powerplant. Even the lowest trim line of XL now will get the company’s more powerful 325-horsepower 2.7-liter twin-turbocharger V6 as standard equipment. All other engines remain.
Inside, the interior gets an update, plus all models get a 12-inch touchscreen as standard equipment.
Gas-electric hybrids, which Ford says are now 10% of all F-150 sales, will see the same cosmetic changes as well as a smoother transition between gasoline and electric power.
Perhaps the coolest feature is what Ford calls the “Pro Access Tailgate,” part of which can swing open like a door for loading and unloading even while towing a trailer. Of course, the hitch will fold flat as well. The feature is standard on top trim lines, optional on others and unavailable on lower-cost models.
Chief Engineer Milton Wong says testing is still being done, but while emissions are lower in the 2024 model, he doesn’t expect the F-150’s fuel economy to improve over the 2023 models. To meet future government gas mileage and pollution requirements, engineers will recalibrate the engines, transmissions and exhaust systems, he said. Currently a two-wheel-drive F-150 with a 2.7-liter engine gets 26 miles per gallon on the highway.
This is the second update on the F-150 without changing the truck’s underpinnings, a trend in the industry to get several product cycles without major changes. In the past, vehicles would get new underpinnings every four or five years, but automakers have been conserving capital so that they have money to develop and build electric vehicles.
Wong said the F-150 platform is very capable, and using it multiple times allows engineers to concentrate on technology to make towing easier or provide electric power at job sites.
“The reality is that most of these platforms are so good that completely engineering it from scratch every four years doesn’t make any sense,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Guidehouse Insights. With automakers spending billions to develop and manufacture electric vehicles, it makes sense to keep existing internal combustion vehicles on the road longer, he said.
The updated F-150 goes on sale in the U.S. sometime next year at a starting price of $35,570 excluding shipping. That’s about $1,700 more than the current base model.
Global Vice President of Buick and GMC Duncan Aldred talks about the 2024 GMC Acadia at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Sept. 13. (Associated Press/Paul Sancya)
Other vehicles revealed at the show Sept. 13 include an all-new Acadia large crossover SUV from General Motors’ GMC brand. It’s built on new underpinnings, and it gets bigger with more space for people and cargo. Its wheelbase, the distance between the center of front and back wheels, grows by 10.6 inches over the current version, and it’s 3.2 inches taller. It also gets a new interior. The new Acadia will be available early next year.
Head of Jeep Brand North America Jim Morrison discusses the 2024 Jeep Gladiator in Detroit on Sept. 13. (Associated Press/Paul Sancya)
Stellantis showed off an updated version of the Jeep Gladiator, which could be called the Wrangler pickup truck. The 2024 version gets a new front grille, power seats and standard side curtain air bags. But trail lovers, fear not. Even with wiring for power seats, Jeep says the Gladiator can still ford through nearly 3 feet of water. All versions get a standard 12.3-inch touch screen. The Gladiator goes on sale later this year.
Global Vice President of Cadillac Jim Roth speaks about the 2024 Cadillac CT5. (Associated Press/Paul Sancya)
Cadillac is refreshing the CT5 luxury sports sedan for the 2024 model year. On the outside, the car gets a new front fascia, a lower and wider front grille and redesigned lights. There’s a 33-inch diagonal LED color touch screen inside that curves toward the driver. The car keeps its standard 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 237 horsepower and an optional 3-liter twin-turbo V6 with 335 horsepower. Production starts next spring.
Prices were not released for any of the three.