DETROIT--As the automotive test director for Consumer Reports, Jake Fisher drives hundreds of cars a year and is known as one of the toughest critics in the auto industry. The Times took a cruise with Fisher at the North American International Auto Show on Tuesday asked for a list of his favorites and dogs among the dozens of new models automakers introduced at the Detroit event.
Ford F-150 pickup truck: The aluminum body -- that's a game changer in my opinion. Ford would not have taken such a big risk if it did not think it would be successful.
Substituting aluminum for steel makes the vehicle lighter and fuel-efficient. Doing this on a mainstream model will change the market and open the door for a lot more aluminum bodies. It is making the vehicle lighter without sacrificing size and safety.
Honda Fit: The Fit is just a great package. It offers a lot of room, good fuel economy and a small size. Also what is significant is that Honda is offering a lot more technology on the Fit now, and that is what customers are demanding.
Since it will be made in Mexico they will offer it in a lot more numbers and that has the potential to lower the transaction price. The Fit has been a Consumer Reports favorite but a bit expensive because the supply was limited.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class: This becomes more important after Mercedes brought out the CLA as the entry-level car. The CLA looks good but underneath doesn't drive like a Mercedes. It is a sheep in wolf's clothing. It looks aggressive but it is not.
However, the new C-Class gives you a great look with the goods to match. It has room, good looks and it drives like a traditional Mercedes-Benz. It could be really good. It is significant that it will be made in America, but the German automaker's reputation for transplant factories has not been stellar.
Acura TLX: The car entries from Acura are not very competitive. Acura does well on SUVs but is still for the large part putting Acura names on Honda vehicles. That doesn't provide a good value. It doesn't bring anything to the table. It looks like a vanilla mid-size sedan. It might as well be a Ford Fusion.
Nissan Sports Sedan Concept: This is a concept that shows where they are going with the next Maxima. They are trying to bring some energy back. There is a lot of styling but I am not convinced any of it was very good. It looks like a sedan that someone stepped on -- a lot of lines going places but nothing coherent.