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Canadian International AutoShow Revisited: 2010 Edition

Heidi Taillefer Designed Infiniti G37 Art Car at 2010 CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada


Theme of the Show: The Vision- Explore New Directions. Experience Innovation.

Though the effects of the great global recession were nearing an end with the arrival of 2010, Canadian auto sales from the recently concluded year of 2009 made it clear that the auto industry had a hole to climb out of. Only 1,484,000 new cars and trucks sold in Canada represented a 11.36 percent drop over the 2008 calendar year as instability with money caused many to temporarily forego many expensive purchase and expenditures.  

Although this was only the second year I attended the event, I could tell there was truly a lower key tone to the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow compared to the previous year. The show’s footprint decreased as the floors of the Skydome (Rogers Centre) was no longer part of the display space. Since 2009, none of the subsequent auto shows in Toronto would use the popular retractable roof sports and entertainment building. 

In addition to the decreased exhibition space, it was evident that most of the auto manufacturers less resources to the 2010 show. While there were several enticing concept car designs and exotic cars at the event, the majority of the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow was based around highlighting cars with a more practical focus (the 2012 Ford Focus being one of them). 

Notable Vehicles:

2010 Ford Mustang

2010 Ford Mustang Convertible at CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

Ending the Mustang’s construction on a chassis based on the Ford’s Fox platform dating back to the 1970s, the 2005 model year version of the original pony car became a modern retro styled darling. For the 2010 model year, the Ford Mustang received a substantial update. Maintaining its classically-inspired shape, the 2010 Mustang’s design was tweaked in multiple way with new headlights, LED taillights and revised outer mirrors. More aerodynamically efficient compared to its 2009 predecessor, the updated Ford Mustang would gain additional momentum in 2011 as the 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine brought 412 horsepower to the GT model. This new 5.0-liter powerplant came as a product of Canadian automotive manufacturing constructed as Windsor’s Ford Essex Engine Plant.

Fiat 500

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

Months after the 2009 auto show, Chrysler Group had filed for bankruptcy and found a lifeline by merging for Italian-based Fiat Group. Eventually resulting in the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (now called Stellantis following a merger with Groupe PSA formalized in 2021) the refreshed company would begin to feature a greater influence from Europe with their vehicle portfolio in upcoming years. One of the first products symbolizing the future was part of the Fiat brand’s return to the United States and Canada. A retro-themed subcompact fully refined for the modern automotive market, the Fiat 500 premiered at the Canadian International AutoShow ahead of its 2012 model year introduction in the country. Charmingly styled inside and outside in classic Italian fashion, the small car also proved to be economical with a 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder engine capable of travelling up to 38 miles on a gallon of gasoline (6.2 liters per 100 kilometers). The Fiat 500's presentation at the 2010 show featured one vehicle in white as well as a sportier  black Abarth 500. A small car with a big personality, the Fiat 500 sold well in Canada with 5,392 vehicles in 2011. By 2018, sales of the vehicle fell to just 269 units contributing to Fiat withdrawing the car from the United States and Canada after 2019.

Toyota Prius PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) Concept

2010 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

Toyota was one of the first automakers to take a major gamble in marketing an electrified vehicle. The Toyota Prius and its gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain became a symbol for a new automotive world that saw reverence for the car in the fact of constantly increasing gas prices through much of the first decade of the 21st century. Although oil prices caused pump prices to be less shocking through 2009, the introduction of the third generation Prius for the 2010 model was still greeted with enthusiasm. Receiving a substantial refinement to its aerodynamic exterior, environmentally-conscious interior materials as well as a host of new high-tech amenities including a solar roof and Intelligent Parking Assist, the evolution of the Toyota Prius also included the exploration of different variations of the hybrid. Shown in concept form at the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow, the Prius PHEV redirected main propulsion for short trips entirely to an electric motor. When the production version of the vehicle appeared in 2012, the rated all-electric travel range of the Toyota Prius PHEV was 23 kilometers. The PHEV variant of the Prius featured a lithium-ion battery pack as opposed to the heavier nickel-metal hydride battery present in the third generation conventional Prius. A lithium-ion battery would be equipped on all Prius models for the 2016 model year.

2012 Ford Focus

New Ford Focus at 2010 CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

When the Focus lineup was debut in Europe in 1998 and in North America during late 1999, the vehicle was Ford Motor Company’s latest grand idea for creating a world compact car under the blue oval. This vision would be temporarily defeated for the 2008 model year as Ford developed differing versions of the Focus for Europe and North America. At the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow, the reunification of the Ford Focus as a world car appeared roughly a month following its global debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Said to share 80 percent of the total components with its European counterpart, the 2012 Ford Focus unveiled in Toronto was distinctively a product of the brand’s Kinetic design language seeking to create the sense of ‘energy in motion’ according to the automaker. The 2012 Focus arrived in Canada as a four-door sedan as well as five-door hatchback. A larger cabin featured available amenities such as Ford SYNC, MyFord 8-inch touchscreen. Ford’s new compact car boasted power from a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine incorporating direct injection and variable camshaft timing. This engine was also offered with a newly-developed twin-clutch PowerShift automatic transmission that would ultimately be regarded with infamy by many owners and has been the subject of case action lawsuit in many countries including Canada. A settlement was reached with Canadian owners of the Focus and Fiesta equipped with the transmission back in 2019.

Mini Beachcomber

MINI Beachcomber Concept
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

It has become a particular joy in attending the Canadian International AutoShow to see the modern Mini brand adopting their vehicles to conform to a number of shapes. Whether they make it into production or just a fun styling exercise, the cars part of the auto brand’s display truly lures an enthusiast to spend time. In 2010, the Mini Beachcomber Concept brought a healthy splash of summer to the middle of a Canadian winter. The four-passenger, open-air concept vehicle was a contemporary recreation of the derivative of the original original Mini called the Moke. Like the Mini Moke, the Beachcomber Concept’s design featured no passenger doors or a hard roof. Equipped with all-wheel drive, the MINI Beachcomber Concept teased the crossover versatility that would be present in the upcoming Countryman.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

By itself, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter full-sized van was not a major new product. After all, the vehicle existed in Canada for years but wore the Dodge or Freightliner names. While Mercedes-Benz branded commercial vehicles were commonplace in Europe, the German automaker appeared resistant to have their star emblem adorn non-luxury products in the United States and Canada. However, with the break-up of DaimlerChrysler, the Dodge brand would drop the Sprinter van range resulting in Mercedes-Benz committing to market the commercial product under their moniker. The 2010 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter was offered in a cargo version and a passenger model with a capacity up to 12 passengers powered by a 3.0-liter diesel engine. Since 2010, Mercedes-Benz has managed a balance between being recognized as both a luxury and commercial vehicle brand in Canada. In addition to the Sprinter, Mercedes-Benz added the smaller Metris van for the 2016 model year.

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

A successor to the Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR, the SLS AMG was an ultra-elite performance car that debuted in 2010. While the previous model was developed in partnership with Formula 1 company McLaren, the Mercedes-AMG performance division handled the creation of the newest two-passenger sport machine. Propelled by a 571-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG boasted an acceleration time from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 317 kilometers per hour. The long hooded, aluminum-bodied SLS AMG hardtop appearing at the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow included an iconic call-back to the 300SL Gullwing with upward opening doors. 

Honda CR-Z Hybrid

Honda CR Z Hybrid at 2010 CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

The first major automaker to sell a modern era hybrid vehicle in North America (narrowly beating the Toyota Prius to the continent), Honda had remained almost as devoted promoting electrification in their production vehicles as their fellow Japan-derived rival. By the late 2000s, Honda had dropped the Accord Hybrid but continued a hybrid version of the Civic was maintained. For the 2010 model year, Honda revived the Insight name first used on their first dedicated hybrid vehicle reapplying it to a hyper-efficient sedan. As a hybrid powered companion to the new Insight, the Honda CR-Z was introduced for the 2011 model year as a two-door, 2+2 passenger sport compact. Although a fascinating compact sport coupe, the CR-Z found only a modest niche of customers. Achieving highway fuel economy of 5.0 liters per 100 kilometers, the 1.5-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC engine combined with Integrated Motor Assist never delivered more a combined 122 horsepower deflating its sport character.

Volkswagen Up! lite and NCC Concepts

Volkswagen up! Lite Concept
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

German auto giant Volkswagen arrived at the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow with two concept vehicles exhibiting the company’s innovation. Not intended for production, Volkswagen’s Up! Lite concept car was a full-blown exercise to create a hyper-fuel efficient four-wheeled, four-passenger automobile. A hybrid powertrain combining an electric motor with a tiny 0.8-liter diesel two-cylinder engine as well as ultra-lightweight construction consisting of the extensive use of aluminum and carbon fiber allows the UP! Lite Concept to consume just 2.44 liters of fuel to travel 100 kilometers (70 miles per gallon. The second concept vehicle Volkswagen brought to Toronto for the 2010 show was the New Compact Coupe (NCC). A two-door shape engineered to provoke dynamic elegance covered by a Tungsten Silver Metallic paint colour, the Volkswagen NCC featured many styling cues that would appear in the North American Passat sedan unveiled the following year. 

Infiniti Essence Concept

Infiniti Essence 2010 CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

Although the lower-key tone of the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow did not feature to many instances of outright extravagance, there were a handful of luxury opulence. The future of premium motoring was best exemplified at the show by an Infiniti concept car. A 592-horsepower gasoline/electric hybrid rear-wheel drive luxury sport coupe, Infiniti’s Essence Concept covered all the bases for a high-end grand slam. The brand’s “Dynamic Adeyaka” exterior styling was a sensation on the show floor as a double-arch grille, flowing side character lines and a long hood were favourably shown off on the 185-inch long vehicle. Since the Essence Concept’s appearance, the C-shaped kink appearing on the concept car’s rear side windows is at least partially adopted by Infiniti’s current Q60 coupe and QX50 crossover. The two-passenger interior of the Infiniti Essence Concept featured controls in a pure, driver-focused layout encapsulates the pilot in black while an elegant red flowed throughout the passenger area. A final high-end touch to the Essence Concept is the inclusion of specially-fitted Louis Vuitton luggage.   

Special Exhibitions:

Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame

Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Room at 2010  CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

As a motorsport fan, the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow provided two pleasing themed displays to satisfy my desire to be surrounded by auto racing in the middle of winter. The first was a small assembly of race cars part of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. A Can Am race car previously driven by Paul Tracy, a Jaguar XJS Trans Am car and a vehicle from the former Midland F1 Racing team were some incredible sights to see but the exhibit also contained some truly milestone-defining pieces. Vehicles of note included the Multimatic Motorsports-fielded Nissan-powered Lola prototype that won the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP675 category, a Wolf Racing WR1 Formula 1 car as well as a Player’s sponsored #99 CART race car connected to the late Greg Moore. At the start of 2021, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame is going into its second decade of not having a permanent home.

Carroll Shelby Display 

Shelby Display Cars
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada

In concert with his induction into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2010, the Canadian International AutoShow dedicated a sizable amount of level 700 of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to vehicles relating to the iconic Carroll Shelby. An overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a driver in 1959, Shelby’s short career behind the wheel was followed by a long legacy-building time developing sports cars. The AC Shelby Cobra, Sunbeam Tiger, Ford Shelby GT350, Shelby Daytona and the several Ford GT40s were part of a marvelous collection. Also included in the display was a Dodge Viper and several Ford concept cars created based on Carroll Shelby’s famous vehicles.  

Cruise Nationals

Sadly, I left the 2010 Canadian International AutoShow without capturing any images of the year’s Cruise Nationals finalists. The sixth year of the event within the event, ten of the finest classic and custom vehicles were positioned for top honours. Crowned the grand champion for the 2010 edition of Cruise Nationals was Doug O’Brien’s 1932 Ford 3-Window Coupe called Tango. Bill Budd’s 1949 Ford F47 pickup truck took the silver medal while a 1951 Mercury Monarch owned by Bill Train claimed bronze.


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