An Auto Show with a differenceWritten by Heather Miller | | email@example.com
The big wigs are giving it a positive spin, but it is different. I’m talking about the North American International Auto Show — better know as the Detroit Auto Show. I was among the thousands of journalists in attendance when the media preview began Sunday. It was my fourth trip to cover the ‘Super Bowl’ of the auto industry, but this one seemed more like watching a game between the Browns and the Lions.
CEO’s of the ‘Big Three’ were there with big smiles plastered across their worry-lined faces. They were cheering, “We’ll get through this,” while the undertone was, “Will we survive?” The public relations professionals were there spinning everything in a positive way. Meanwhile, five car makers, including Nissan, Porsche and Land Rover, were noticeably missing. I guess that explains the 62 revisions of the floor plan. Co-chairman of the auto show, Doug Fox, told me during an interview that it was hard to finalize the layout because of the unstable state of the auto industry.
“So the floor plan was changing target because of changes at the manufacturers,” Fox confessed to me.
A news crew for Tokyo asked to interview me for a story angle they were covering. They questioned me about any changes to the auto show I noticed this year as compared to those shows in the past. The obvious difference to me was the atmosphere of the show. You could not just see the difference, you could feel it. The usually Hollywood-style new car introductions were notably toned down. There were no fireworks, no movie stars and no Jeeps crashing through Cobo Center windows (Yes, that happened back in 2006). The entire show was a little lacking and just wasn’t as exciting as I remembered.
The ‘Big Three’ also seemed to be playing a little catch-up. All of them announced plans for plug-in electric cars. It is already underway overseas and has been for years. Apparently the $4 a gallon price tag on gas earlier this year got some engineers in gear. But even the promise of someday simply plugging in my car instead gassing up in sub-zero temperatures left me feeling a little un-fulfilled. Only Ford gave 2012 as year it would deliver a gas/plug-in hybrid. Chrysler promised nothing, but at least had something to show. It unveiled five plug-in prototypes with vague information on the vehicle, if and when it may go into production.
I did find one glimmer of hope during the auto show. It featured mostly cars you can actually drive. Sure, there are the crazy expensive cars that you only see driven by some European villain on TV, but I am talking about concept cars. Yes, there were some there — those crazy tricked out cars of the future that look like a cross between the Bat Mobile and something George Jetson would fly. However, it seem as if this year the carmakers decided to spend their money on something that will actually be on the road … and be there within the next year. That was refreshing considering many of my tax dollars are currently going to bail out a couple companies that spend more a day fueling up a private jet than I will ever make writing stories about it.
I guess if I have to sum up the 2009 North American Auto Show I title “Back to the Basics.” This year there is a lot more auto and a lot less show, but maybe that’s the way it should be.
Heather Miller is a reporter for FOX Toledo.