By on January 7, 2007

img_0916_1.jpgGreetings sports fans and all ships at sea! It’s time once again for a frolic amid The Land of New Car Introductions at the North American International Auto Show’s Press Preview Days. Or, as it’s more commonly known to us professional journalists: Free Food, Booze, and Press Kits You Can Unload on eBay Day. Yes, I’m excited to return to the city of Detroit (motto: When Hell Freezes Over) to take part in this three-day extravaganza of extravagance. Hacks from all over the world are joining me to witness the world's largest automakers' blitz of glitz, where the car’s the star and they've got whozits and whatzits galore. I’ll have an Amstel Light, please.

Allow me to briefly describe the stage at this stage, a few days prior to that fateful moment when Cobo's doors fling open to the teeming throngs of beer-swilling punters who, though forgotten by all involved, actually pay for this festival of wretched excess. In a word, it's cool. Cynic that I am, I can’t deny it: an auto show filled with new metal surrounded by showbizzy pizzazz and populated by an army of genetically pristine supermodels is always going to have a certain "this is way trendier than my cubicle" appeal. Add a bit of behind-the-scenes peekery and a chance to see J Mays' hairstyle of the moment and you have the makings of something… icy hot.

img_0881_1.jpgThankfully, we in the electronic press (motto: Deadlines Are So Five Minutes Ago) are spared the slaughter pen atmosphere the civilian population must endure when they get their turn to say "my cousin's got one of them" and "who the Hell'd buy that thing?" Still, there are approx. 6,000 journos, photogs and random dignos scooting around doing business like nobody’s business. So it’s not exactly a solitary stroll on a deserted beach (at least once you get away from the Mercury stand). And thank you for wearing that floral deodorant my elegant European friend.

Although full-time prep began several weeks ago, the show displays, lights, and carpeting are nowhere near complete. All blame to the press conferences and corresponding reveals; they gotta make room for the poobah's teleprompters, several dozen risers for the motion camera [sickness] boys and 17 folding chairs for the rest of us. Once each program is finished, we hacks shuffle off to the next Really Important and Exciting World Premiere and Urgent Corporate Announcement, and the elves appear to magically whisk the mishegos away. Chain smoking elves. With hairy backs.

img_0891_1.jpgOh look, up on the stand: it’s Chrysler’s Tom LaSorda with celebrity chef Bobby Flay! Over the last few years, DCX has build a rep for “clever” and “fun” presentations of uh, what was that car again? They crashed something through a glass window, produced a take-off on ‘50s Ozzie ‘n Harriet sitcoms (how's that for a demographic?), imported the “That thing got a Hemi” dude to walk around a car asking, “That thing got a Hemi?” and trained a herd of African elephants to crush a panel van flat. 

Today, we were treated to yet another episode of those Wild and Crazy Chrysler Guys. Chef Bobby assembled a three-tier chocolate layer cake as Mr. What Me Worry made endless references to how Chrysler "cooked up" their Hail Mary minivan. This routine (in every sense of the word) went on for the longest 15 minutes in human history. Twelve thousand soon-to-be- bloodshot media eyes glazed over like the day-old donuts festering in the media lounge. Marketing department personnel get paid with checks that end in many zeros to think of these half-baked ideas. Remember that when you or someone you know is considering a college major.

img_0943_1.jpgSpeaking of food, Ford is toast. In years past, The Blue Oval has been nothing short of profilgate in the vital area of wining and dining those of us who scrutinize and criticize their every bold and not-so-bold move. Be it a full-blown sushi luncheon to accompany a Mazda conference (which left me longing for a fugu mercy killing), or an artery-clogging English breakfast enjoyed whilst a new Land Rover pirouetted out from under a giant silk hankie, The House of Henry always spent money on us scribes as if we were the human equivalent of Jaguar. Today? I couldn't even find a cracker. Obviously, desperate times call for desperate measures. So I sent an email to FoMoCo's $35m Man:

Dear Al:

I’m sorry for dissing (it is "dissing" isn't it?) the Escort ZX-2. I’ll happily purchase the first new one I can find. Just please give me back my fresh berry and brandy crepes.

Love,

Csaba Csere

PS Can we compare the Fusion to the Camry now?

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33 Comments on “Fear and Luncheon at the NAIAS (Press Day 1): I’ll Bet You Dollars to Donuts I’ll Make it to Tuesday...”


  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    I'd love to see some pics of the schwag – sushi breakfasts, english pizza, emptiness at Ford, etc.

  • avatar
    BerettaGTZ

    When will the PR drones figure out what a huge waste of money it is to stage these fancy “presentations?” It might work on regular consumers but to dyed-in-the-wool auto journalists who’ve already seen it all? Who are they trying to kid?

    I’d like to see one company step up and simply show the car, hand out a cheat sheet with its key features and specs, and sit back and let the product sell itself. If the product is good enough, that should be all that’s needed, not some phony act to try to glam it up.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    But it isn’t a waste of time. Every industry works hard to find the key players, feed them, get them drunk and get them to feel just the tiniiest bit special or involved or flattered or whatever.

    Usually, it works. In this case, I’m absolutely sure it’s working. Evidence? The press is taking the Chevy Volt seriously.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The Mercury stand won’t be lonley if that girl is there.

  • avatar
    seldomawake

    Cynical is amusing, and I did enjoy the article, but I was distracted by that picture of the Acura stand. Is that the Advanced Sedan Concept? What’s the story there? I remember it looking pretty cool…

  • avatar
    Tomb Z

    Isn’t Detroit’s motto, “Where Hell’s Froze Over”?

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    I think the Italians do it better, since they focus on what cars provide, motion and color. I say this with a certain amount of ignorance, since I have never actually attended the annual Bologna Motor Show; however, every since I wrote for Miss Servizio, an Italian magazine that focused on the service station business (sadly, its publisher committed suicide in early 2002, and the magazine went with him, since no one else wanted to assume the debt load), I get the newsletter for the Bologna show. In it, the mention there’s a small race track, just off premises, and there’s also motorcycles, with the cars. Of course, being a nation of artists and lovers (so my former editor, Massimo Vassallo told me of the former and the rest I pick up from films), they have the pretty young women on the stands; but I tend to doubt they do much involving cooking (such as Chef Bobby at NAIS). But then, the entire zietgest involving automobiles is different in not only Italy, but Europe. The public relations types know that and are trying to work with that. To those of us who are automotive enthusiasts, Chrysler’s Chef Bobby at their stand might be the dumbest thing since President Bush decided he could get Sunnis, Shites and Kurds to work together to build a democracy. But hey, then again, we could be wrong.

  • avatar

    six words. hip flask and syrup of ipecac.

    Covertly swig when something inane or fugly is shown. Vomit. Blame vomiting on stupid presentation or ugly vehicle.

    Repeat as many times as necessary. May only work once or twice, so make those times really count. You will probably be asked to leave or be thrown out eventually.

    Go down in auto show history.

  • avatar

    My first press days. Lexus had the best food, but we’re still talking just one tray of the stuff at a time. The Dove ice cream bar at Dodge was also nice. But let’s not get too carried away. What makes the food notable is that it’s free. Any half-decent wedding has a much better spread.

    I personally found the Ford presentations the best, because they were clearly the most sincere. Mulally was top notch, and a vow by Jag’s designer to return the marque to its glory days actually evoked spontaneous applause from the press.

    Then again, most of the other presentations were dreadful.

    My full take (rushed because I need to get to bed):

    http://www.truedelta.com/pieces/naias1.php

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    At what are called “motor shows” in Italy, oftentimes there are tracks established close to the premises, to show racing cars and motorcycles, at full chat. And there are also static displays of motorcycles, since motorcycle racing and two-wheeled transport are not considered a cult, to be put off on its own, but part of the overall automotive industry. Perhaps at a point when petroleum starts running out, and Americans have to accept smaller cars – as Europeans have had to do for decades – some similar maturation process will take place with American auto shows. Until then, the idea of culling from the textbook of P.T. Barnum will probably continue as part and parcel of the auto show in America.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I covered the LA Show for Jalopnik… Lyn’s account is accurate except for the Ford part — holy hell did I eat well when they unveiled the Italdesign Mustang! Pick a food, any food and it was there. Including my favorite: carpaccio. YUM.

    However, at the show itself, Audi had the best beer… and Mimosas.

  • avatar
    Lyn Vogel

    Jonny: “I covered the LA Show for Jalopnik… Lyn’s account is accurate except for the Ford part — holy hell did I eat well when they unveiled the Italdesign Mustang!”

    That’s the thing! Past Detroit shows were famous for their Ford spreads. This year they’ve put me on a forced diet.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I’d hate to see auto writers starve but maybe it’s time for some really bold moves. Maybe Detroit should pretty much skip the auto show and put the money saved into the cars.

    What does it cost to build a “concept car,” anyway?

  • avatar
    Lyn Vogel

    seldomawake: “…I was distracted by that picture of the Acura stand. Is that the Advanced Sedan Concept? What’s the story there?”

    That’s Acura’s latest concept for an NSX replacement. Did nothing for me.

  • avatar

    Just a few weeks ago there was an editorial on TTAC suggesting that troubled automakers like ford should cut back on wining and dining journos.
    Now that they have, is TTAC left eating their own words?

  • avatar

    ThriftyTechie:

    News flash: TTAC is not a monolithic enterprise with a pre-established “party line.” Lyn is free to share her observations and opinions, as are you.

    [BTW: Are you the conscience of the conscience of the industry?]

  • avatar
    seldomawake

    Lyn:
    That’s Acura’s latest concept for an NSX replacement. Did nothing for me.

    Aw… shucks. I thought it was going to fit between the TL and the RL, and was getting all excited.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    kixstart:

    It costs a lot of money, depending if its a runner or not but you’re looking at over (get your little pnky in your mouth doctor evil style) $1million…up to $3-4million depending on how complex and late its running behind schedule!. But when a company can see returns on its shares and gains extra publicity, and column inches in print and on screen from such ventures then its all worth every penny.

  • avatar
    bestertester

    me, i can only talk about geneva and paris and frankfurt, but i can talk, i can talk, i can talk!

    best food: by citroen, saab, followed closely by most japanese.
    prettiest promo girls: the french, followed by lexus.
    most porno-like presentation: fiat.
    worst haircuts: german managers.

  • avatar

    Just attended the CTS intro. Top notch presentation that brought the whole team involved onto the stage bit by bit. Car also virtually flawless, and I’m a critical person by nature. Style, materials, fit and finish all top-notch.

    Only variable in my mind is steering feel.

    Further impressions of the second day on my site late tonight.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    That letter at the end was hilarious!

  • avatar

    So…I remember a recent article criticizing Ford for spending too much cash wining and dining journalists. Now, they’re “toast” for not doing it?

    Thank God for Advil Liqui-Gels….

  • avatar

    Zanary:

    Please read my comment above.

    Not to belabor the point, TTAC is not a Stalinist redoubt. Ms. Vogel is free to hold her own views on the advisability of Ford’s PR and marketing efforts at NAIAS.

    Also the article in question (written by Jehovah Johnson) examined that issue from BOTH points-of-view: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=2812

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I’ve read 3 or 4 articles today about how terrible the LaSorda/Flay cook-off went, and none about how impressive the interiors of the new DCX minivans are.

  • avatar

    Not to belabor the point, TTAC is not a Stalinist redoubt. Ms. Vogel is free to hold her own views on the advisability of Ford’s PR and marketing efforts at NAIAS.

    Agreed, but as the previous article was run here, the point certainly invites commentary!

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’m eying a new DCX minivan for the wife in a couple years. If we still don’t have kids at that point, the rear beverage table and stow-and-go seating will no doubt facilitate the possibility of kids pretty soon thereafter.

    I dare say that with a new Caravan with Bluetec, I might never take another airline vacation.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Holy Cats!

    No food at the Ford display? What’s the world coming to? We need the ghost of Hank the Deuce to come down (up?) and lay a little smackdown on those cheapskates!

    I mean it still is a multi-billion dollar company right? Couldn’t someone have called the Colonel or Domino’s? Heck, I would’ve baked some muffins or something if they asked.

    Oh well, I hope the savings went into the product.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    …the rear beverage table and stow-and-go seating will no doubt facilitate the possibility of kids pretty soon thereafter.

    Taken out of context, sounds rather shagadelic. “Town & Country. If you don’t already have a family, you will soon.”

    Which reminds me – a few years back, the JDM Honda S-MX came out with two rows of bench seats that folded down into a bed. S-EX, it should have been named.

    Okay, back on topic to the conflict of interest between food, drink, and automotive journalism…

  • avatar
    ash78

    starlightmica
    Oh, you took it perfectly in context :D

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    I remember my first trip the the NAIAS… With a press pass. I was attending jouralism school in nearby Windsor, Ontario at the time, and I was absolutely aghast at the display.

    Mercedes Benz’s Cirque du Soleil inspired display around its SLK and M-Series distracted from the actual vehicles. Silly and surreal.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum was GM’s intro of the 1997 Malibu and Tahoe “Police Package”. Mind numbingly dull.

    My favorite memory of the event is when I snuck away from the crowds to the BMW display. Nothing was happening there at the time, so I had the pleasure of plunking my butt into a McLaren F1 while flirting with the two gorgeous models… Good times!

    Never did partake of the food or drink… Silly me.

  • avatar
    chaz_233

    Ok, so where are the pics of the models? Or something anything. Isn’t this why they had you people over there so you can let us mortals know what’s going on at Detroit? And all we get are 4 miserable pictures of nothing and a couple of paragraphs complaining about the food. And TTAC whines about the US car industry? You people are the media equivalent of it. Lazy, incompetent, self-important, you want all the benefits of your position but none of the responsibilities. Maybe it’s no wonder that foreigners are kicking US industry’s butt. At the same time, I can’t wait for the day when your jobs are given to foreigners glad to be at this event and responsible enough to write about it.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Wow Chaz, chill out for a second.

    I for one can read all that ass-kissing in the “reg’lar” automotive press. To hell with that, I can get that anywhere!

    What I can’t get is this “behind the scenes” vision, which is far more interesting to me than seeing pictures of yet another Neon-like knockoff.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I know GM is going to keep doing the same old soft shoe shuffle for eternity. I worked for a company that actually did have a fresh idea for marketing, which they presented to GM (middle tier). You could almost here the sigh of relief when they saw something new. However, their enthusiasm was soon squashed by upper management, who found the break with tradition unbearable. If management were cars, they would be ’72 LTDs.


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