By on February 21, 2009

Public relations people say the darndest things. Shills for the car companies that chose to speak to the press at the 2009 Dallas Auto Show were no exception. The folks at Chevy are still “excited about the Camaro” a full three years after they excitedly announced the product. What impressive stamina they have. Buick intends to “shatter the myth that Buick only builds sedans for old people” Good luck with that. Chrysler Corp. claims twenty-four new cars and trucks are under development. “If taxpayers can support us, we’ll have some sweet products for you to test drive.” Goodie, maybe I’ll get to drive another redesigned Sebring. That’d be super sweet! But the biggest story coming from the show is what the PR refused to talk about.

“We’re here to talk about product,” the Dodge mouthpiece declared. “Any questions ’bout the company will be referred to Corporate.” This was a common theme. GM’s hackles shot up when a writer asked whether the new Lacrosse would be marketed in China, where the interior and electronics were designed and tested. “We can’t comment on what GM plans to do or not do in China,” the PR hack tersely said, cutting off the questioner. The phrase most oft uttered at the Ford, Buick, and Dodge press conferences: “We’re not prepared to comment on that.”

Other automakers simply didn’t even bother to speak to the press at all. This year’s itinerary of scheduled press conferences was only six manufacturers long and concluded by lunchtime. In recent years we have heard from Toyota, Cadillac, Nissan, Lexus, Hummer, Aston Martin, Saleen, Infiniti, Honda, and Subaru. All of these manufacturers were all present at the show (except Saleen); they just had nothing to say to the press corps.

Furthermore, the first two press conferences, Ferrari and Lamborghini, weren’t press conferences at all. The media assembled at the Ferrari display but there was no presentation so everyone dissipated. It wasn’t until later that I realized that one of the individuals gathered there was actually a soft spoken Ferrari rep. Ditto Lamborghini. Don’t the Italians have anything to tell the public about their cars, how their product is evolving, and all of the rest of the PR drivel that is communicated in a proper press conference?

But enough of all that. Here are the 2009 DAS winners and losers:

Winner: Buick Lacrosse. I’m not saying that this car will save Buick or GM or that it will even sell well. But The General certainly put his best spit-shined boot forward with this car. American styling built by Canadians on a new European developed platform with Chinese innards, this is truly an international car. The car bests Buick wannabes from Toyota and Lexus with dynamic styling and matches them with an outstanding interior. If this car drives half as well as it looks, it could be a contender. Buick claims to be in the midst of a “design renaissance.” That bit of hyperbole might actually be true.

Loser: Acura. Would somebody light that car a cigarette? The grille blighting every new Acura has the expression of Iron Man aglow in post-coital ecstasy—not something I want to see.

Winner: Ford Taurus SHO. Ford designer Earl Lucas shows that Americans can design a mature and subtle executive’s performance sedan. The car possesses the power and elegance of an NFL linebacker in a tuxedo. The D-sized sedan had the press mob drooling on the SHO’s exclusive Atlantic Green paint.

Loser: Chevrolet Camaro. The car is beautiful. The power is impressive. The price is right. The timing is awful. Look for the 2010 Camaro to makes its debut later this year. Its launch coincides with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the sequel of the movie that it starred in two years ago (along side the lovely Megan Fox and the dopey Shia LaBeouf). The Camaro has been so prominent at auto shows and in GM advertising for so long that it’s already due for redesign.

I sat on the front row in the Buick press conference admiring the contemporary look of the 2010 Lacrosse. As I did so I realized that GM could not have produced a car of this caliber ten years ago. Neither could Ford. Life or death competition has forced these companies to break from many of the lazy and lardy practices of their past.

It might be too late for GM to right its ruptured and sinking ship, but the positive and constructive influence of free market pressure is in full display in their latest products. On the other hand, Chrysler remains distinctly unimproved. For every one thing they do right, they are doing five things wrong. This is about the same ratio of incompetence that they operated under two decades ago.  No amount of marketing spin masks that.

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30 Comments on “Our Man Monty Reports from the Dallas Auto Show...”


  • avatar
    arapaima

    I think I see a comparison to this and my old college studies. Stuff really wasn’t going to get done until either crunch time showed up, or I had to get my act together to keep scholarship money. Needless to say, sometimes it came through, mostly it didn’t.

  • avatar

    Winner, the SHO? Seriously? It’s within spitting distance of 40,000 dollars, 4,000lbs and it looks like a rental car inside and out. It also has the name of a rental car, Taurus. Overall I don’t think it’s going to be a great selling car. If they had made an SHO or SVT model out of the Fusion then Ford would really be on to something.

  • avatar
    AdamYYZ

    I don’t know if I’m the only one… But I saw the Genesis Coupe at the Toronto Auto Show and I JIZZED IN MY PANTS!

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Clean up on aisle four

  • avatar
    mtypex

    The Genesis Coupe isn’t THAT great. It is, however, the type of car that Nissan SHOULD BE making. Did you hear me, Nissan? SHOULD BE! Yes, sir.

  • avatar
    DPerkins

    There was a lot of action around the two Camaros on display at the Toronto Auto Show on Thursday (a light crowd mid-week). It was the only car that I had to line up to sit in.

    The beaming GM rep said that Canada was only going to get 1600 this year and that they were all spoken for in advance.

    A local dealer has now advertised one on Kijiji for a significant markup – he claims that it is one of three that he’s getting this year.

    That raises some questions: why would GM limit availablity when the need every nickle that they can get? When will dealers learn that it never pays in the long run to gouge customers (think Solstice)?

    (Side note: the new Solstice Coupe looked great, and it got ZERO attention for the hour we were in the GM area. Zip. Zilch.)

  • avatar
    Sutures

    “The car is beautiful. The power is impressive. The price is right. The timing is awful.”

    That right there is pretty much the definition of any pony car…

  • avatar
    pb35

    It was the only car that I had to line up to sit in.

    Funny, I’ve been attending the NY auto show since the 80s. We always had to line up to sit in the Camaro/Firebird. In 2002, I took a picture of a lonely Trans Am with nobody standing anywhere near it.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    After a full day at the Canadian Auto Show in Toronto this week – that’s right, I called in sick to work. I am convinced that there is something in the water at the Canadian dealerships – “Sales decline, what are you talking about….” I heard this several times, and I can’t help but think that they were serious.

    Denial – It ain’t just a river in Egypt.

  • avatar
    V6

    i don’t have a problem with the Taurus SHO.

    Look at Ford Australia and Holden with their FPV and HSV versions of the Falcon and Commodore. they cost upwards of twice that of the base models sold mainly to fleets/rentals with similar interiors and they are very popular.

    at least Ford gave the car AWD and didn’t leave it FWD

  • avatar
    imag

    mytypex: what exactly are you saying?

    The 370Z and the G37 are rear wheel drive V6 coupes. The Hyundai clearly copied them. The Hyundai is cheaper, no doubt, than both (although the price with the 3.8L V6 track package is $30K – pretty darned close to the Z).

    Beyond that, the Z matches up pretty directly with the Porsche Cayman S, which is almost double its price. So what is Nissan failing to do for you?

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    I thought the Taurus was a fullsized, or E segment, sedan?

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Here’s how Ford’s classes break-down:
    F: Luxury, under the original nomenclature system, this was reserved for Lincoln;
    E: CV,GM (even though TC shared a modified versionof this platform, it was classed as F);
    D: Taurus, TaurusX
    C/D: NA-Fusion, Mondeo, S60/V70/S80, Freelander, M6
    C: Focus, S40/V50, M3/5
    B: Ka, Fiesta, Eu-Fusion, M2

    And even though Taurus probably has better rear seat room than the E-segment CV, it is still classed as a D-platform.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    I like the looks of the new LaCrosse and Taurus a lot; they are great alternatives for those not wanting to follow the herd (the herd now being Asian brands). Great description of that Acura; yecch, the Japanese certainly aren’t super-human, as they often lose their way, design-wise.

    As for the Camaro, sigh, who cares. Really, who cares? Hyped way too early, by Lutz, who would hype a dog-turd if doing that would put him in front of the camera. It’s wrong for the times, not better looking or a better value than the G8 (in my opinion), and I can’t escape the rich history of Camaros’ high concentration in trailer parks, with long, mullet-hairs stuck to the headrests.

  • avatar
    Chgomatt

    I don’t get it..We are clearly entering a new economy.Financing is,regardless of what we keep hearing,tough to obtain.Most economists tell us that the long term economic reality is “Neccessity over Luxury”..Yet the industry,and to some extent,the public,remains focused on “Nav,blue ray,HP” etc,with little focus on the affordable,durable multi purpose vehicle,prices around 20k that seems to be called for in this fiscal climate. I love bling..just not now.
    Lacrosse? Camaro?…Not anymore today.

  • avatar
    rodster205

    “That raises some questions: why would GM limit availablity when the need every nickle that they can get?

    Here’s a couple of guesses…
    1) If they build too many that will just be more excess inventory to mark down.
    2) They probably are only breaking even on them already.
    3) There will probably be a lot of first-year demand then a drop to reasonable levels. No point killing the suppliers or plant personnel to over-saturate the market. (see Mustang circa 2005)
    4) Speaking of suppliers, don’t they have a major problem with a key supplier right now? They will be lucky to get 20K built before the 2011′s are due out.

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    The Ford Taurus Sho is striking, except for the boring design of the parking/turn signal lamp in front.

    When I turn 80 years old, I might give Buick a look but what’s with the catfish grille here?

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ Mr Montgomery ,built by Canadians?Are you sure?
    The old model,yes. Unless it was a recent change I was under the impression that the Buick was going to the states.I’m not 100% sure though.

  • avatar

    Not fair! That Taurus was a NO SHO at the Houston Auto Show. I shoulda made the trip up to see the other resident TTAC writer!

  • avatar
    Mark

    Mikey’s right – the original Lacrosse was built at his old workplace in Oshawa, but the new one will be built in Kansas City which is a shame since the old version was one of GM’s highest quality cars from GM’s highest quality plant.

    Don’t confuse production quality with the quality of design or material choice – the original was a hideous car to look at and sit in, but was screwed together well. If the folks in K.C. can get up to speed quickly in their pre-production test runs this will be another bright spot in GM’s line-up – too bad the other 90% of their line-up is subpar.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    @ Mr Montgomery ,built by Canadians?Are you sure?
    The old model,yes. Unless it was a recent change I was under the impression that the Buick was going to the states.I’m not 100% sure though.

    It’s what da Buick man said.

  • avatar
    gmbuoy

    The old Lacrosse was built in Canada, you know that pesky plant that kept winning those J.D. Power and Harbour and Associates Awards. The new one comes from Kansas City, the Fairfax plant. Hint : Check the VIN plate if is says 1 = U.S 2= Great White North 3 = Mexico

    http://wardsauto.com/ar/buick_lacrosse_revitalization_090108/

  • avatar
    NickR

    When I hear GM babbling about the Camaro it reminds me of times when I get together with friends and they start recounting old ‘war stories’ about our drinking days. Yes, they were good times, and about once every ten years it’s funny to talk about them, but really any more than that and it’s just tedious. Seriously, the Camaro thing is emblematic of GMs ineptitude.

  • avatar
    NickR

    mikey, what does that leave in Oshawa?

  • avatar
    mikey

    @NickR What does that leave in Oshawa?The Camaro
    and a promise for something else?GM has. indicated that the Impala line will run untill 2013 without the Buick.At this time the truck plant is done in May.things are looking pretty grim in the Shwa.

    The Camaro is a roll of the dice.Personally I figure 30 maybe 40,000 units should carry the plant for 12 months.After that the Camaro/flex line needs more product.Who T.F knows wwhat the future holds for GM?

  • avatar
    NickR

    As far as the Impala goes it could get a good lift when the Panther platform kicks. The Impala is the heir apparent and cumulative the sales to the police and whatnot should be a fair chunk. The Charger didn’t make many inroads in that role…and it’s probably a goner (poor Brantford). Sad that basically one has to ‘hope’ that a car plant here closes so that another can make it, but I guess that’s true everywhere now.

  • avatar
    Aric124

    Off topic but in response to AdamYYZ about the Genesis coupe, i was prob one of the first Americans to drive it, last November. It was the turbo version, in bright yellow, at the Hyundai slalom course at the Ulsan Korea testing grounds. I have a friend on the inside ^^. Anyways, it drives like a dream, and screams when that turbo kicks in. Be Excited. The interior is slick, the transmission seamless, and the outside proportions really do sell it, in spite of the extreme front end.

  • avatar

    I went to the Dallas auto show and I was shocked by the steel wheels on the base Camaro. I hope that’s not on all cars. My wife said (and I agree) that they look like spare tires. The RS and SS looked great. The interior in the base model was not that great, but the one in the RS we saw at the Texas State Fair last fall looked much better. The interior was pretty cramped, but that’s not too surprising considering I’m 6’7″. The trunk was ridiculously small. Definitely an afterthought. The only car that would be jealous of the Camaro’s trunk is the Solstice. I didn’t get pics of the steel wheels, but I got pics of the trunk:

    http://redwood.smugmug.com/gallery/7425048_DznBt#478598072_2hgv8

    Aside from that, all 4 of us in our group, and some friends that went later were drooling all over the new Z4. Very nice improvement, BMW. The attendance was WAY down this year, including on a weekend day my friends went. I didn’t realize how much attendance was driven by people actually wanting to buy a car, but I guess that’s the case. It was great for taking pictures and sitting in cars without a wait though.

    • 0 avatar
      bugo

      The interior was pretty cramped, but that’s not too surprising considering I’m 6’7″.
      I don’t see how you fit in there at all.  I’m only 6’2″ and I could barely fit in it.  If I leaned forward a few inches, my head hit the roof.  This car was made for drivers under 6 feet.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    I was at Dallas and to it mildly, that was the least crowded auto show I’ve ever been to. Great for pawing over the cars but I’d hate to be one of those hapless salesmen.

    And BTW you’re expecting a bit much from “company reps” at a show like that, the company reps are just local salesmen. And the models who memorize those scripts, wherever they get them.


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