There’s something ironic about it, and I don’t mean in the way Alanis Morissette uses the term: The media days at the major auto shows offer unmatched access to the vast majority of vehicles on sale in the United States today. The stuff that gets locked up and put behind barriers once the shows open to the public is usually open and available for your inspection.
Want to try out the back seat in a Mulsanne, or rub your dirty fingers all over the steering wheel of your favorite supercar? It’s all possible — and usually without the lines, disruption, and drama that you’d expect once the average Joes get in the door. Not even the $500-a-head charity previews will get you the unfettered touch time with your favorite high-end automobile that comes as standard equipment with a zero-buck press pass.
Yet if you are “working” a show, that means spending nine hours a day literally running between press conferences, frantically uploading photos or writing summaries, and staying in motion until you’re dead on your feet. Then it’s time to go to a series of all-you-can-drink parties where you’ll be surrounded all night by the kind of people who whine about Republicans then wave nonchalantly for a Rolls-Royce to take them to a $699 per night hotel. Wake up the next morning, rinse and repeat.
In other words, even though the media days at the major shows are a car enthusiast’s dream, the circumstances of auto-journo employment tend to interfere with that dream. Yesterday, I tried taking an antidote to that poisonous mindset, in the form of a no-expenses-paid trip to the Columbus, Ohio auto show.
Like most of the auto shows across the country, the Columbus show is put on by the dealer associations. The cars aren’t usually the property of the manufacturer in the manner of Detroit or Los Angeles. Instead, local dealers get special car show allocations to build out their display models, which they take to the show so the great unwashed can steal every knob in the thing and add a three-millimeter layer of dirt and fungus to all interior surfaces. Afterwards, the cars will be detailed as well as can be managed and then sold at a discount.
There wasn’t much in the way of exotic hardware present. A Huracan and a Ferrari California behind velvet ropes. A Corvette Grand Sport. The most expensive cars that were simply sitting on the floor for open participation and examination were probably the Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX470 that were placed in such a manner as to not be visible from each other. Everything else was awfully prosaic.
My companion for this trip was the bass player from my itinerant musical ventures. He’s looking for a minivan — more on that next week. So we measured and examined a lot of minivans. He asked the “product specialists” a lot of questions; the superstar in that regard was the young lady from Chrysler who knew the Pacifica stone cold from nose to tail and could demonstrate every feature. The show made an actual difference to him. When we arrived, he was fixed on the Sienna, with the Kia minivan in second place. But the Pacifica made an impression on him and now it’s a tie ballgame between the Japanese van from Kentucky and the American van from Ontario.
I enjoyed my time at the auto show. It was low-stress and it gave me a chance to take a closer look at a lot of everyday automobiles. So my question to the B&B is this: Do you go to an auto show? If so, which ones? What are your expectations of the shows you attend? Are those expectations being met? Isn’t it ironic? Dontcha think?