The Truth About Cars » auto shows The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » auto shows Fiat Passes on Milano Auto Show Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:45:18 +0000 Fiat Strada Adventure

If you were hoping to celebrate an early Christmas in Milan with Signore Marchionne next year, you’re out of luck: Fiat has declined an invitation to show at the 2014 Milano Auto Show in light of the weakened local market.

The Italian half of the Italo-American mashup stated that the shows in Paris, Frankfurt and Geneva are enough for all automakers to show off their latest and greatest to the masses and the press alike, and that current economic conditions may not be able to support another auto show, especially one in a market that took only 1.3 million cars out of the showroom in 2013 after a peak of 2.5 million units sold back in 2007.

In response, Chairman Alfredo Cazzola of Promotor, the production company responsible for organizing next year’s show, had this to say to the Italian daily La Repubblica:

Fiat’s business is to build cars, not to organize shows.

Cazzola also said that Fiat would change its mind once they’ve seen what his Promotor has in store for Milan. Previously, Promotor were responsible for the Bologna Auto Show until its reorganization as the Milano Auto Show, where 133 exhibitors displayed their wares in 2012. In contrast, this year’s show in Frankfort held 1,000 under their tent.

As for 2013, the 38th iteration of the Bologna Auto Show was cancelled due to a lack of exhibitors.

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2012 New York Auto Show Preview Sat, 31 Mar 2012 13:00:44 +0000 Among journalists, the New York Auto Show is consistently a favorite on “the circuit”. Is it the interesting product size of the Javits Center? Of course not. It’s the chance to have an OEM fly you out to New York, put you up at a luxury hotel, wine you, and dine you. Unless you’re TTAC, in which case your base of operations is the Super 8 Motel in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Nevertheless, the debuts at this year’s NYIAS are interesting, and beyond that, they are not ridiculous, six-figure hypercars or “mobility concepts”. New York is where most of the mainstream product, the cars that really matter, make their debut.

Acura: The RLX concept, set to replace the RL, will debut. Honda Canada actually presented a series of renderings to a group of assembled journalists back in January, and they looked like you’d expect. A bigger, blander blend of the TL and and the Hyundai Genesis. Interior room is said to rival the BMW 7-Series despite an exterior footprint that’s closer to the 5-Series. A V6 engine is said to deliver V8 power, and although the SH-AWD electric all-wheel drive/hybrid system will be featured, it will apparently not be standard. Like all Honda/Acura “concepts” this should be 99% of the final design.

BMW: The M6 convertible will bow, alongside a facelifted BMW X1, which will finally debut for the U.S. market in 2013. The M6 features identical mechanics to the M6 coupe and M5, while the X1 will serve as BMW’s rival to the Range Rover Evoque, right down to the 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

Buick: Buick’s big crossover, the Enclave gets a refresh, along with its siblings the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia.

Chevrolet: Along with the Traverse facelift, the 2014 Impala debuts. The long-running fullsize has stagnated so long that it’s getting bed sores, and a new look both inside and out along with the well-received LFX V6 and 6-speed automatic should help inject some excitement into the Impala. GM debuted the 2013 Malibu at NYIAS last year, and that car’s 4-cylinder only lineup should help give the Impala some breathing room.

Fisker Nina: Everything is going wrong for Fisker right now, but the company will unveil their next car, known as “Project Nina”, said to be a smaller version of the Karma.

GMC: A Denali version of the Terrain SUV will debut, along with a 3.6L 301 horsepower V6 with virtually no trade-off in fuel economy.

Honda: A “concept” of the next-generation Crosstour will be revealed. We can’t possibly imagine what direction Honda will go in from the current, ill-received car.

Hyundai: The new Santa Fe will replace the long-in-the-tooth current generation Santa Fe. A dramatic new exterior, interior and a modern powertrain lineup should bring Hyundai’s mid-size crossover back up to its fighting weight.

Infiniti: An EV concept from Infiniti will debut. It will supposedly be larger and more luxurious than the Leaf, but Infiniti has been very tight-lipped about details.

Lexus: With a new Camry comes a new Lexus ES. A hybrid version is said to debut for the first time, and styling will likely ape the larger GS, right down to the new corporate face.

Mercedes-Benz: A big show for the three-pointed star brand, as three new products debut. Facelifted versions of the GL (with new AMG G63 and G65 models, including a twin-turbo V8) and GLK (as well as a diesel option for the small SUV) will debut alongside the SL65 AMG.

Mitsubishi: The Outlander Sport gets a facelift and a new CVT gearbox.

Nissan: A next-generation Altima bows at New York, with styling closer to the Maxima and all-new powertrains. Unlike previous Altimas, this car will be sold globally.

SRT: The 2013 SRT Viper will debut after a long, drawn-out series of teasers.

Subaru: A new Legacy and Outback with a facelift and updated powertrains will share the stage with the new XV crossover, which is a raised-up Impreza similar to the previous Outback Sport.

Toyota: Along with a facelifted Venza, an all-new, radically styled Avalon will debut.




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Who Cares About The Phoenix Auto Show? Sun, 27 Nov 2011 17:17:01 +0000

No one cares, at least not among the automotive press, as to what happens at the  (Phoenix) “Arizona International Auto Show” held every year over Thanksgiving weekend. There are no world or US product launches, no concept cars on display, and only a few attractive booth babes. Just a bunch of production (or almost ready to launch) vehicles for the masses to touch, feel and some even to drive (on the road) or experience (like Jeeps on an indoor obstacle course) sprinkled with a few exotics (roped off of course) to ogle over.

But TTAC cares. Why? Because the world of automotive retailing depends on the masses to buy cars, lots of them. The folks who go to smaller market car shows don’t go to see the whimsical fancies of vehicle designers (cause there aren’t any), they go to check out real cars that they might buy. Watching and listening to these attendees can tell those of us that care where the winds of favor will blow. What’s hot and what’s not.

Here’s my take. Toyota and Honda are mostly last decade’s news. The public blew past their booths, barely giving the new Camry a glance, and ignoring the already disparaged Civic. The Prius V – meh – just a larger Prius. And Scion’s new IQ? There’s no chance of this vehicle gaining sales traction except in dense urban environments where parking is a premium or for ZipCar users. It’s just too small, not “cute” enough for high school cheerleaders, and not macho enough for…meat eaters. Both of these Japanese brands have resorted to dumbing down their product so far that they’ve become messes of mediocrity. Functional perhaps but competitors are passing them by…and so are shoppers.

Nissan is a bit more interesting than its two Japanese rivals, but that’s not saying much. At least there were some folks looking at the Murano Cabriolet, admiring its soft palette color clearly reaching for the heart strings of the ladies. But it’s expensive, lacks any utility whatsoever, and seems almost as a desperate attempt to revive sales of its base platform. The other mainstream cars – Versa, Sentra, and the aging Altima – had few showgoers touching or feeling them. Maybe the public is getting bored with Japanese cars? I am.

On the domestic front, things look better but the skies are still cloudy. Jeep brought their indoor adventure ride to prove the ruggedness of the Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. It’s impressive to watch these machines, loaded with attendees, tackle obstacles that would destroy ordinary sedans. The public loves it and Jeep, Marchionne’s savior brand for Chrysler Group LLC, is bringing home the bacon. How much can the Wrangler really cost to build? And the development costs of the GC got wiped out in the bankruptcy. On the other hand, the Fiat 500 is now definitely considered as a “chick” car thanks to J Lo’s advertising. It might be cute but didn’t seem to be generating the buzz it needs among the crowd.

GM’s main sales driver is Chevrolet. People still get excited about the Corvette, the Camaro found a nerve with the politically incorrect, and its trucks pay for all of it. But the new Sonic – believe it or not – is truly competitive as a B-segment offering. It’s fairly substantial feeling – the doors close with a solid thunk, the interior is one of the best in the segment, and when the turbo 1.4l becomes available, it will become a darling of the community college crowd. Buick on the other hand is nice but….soft. The new Verano will be a sales flop. A tarted up Cruze that’s too small for most old folks…oh wait, that’s not Buick’s target market any more. How could I forget that the Regal is going after Acura buyers now…really? Was Acura even at the show?? Did anyone notice?

Ford. Someone needs to tell Ford to stop messing around with the consumer electronics interface and get back to some basics. I drove the Fusion Hybrid and it’s lacking (more on this later). I know a new Fusion is due next year and it can’t come too soon. The switchgear in this car is awful – plastic parts from years gone by. The driveline made funny noises – a couple weird clunks here and there and engine noise penetrated the cabin. I hated it. I then switched out and drove an Ecoboost 2.0L Edge. Surprisingly, it seemed to be adequately powered for a blown four, quiet on the inside, and fairly plush although the MyFordTouch is completely baffling. But then I saw something astounding. The driver’s door edge trim (where the door skin overlaps the door frame) was poorly finished. Creases were obvious and there was some pocketing that had started to rust – on a brand new car! I checked the other doors – same thing. And opening and closing the doors – light and tinny. The door handle mechanisms felt like they would break off in my hand. Alan – if you’re listening – you’ve got some work to do on the basics.

The star of the show – wait – it’s Kia. Yes, Kia. In particular, the new Optima. Get inside one. Check out the interior, the switchgear, the roominess, and finally the price tag. Amazing. And that’s not the only car in the lineup that’s impressive – the public flocked to the display checking out the merchandise. I can see why. I experienced the Optima Hybrid at the test drive center before entering the show. I was a back seat passenger – but couldn’t tell it was a hybrid. Smooth and quiet unlike the Ford Fusion Hybrid I drove later that day. I also drove a loaded Optima Turbo. Heated and cooled seats in a $31,000 ride! The car was powerful, smooth, and better than any Japanese car now offered in this segment. No wonder Kia can’t make them fast enough.

So there it is…the future is being led by the Koreans. The domestics are in second. And the Japanese are trailing by a mile. The world is changing fast. Who would have guessed?

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The Booth Babe Chronicles: Punch Buggy Black And Blue Sun, 09 May 2010 10:01:37 +0000

Automotive marketing – marketing in general, really – fascinates me. I have a business degree with a focus on marketing and spent many years studying the commercial machine of capitalism, along with the psychology behind getting you to buy. The whole thing is extremely thought-provoking (such as Mike Rowe) and often more than a little spooky. Such as a penis with warts …

Working the auto show floor gives me an intimate look at how each automotive company tweaks their experiential marketing plan every year. [Not to be confused with the more commonplace experimental marketing plan, ED.] Experiential marketing means you come and take part in it, as opposed to watching a commercial on TV. It can be an auto show, a ride and drive event, or a presence at a sponsored event like a concert, game, fashion show, festival, etc.
One of my favorite parts of each new auto show season is seeing how manufacturers have integrated their auto show presence – experiential marketing – with their other marketing efforts, specifically television and print advertising.
For example, Kia. While I still can’t get over the sex-toy-disguised-as-a-children’s-cartoon-character, they did well by placing cardboard cutouts of all the fun toys in that Super Bowl commercial. Attendees love taking pictures with the cutouts which are conveniently placed right next to a vehicle. Every photo of a character also has a Kia in it. Bam! Extra brand impression in your brain. I heard that someone tried to steal the sock monkey at the Chicago show, they loved it so much. It wasn’t me, I swear. (I couldn’t fit it in my purse.)

Toyota’s Avalon Lounge has a swingy retro feel that coordinates well with their new 40′s style Avalon commercials, while “Sultry Sienna” sung in front of the popular minivan complements the Swagger Wagon campaign. If they start rapping at the show next year I will die.

Since fire seems to be the new thing, though, perhaps they could recreate the Tundra commercial featuring the truck hauling a huge payload up a flaming Spiral of Death. Might need some outdoor real estate for that one, but everyone loves a nice fire.

But not everything would translate well between commercials and real life. Some of this stuff would totally wig me out. Like the Ford robot. I’m scared enough of that thing in a brightly-lit convention center. The last thing my sensitive nerves need is to be woken up at 3 AM by the laser eyes of that freaky thing in a commercial on TV. Imagine the nightmares.

Conversely, however, if Ford decided to bring my future baby daddy Mike Rowe to the auto show I would be happy to experientially market myself in his direction all day long. You want to get and keep a bunch of female car buyers in your display, Ford? Bring Mike Rowe. Trust me on this one. Brand impression galore. Put his voice in the SYNC system and women will bum rush Ford dealerships.

VW and their new spin on the punch buggy game is another one. I love the Stevie Wonder moment, but this just wouldn’t translate well at the auto show. Your entire visit in the VW booth would be one giant bruise. It would turn into a mosh pit. There would be blood all over their pretty white floor.

By the way, I’m just letting you know that if you meet me in person and you punch me because you see a Jetta, I’m going to slash your tires. Fair warning.

What are your favorite car commercials? How do you think they would translate at the auto show?

The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at

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The Booth Babe Chronicles: Psychology Of Auto Show Marketing, With Special Emphasis On Gender-Related Issues Sun, 25 Apr 2010 11:35:22 +0000

Thank you so much for the warm welcome last week! I appreciate all your comments and encouragement and look forward to sharing more about auto show life with you.

A comment on my last column caught my eye. The gist of it was why bother with “booth babes” or professional presenters at all? Why not just have sales people or the actual engineers at the shows? It is a question that has been asked of me multiple times in different forums, so I’d like to address it in greater detail here.

The answer is multi-faceted and has to do with the psychology of marketing, practicality and the proper delivery of a message.

Contrary to the loud insistence of many car dudes on other websites, the product specialists you see at consumer auto shows are not there to be window dressing. We are marketing professionals hired to fulfill a key role that goes far beyond looking good. Experiential automotive marketing can have a very high return on investment, and we are there to see that it is done right. We know how to stay on message, to deliver technical specs to the knowledge level of our audience, and to address what is important to them in an engaging way.

I’ll give you an example. Ask an engineer, a sales person and a product specialist the difference between torque and horsepower. The engineer will give you a very extensive and detailed explanation involving long division and possibly multi-colored graphs on a Cartesian plane. The sales person will gloss over the question by reciting torque and horsepower numbers of the vehicle in front of which you’re standing, and will keep talking in circles until you forgot that you even asked him something in the first place. (I’ve seen this many times and it’s quite amazing.) A product specialist will give you the simplest explanation: torque gets you moving and horsepower keeps you moving.

Overly simplified? Yes. But the average consumer at an auto show is not a gear head and isn’t asking for an automotive masters class. We keep it simple, and if they ask for more we’ll delve deeper. Info-dumping and talking over someone’s head is off-putting and will quickly turn off a potential customer. We know how to give an accurate and satisfying answer while stimulating a conversation that leads to a deeper positive brand impression and hopefully an eventual sale.

I’ve also had more than a few sales people look to me to answer detailed or even basic technical questions they themselves couldn’t answer, particularly those about why certain design or engineering decisions were made. We know the answers to such questions because we ask them ourselves during our extensive training sessions. We are asked questions over and over at an auto show that a sales person could go his entire career without answering.

It’s no secret that we’re mostly a bunch of models and actors and thus are of what some would consider above-average physical attractiveness. If we’re there to talk about the cars instead of just being window dressing, does how we look really matter?

Time and time again science has proven that yes, it does. Human nature dictates that we, male or female, would rather deal with an attractive person than an average or unattractive one. We will spend more time talking with them, we will believe more of what they say and we will walk away with a more positive impression of the interaction than if we had the same one with someone we found less physically attractive. This crosses gender lines and is not an issue of sexual preference.

By the same token, a mom of three in the market for a new minivan does not want to be confronted by a bikini model draped across the hood of the vehicle. (Sex toys don’t seem to be an issue, though.) That’s why for the most part at a consumer auto show we are dressed in business suits or stylish yet somewhat conservative clothing. (Even the Fiat twins were sporting high necklines and a knee-length hem.)

Each brand also has a “type”: Porsche has a lot of fashion-model-looking types, Toyota and Nissan have the girl/guy next door, Scion is young and hip. The Ford team looks like they wouldn’t mind if their hair got messed up when you dropped the top on your Mustang convertible. The presenters for higher-end brands like Acura, Infiniti, Cadillac, Lincoln and Lexus tend to have a more refined, classic look. Our looks and wardrobe are all aspirational brand messages and tell consumers, albeit subconsciously, what that brand is all about.

You might not think any of this makes a difference, but it does. It makes a huge difference. Billions of dollars have been poured into researching the psychology of marketing, much of which is subconscious. Every single part of an auto show display, from the shoes the product specialists are wearing to the colors of the vehicles, has been carefully calculated to project a specific brand image and attract a target demographic.

Could an engineer accomplish all of these goals? I’ll quote myself in a response to a comment from last week’s column: “The engineers kind of have a job, uh, ‘engineering.’ They also tend to be rather introverted science-types, and to do this job a person has to be extremely extroverted.”

And that, my friends, is why we’re there.

The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at

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