Fear and Libations at the NAIAS (Press Day 2): Jerry Frenchie Rules!
I don’t mean to be [too] snarky, but why is it that whenever Bill Gates deigns to bless the little people with his e-presence, all I can do is stare at his hair? Does he cut it himself? Or is that what happens when you start racking up the billions: you let your looks go to seed and no one dares tell you your hair looks like something an amphetamine crazed Cuts 2000 trainee literally whipped-up on a bad day? I suppose there’s a no degree of separation thing here, as Bill appeared at the NAIAS (IPPI) to tell Alan (who works for Billy) that his Ford products are great and will soon be even greater with Microsoft’s electronics on board. MS WORD! These guys are denial.
You sure do bump into a celebrity or two whilst taking laps of the COBO show floor– especially if you’re dorky enough to lavish that most post modern of sobriquets on auto scribes. Why, look! It’s Consumer Reports’ David Champion. There’s Automobile Magazine’s Robert Cumberford and Jean Jennings. AutoWeek’s Dutch Mandel is hard at work. Click and Clack are right on track. I make it a point to shake everyone’s hand just so I can watch clock their face when I tell them I work for The Truth About Cars. (FYI: it’s something between blissful ignorance and bemused revulsion.)
I also spot Simon Cox, the GM designer responsible for the 750hp Caddy Cien from ‘02; a bad ass coupe so perfectly proportioned and cab-forward thinking that Cadillac couldn’t build it because Miami condo loads of tassel loafered DCTSTSXLRSRX owners would have died of embarrassment. Needless to say, Cox sports the sina qua non of trendy art school grads: oddly-shaped eyeglasses. It’s true. Spot a pair of frames that appear to have been fashioned by delirium tremoned hands out of a wire clothes hanger and chances are better than excellent the nose holding them aloft belongs to a guy who draws cars for a living. Martian-themed footwear is another dead giveaway.
Guess what? I found an automaker whose products you should rush out and buy. For breakfast, Mercedes proffered chocolate-and-mint yogurt shooters, savory filled croissants, proscuitto and mascarpone frittatas with fire roasted peppers, and mixed berries and cream. I rested rink side, inhaling the heady aroma of fresh-cut roses, watching figure skaters avoid being crushed beneath the all-season technology underpinning Stuttgart's latest steamroller, waiting for the waitress to bring me my ill-gotten grub. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a single beach towel on a single seat.
SMART, a brand born for blonde college co-eds, was populated by product specialists no older than my latest ATM withdrawal who shared their enthusiasm with such sincerity that it’s almost as if they weren’t paid actors. Between them and the PR kids [Tony] hawking Scion, the auto industry has cornered the market on marketing to the youth market. I had two questions for MINI’s mousketeers: what the hell was MINI thinking when they equipped the new Cooper S with a non-functional hood scoop? And: What in God’s name was MINI thinking when they equipped the new Cooper S with a non-functional hood scoop?
After that automotive koan was met with uncomprehending silence (and a polite smile), I took a moment to pause and reflect on the fact that the Porsche GT3 that I want to own already owns me. That and the fact that if you say "Wendelin Weideking" enough times the sound will eventually lull you into a meditative trance of sufficient depth to realize that Audi shouldn't be building a mid-engined 911 rival with the Toyota FJ Cruiser's blind spot– unless it makes shed loads of money like the Cayenne.
The Dark Lords of DCX chose to provide box lunches to the assembled throngs. The hand-out was timed to coincide with the reveal of the company’s 318th Jeep concept vehicle since purchasing the brand along with the corresponding Chrysler dregs. Yep, one fun, imaginative Jeep flight of fancy after another. And what do they bring to market? The Compass. Talk about indigestion.
With so much free bottled water, beer, coffee, juice, beer, fruit smoothies and beer on tap, journalists soon learned the lay of the land restroom-wise. In this I was no different. Thankfully, my non-Viper snake shakeage (yes I’m a boy named Lyn) was finished in time to witness Cadillac win the Now I Know Why I Bothered to Come Award. A string quartet segued into a duo of violin-sawing rappers followed by what seems to be the entire CTS project team getting up to wax poetic about their efforts. Despite all that, the new and improved, vitamin-fortified, rich ‘n creamy CTS is a hit.
Get this: the one time GM Car Czar Maximum Bob Lutz’s BS could plausibly intersect with reality and the guy’s off burning jet fuel somewhere. Gates should give Lutz a new Outlook. Or is that the other way round?
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