Fear and Luncheon at the NAIAS (Press Day 1): I'll Bet You Dollars to Donuts I'll Make It to Tuesday
Greetings 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.
Thankfully, 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.
Oh 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.
Speaking 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:
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.
PS Can we compare the Fusion to the Camry now?
ZoomZoom on Jan 09, 2007
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.
Nick on Jan 10, 2007
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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