NAIAS Press Preview Preview

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There is only one reason to brave Detroit in January: The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). And that justification only applies if you’re a born rivet counter with Bear Grylls' endurance and the Detroit News' unslakeable thirst for corporate Kool-Aid. Even then, why not forgag it, cuddle-up with your DSL in the warmth and Dilbert-decorated comfort of your own cubicle, surf the net and let the pros brave the BS on your behalf? Why not indeed? Me, I'm one of those pros, incognito.

When I read that the Detroit Auto Dealers Association’s credential committee denied TTAC press passes to NAIAS without explanation, I had to laugh. Despite all those fancy schmancy acronyms, the Motown mid-winter hoe-down is still infused with a small town ethos. No surprise there. The event traces it roots back to 1907 when local dealers needed a gimmick to stimulate sales during the winter doldrums. A few cars, a sheltered beer garden and Bob’s your uncle.

As Motown became the center of the automotive universe, the Detroit Auto Show became The Mother of All Automotive Bacchanalia. Think Las Vegas without the warmth, gambling, buffet or go-go girls; with parkas. Even though the car industry has gone global, and The Big 2.8’s U.S. market share has fallen below the half way mark, the show's owners cling to the myth that Cobo Hall is the industry’s locus. And they want it to remain the automotive equivalent of the Moonie's love-bombing.

And yet, with a little behind-the-scenes machinations, old show meets new media on the dark side of town. RF has tapped William C. Montgomery and Sajeev Mehta to leave Lone Star for Wolverine on your behalf. They’ll boldly challenge the spin that has never been challenged before. They’ll snap photos, email them to RF and Frank Williams, and phone in their reports.

I’ll be there too, undercover, submitting puddle of consciousness posts as and when the mescaline— I mean spirit moves me. God knows there’s enough hallucinatory fodder for my fevered fascination. Chrysler, for example, has a genuine talent for the surreal. They once shot a concept car out of a cannon. They drove a Jeep through a [simulated] plate glass window. Rumor has it that Chrysler will introduce the 2009 Dodge Ram at this year’s show with a cattle stampede down Woodward Ave.– to match the action at the open bar.

Of course, all three TTAC scribes will endure the speeches teleprompted by and for various car company executives. The suits will tell the gathered, bought and paid-for media throng how wonderful their new products are, and how well they're doing in their segment of the market. The press will eat it up with all the unquestioning obsequiousness of an evil henchmen.

It should be interesting to see if NAIAS has lost its mojo. This year, Porsche’s skipping the show, claiming they don’t sell enough cars in the Detroit market to justify the expense. Detroit. Yeah. Right. That's why five Chinese motor vehicle manufacturers will be displaying their latest creations at the show.

Less suspensefully (if that’s possible), I want to see how green is their valley. Most manufacturers are highlighting their efforts in preserving, protecting and promoting ecology and our environment. I’m steeling myself for a pod of hybrids, electric, bio-diesel, ethanol, chicken fat and compressed air vehicles.

Just in case GM was in danger of presenting a coherent message, The General will introduce their 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 in the midst of fresh servings of Volt-a-cola. Nice piece, supercharged, around 620hp, carbon fiber roof and front fenders and with a cost just north of $100k. You know how people yell “Freebird!” in the middle of incongruous concerts, sports and academic events? When you hear “GTR!” in the middle of 'Vette presentation, it wazzunt me.

Nor did I have anything to do with the North American [excluding Mexico and Canada] Car and Truck of the Year Awards, whose 50 judges covet (and receive) every carefully-prepared and meticulously maintained vehicle made by every automakers selling cars in the U.S. For a week. And accept all expenses paid junkets without the slightest hesitation. Without once letting these perks influence with their final selection. Can't wait.

But I will. As much as I’d like to gather snarky quotes form the army of unionized workers charged with the task of creating Cobo’s Potemkin Village, it would serve little purpose. As Oz counseled Dorothy, I pay no attention to the men behind the curtain. Of course, when they step out front, they should expect to see TTAC's little red dot bouncing around on their chest.

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  • Naif Naif on Dec 26, 2007

    watch out for the pot holes. no you cannot smoke them.

  • GS650G GS650G on Dec 27, 2007

    Don't stray too far from the convention center. See www.detroityes.com for tours of the ruins of Detroit.

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