By on January 8, 2012

Nobody stays the same forever. It seems impossible to believe that I used to attend the NAIAS every year at the Charity Preview, spending $800 so I could eagerly discuss my next $100,000 German ooober-mobile purchase with a variety of vacant-eyed, soulless salesmen. No more. Nowadays I travel on foot and by foot it’s a slow climb, but I’m good at being uncomfortable so I can’t stop changing all the time.

TTAC is changing as well. For the first time, we are going to bring you the Detroit show as it happens. We will have a representative at each and every press conference, including — ooh! the scandal! — a well-known autojournalist from another firm publishing under a nom de plume. We will be reporting on the outrageous journo parties and perks. If there’s enough Ketel One in my system at the time, we may try a brute-force Panther invasion of Porsche’s “summer bar-be-que” media handjob in Greektown Monday night.

I’m excited. We are excited. It’s our goal to bring you the best coverage yet. If you are so inclined, click the jump to read a few reasons why it’s difficult for even the most jaded among us to be truly cynical about the stationary trainwreck known as the North American International Auto Show.

Start with the lights. They are everywhere, burning like a constellation of second-class suns. Sometimes literally; it’s not quite an auto show if something doesn’t catch on fire somewhere. Quick-build construction, frozen-fingered stagehands, and million-watt illumination can be a dangerous combination. The entire auto show floor is lit well enough that only the most hardcore photographers demand additional lighting. Since the ratio of photographers to writers at Detroit is something like 100 to 1, that means the flashes are always popping. It’s life in a fishbowl.

Celebrity. All those famous old men, all the Pieches, Lutzes, Doctors Zee — they are all there. Some of them are ensconced behind a layer of security, others roam the floor, outpacing their handlers. The German press conferences always have some face time for the executives, who appear smiling on Steadicam in their obnoxious square-toed shoes and shock-white full heads of hair. Then you have the quick glimpses. Are you actually standing next to Chris Bangle? Roger Penske? Childhood heroes and billionaire manipulators alike pop up out of nowhere after the last conference of the day, battered but unbowed in majestic navy blue winter dress coats and rushing for a courtesy car.

Cars. All gorgeous, polished to perfection, brand-new, on white floors. The acknowledged evils of our automotive culture are nowhere to be found. There is only the joyful scent of leather, plastics, headliner glue. Outside, dirty dented taxis plow through oil-blackened snow, but inside, the 2012 and 2013 models will be fixed forever, white, clean, and neat. Anything is possible. Reliability, total cost of ownership, a frightening night for a single mother and her two children by the side of a cold freeway twelve years from now when the lowest-cost-sourced waterpump fails. None of that seems to matter when the music plays, the free drinks circulate, and the press kits have the creamy paper and considered weight of a Mailer first printing.

Women. Yes, the boothbabes are majestic, icy, and sexy, but more than that I appreciate the Argentinian correspondent gorgeously emoting into her GSM phone, the glimpse of a tramp stamp in a field of downy blonde as a tanned California photographer leans for the difficult brake-caliper shot, the chisel-cheekboned native-Michigan PR girl effortlessly reciting the talking points for the thousandth time and smiling through it. It’s commerce, promotion, money changing hands in untold amounts. Sexy.

Friends. People you haven’t seen in weeks, months, years. Some of them are happy to catch your eye. Others are a mission from God, Ray Wert, or some unholy combination of the two. The observations are quick, cynical, humorous. Will you see that person at a party later? Maybe, or maybe it will be at the next press event, or maybe they will fall out of the business forever. We are chewed up and spit out by the machine.

Competition. All the journalists you’ve called out. Most of them will lower their eyes. Some will whisper to their friends. None of them will ever stand still and personally take the beating you intend to give the entire corrupt, fucked-up business. The PR people who pretend you aren’t standing next to them or turn up the wattage in their smile to match the hatred they have. They will be there long after you are gone, because they intend to sell themselves first and they obtained a fair price.

Sentiment. Hustling across the broad expanse, you will see her. She will look up and see you. The hurt, the mistakes, the unreturned emails, the times you put the phone back in your pocket when you saw her name on the screen, the night you lay drunk in a Village bar because you knew she was hooking up somewhere else and it was too late to do anything about it. She won’t smile, but you have to. That’s the business. Plus, my God, look at her friend.

You won’t find TTAC at the “Volt Lounge” this year, but if you want to meet and greet our team, drop us a line, okay? Enjoy the coverage.

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27 Comments on “TTAC Is Covering The Romance (And The Finance) Of NAIAS Like Never Before...”


  • avatar
    rwb

    “Nowadays I travel on foot and by foot it’s a slow climb, but I’m good at being uncomfortable so I can’t stop changing all the time.”

    Great song.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Let us know it the Honda product specialists are still wearing those blue trash bags. Won’t you Jack? Are the BMW ones still programmed to repeat, ‘certified pre-owned?’ See if the Audi guys act like you’re not there. Want to ogle the underage? Scion. Most of all, can you resist getting your picture taken with the Lexus LF concept? We’re all weak.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    “…but more than that I appreciate the Argentinian correspondent gorgeously emoting into her GSM phone, the glimpse of a tramp stamp in a field of downy blonde as a tanned California photographer leans for the difficult brake-caliper shot, the chisel-cheekboned native-Michigan PR girl effortlessly reciting the talking points for the thousandth time and smiling through it.”

    Yes a thousand times yes! Give me a real honest to god woman over some accessory standing next to a car, a woman whom someone like Tyra Banks and crew have decided was sexy. (BTW though I did think Tyra was pretty sexy right at the point that the press judged her “fat.” I on the other hand thought she was “P.H.A.T.”)

    In further digression, in that picture you look like a psychology professor of mine (Defiance College 1995-1999) Dr. Weiner (I swear that was his real name) who was reported to be fooling around with a buxom raven haired curvy size 14 associate professor 15 years his junior and who happened to drive a black Mark VIII. Honestly I couldn’t blame him.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    I know that I have a thirst for all things automotive and so do you. So allow yourself to be an insider and take the perks. We want all the news.

    I just ask that you borrow Murilee’s “bribed” symbol and post that picture when you do a review or write an article where the perks could have influence the writing.

    Next create a few other similar looking symbols with any other outside factors could have influenced a review or article. Here are a few…”not bribed”, “revenged”, “hung over”, “pissed”, and other related influential factors.

    BTW… I will be out of the country when AutoRama hits Detroit. (around 25-February) TTAC needs to cover this also!!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m planning on being there. Either on behalf of TTAC or for Cars In Depth or both. A lot of the cars there, though, are more of a triumph of skill than aesthetics. It’s like, “dude, I know you have mad body shop skills but you have sh!t for taste”. OTOH, I really like Murray Pfaff’s Imperial Speedster but it wasn’t eligible for the Ridler because he hadn’t quite yet had it running. There are some great cars there but there are also some hideousities that go well beyond Corvette Summer abominations (speaking of such, which car has the most number of ugly customs made from it? Corvettes and Rivieras seem to be popular with the aesthetically challenged set.

    • 0 avatar

      [Aargh – I hate filters] I’m planning on being there. Either on behalf of TTAC or for Cars In Depth or both. A lot of the cars there, though, are more of a triumph of skill than aesthetics. It’s like, “dude, I know you have mad body shop skills but you have sh!t for taste”. OTOH, I really like Murray Pfaff’s Imperial Speedster but it wasn’t eligible for the Ridler because he hadn’t quite yet had it running. There are some great cars there but there are also some hideousities that go well beyond Corvette Summer abominations (speaking of such, which car has the most number of ugly customs made from it? Corvettes and Rivieras seem to be popular with the aesthetically challenged set.

  • avatar
    JJ

    If there is a Porsche left that’s still worth owning it’s that GT3 though. Sweet engine, less electronics than the other ones, hydraulic steering assist. Not too shabby I’d say.

    Personally I think the new Carrera S is also still a desirable car. Since it’s moving away from true sportscar to GT though I think they should have made the interior nicer still.

    All the other Porsches I can’t be bothered too much about (yes, I know a Cayman is in many ways superior to the base 911 but I never really cared for it nor its convertible sibling and as for the Cayenne and Panamera…’meh’)

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Haircut? Tie? What’s going on here!

    PS – Thanks for TTAC covering the show, looking forward to it.

  • avatar

    Yay!

    So you’re wearing a wig the rest of the time?

  • avatar
    photog02

    Squared toe shoes are truly an abomination upon this planet.

  • avatar
    autointelligence

    Great post, Jack. Im here at the Renn Ctr for the show, but going over to “the Gallery” to shoot some other event this afternoon. They’ve got a One-77 and Aventador and MP4-12C. Sounds interesting. Then coming back to the Volt to watch the game. But you guys won’t be here? Where’s the TTAC party happening?

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Plus, my God, look at her friend.

    Ah yes. Reminds me of the holidays. The conversations / interactions between a pair of women and the man one of them dated can be epic. Especially if drinks are flowing and you pay more attention to the friend.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I know it will be a little late to the party here, but I’m going to be there on Friday the 20th, snapping pics and picking up all the free stuff I can find.

  • avatar

    only the most hardcore photographers demand additional lighting

    After a year of shooting 3D (which tends to need more light than mono) at car events and museums I’ve learned that photo/video work in a big hall can be like shooting in a cave. Even some of the pics from the Autorama, also held at Cobo are a little underexposed. At a top shelf manufacturers’ show like the NAIAS or Chicago, though, there is so much additional lighting and the cars are lit up so well, that I can shut off the flash, let the Canons autoexpose, and still get good results.

    Still, that hasn’t stopped me from spending some time figuring out how to mount a 160 LED panel light (incredibly cheap at ~$40) on my DIY steadycam device without messing up the balance or getting in the way of the cameras’ view. Actually, I did it more so I’d be ready for the press event next week for the reopening of the Henry Ford Museum’s automobile exhibit, now called Driving America. When I shot the old Automobile in American Life exhibit there last January, most of the photos did not come out well.

  • avatar

    the Argentinian correspondent gorgeously emoting into her GSM phone

    There’s a French photographer that I’ve said hello/bienvenue to every year at the NAIAS and Chicago for a decade now. She’s probably about 50 now and a really nice looking older woman. Maybe one year I’ll get up the nerve and ask her if she wants to go have coffee or a drink. Of course, there are always the submarine races to watch from Belle Isle.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    I looked in to see some up to date coverage of a major car show and I see this:
    “Sentiment. Hustling across the broad expanse, you will see her. She will look up and see you. The hurt, the mistakes, the unreturned emails, the times you put the phone back in your pocket when you saw her name on the screen, the night you lay drunk in a Village bar because you knew she was hooking up somewhere else and it was too late to do anything about it. She won’t smile, but you have to. That’s the business. Plus, my God, look at her friend”.

    This looks like a 21st Century prose version of the legendary Sinatra song “Wee Small Hours of the Morning”. Frank has nothing to fear…

  • avatar

    Sounds like a combo-plate of a French film about the Bourgeoisie thinking they’re the t*ts while acting like a sack of wet hammers,

    and a cautionary-tale Hieronymous Bosch painting.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Sure, the scene may seem like bullshit, but it’s better than fixing the cars the bean counters (and neo-engineers) design/sell at these things.

    What I wouldn’t give to do that for my work instead.

  • avatar

    @me:
    +also Luis Bunuel and Eric Rohmer notwithstanding,

    That Michael McDonald as a PR guy at conventions for Porsche seems like a Great fit.

    Just hope he doesn’t “Ya ‘mo burn this place to the ground” while he’s there,

    -hrm, …Never seen him in Black Tie before.

    ;P

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Jackie-boy….hopin’ for a little Earnest-Hemingway-does-Detroit-in-Winter realism from ya, boy. Including a little about the crumbling town itself. The city is kind of like an old whore, trying desperately to attract business by smearing on extra lipstick and donning a push-up bra and a threadbare red party dress. Long sleeves hide the needle marks of desperation.

    Tell it all, brother.

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