By on January 20, 2014


When we asked our readers what you wanted us to cover at the 2014 NAIAS media preview, one of the requests was about swag and perks. There was a time, maybe 10 or 12 years ago, when automotive press kits and related items distributed to members of the media at major auto shows were special enough and collectible enough that a decent number of literature and toy dealers would bring entire crews to those shows to get inventory to sell on eBay. The former communications director of the Chicago Auto Show would publicly bemoan the presence of what he called “press kit thieves” who’d manage to get past the credentials committee to get in the show and then out past security with boxes of press kits and cases of die cast models. There were so many things that would be collectible to car enthusiasts one could make a business out of it.

All I will personally say on the matter is that Budget had a great deal on the Ford Ranger pickup truck and that my grandfather, who was a junkman that dealt in paper and rags, taught me not to throw away things that others will pay you for them. That was then. Today, though, thumb drives have replaced CDs which themselves replaced hard copy press kits, and after years of financial difficulties in the auto industry, the extravagant giveaways of yesteryear are pretty much over, with at least one notable exception. At this year’s NAIAS, some companies didn’t even bother with thumb drives, they simply handed out cards with a web address for media information. Why bother with the expense of even a giveaway thumb drive when the same digital information can be distributed online at a fraction of the cost?


Chrysler is pretty much the only car company left that makes an effort to create special press kits, and while there are those who criticize the “Imported from Detroit” tagline approved by a French guy working for an Italian car company, some of the press kits for the Chrysler 200 (the ones marked “special edition”) contained a Pewabic Pottery ceramic tile embossed with that tagline and the Chrysler logo. Pewabic Pottery is a Detroit institution and it was founded over a century ago, part of the Arts & Crafts movement. I don’t know how much the tile would be worth on eBay but most Detroiters will think it’s pretty cool.


Another of Chrysler’s press kits appeals to me and not just because I’m a Detroiter. They gave out a press kit commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Chrysler minivan. When I opened it I was pleasantly surprised to see it included a pair of red-blue 3D glasses and that some of the images in the kit were 3D anaglyphs. Regular readers may know that I play around with 3D. When I work big car shows I give out red-blue 3D glasses as business cards for Cars In Depth, so it was neat coming across some 3D materials in the swag.


Speaking of 3D, it wasn’t swag but Nissan and Honda both were using 3D technology in their displays. Nissan had some virtual reality goggles using motion tracking for an immersive experience with the iDX concept and while there were many driving simulators on the show floor, Honda’s used a head mounted 3D display. Mercedes-Benz’s use of 3D technology might be a bit more practical, since they use a pair of video cameras as part of their driver assist and safety systems in their cars.


Chrysler’s last bit of swag was a key chain in the shape of a piston and connecting rod. Attached to the ring was a USB thumb drive (holding a digital Mopar press kit) in the shape of a key. It looks like key shaped thumb drives were a hit at the advertising specialties companies that service the automakers because Denso, Volkwagen and Cadillac also gave them out, the Cadillac thumb drive coming on a leather key fob with Cadillac’s new crest.


Other thumb drives were more conventionally shaped, though the Kia GT4 Stinger concept press kit came on a thumb drive shaped like the car.


The smart car press kit likewise came in something that looked like a smart car but according to the pretty lady handing them out many people thought they were novelty rubber erasers. The GMC Canyon press kit’s thumb drive swiveled out of a diamond plate holder.


The Corvette Z06 press kit was on a conventional thumb drive but befitting a limited edition Corvette, it had a special presentation.


It was packaged in a cardboard box, as for watches or jewelry and it came with three lapel pins, a Z06 pin, a crossed flags Corvette pin, and one of Jake, the Corvette skull mascot.


Chevy also gave out buttons and trading cards.


The Z06 was not the only American performance car getting its first auto show introduction. The 2014 NAIAS is the first time the all new 2015 Mustang will be seen at an auto show. Since only a limited number of people were present at the various live reveals last month the Detroit show will be the first time large numbers of people will see the new Mustang in person and Ford has an extensive display devoted to the car and its history. An upstairs section contains 50 years of Mustang memorabilia. It looks like some show goers during the public days will get the chance to assemble a snap-fit 1/24th scale model of the new Mustang coupe. They were so rare at the media preview that I haven’t seen any show up on eBay at all.


Part of Toyota’s reveal presentation of the Ft-1 is-it-the-next-Supra? concept was produced by Polyphony Digital (i.e. Sony) using the graphics engine of their latest release Gran Turismo 6. Not surprisingly, the virtual FT-1 is now available for download for GT6 players. Perhaps more surprisingly, Toyota gave out full functional copies of the driving simulator. The racing sim is probably the most valuable thing we got in terms of retail price but it’s pretty much worthless to me as I don’t have a PS3 console, or any gaming console for the matter.


It’s interesting that as mass manufacturers stop printing hard copy sales brochures, assuming that the hoi polloi have access to smartphones with bar code readers (and disappointing people who collect and archive automotive sales literature), some luxury marques still prefer the printed page. Instead of a barcode or even a cardstock brochure, Porsche gave out hardcover books on the new 911 Targa. Usually when a brand like Jaguar or Corvette gives out a book, there’s some history included, but the 911 Targa book is just an elaborate sales brochure.


Scion also hasn’t yet abandoned paper entirely. Working with artist Shin Tanaka, the Toyota brand gave out die cut paper toys that you can construct, assembling each of the cars in Scions line up.


If you have an Instagram account, you could also use a vending machine Scion set up that dispenses Scion tzotchkes in exchange for promoting the company via social media. I don’t have an Instagram account by the nice pretty lady worked the machine for me and I got a free hat, sort of a tradition at Scion. Scion has given out knit skull caps and baseball caps at the big auto shows since the brand was launched.


Some automotive vendors also use the NAIAS to have press conferences and Denso gave out PED rechargers at their event.


So that’s it when it comes to giveaways at the 2014 NAIAS. Before the domestic auto industry melted down, the New York Times popularized a cliche that went as follows, “you can tell how the domestic auto industry is doing by how big the shrimp are at the Detroit auto show’s media preview,” presuming that there would always be shrimp served up to the press by automakers, the only question was how big they’d be. For a number of years that cliche simply didn’t apply, but most car companies doing business in North America are now making money here and I noticed that crustaceans were being served by at least couple of car companies in their buffets. The car companies may be profitable these days, and the shrimp may be back at the Detroit auto show, but a confluence of factors means that the glory days of auto show swag are behind us.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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14 Comments on “2014 NAIAS: Profits And Shrimp Might Be Back But Swag Still Sparse...”

  • avatar

    the bill on the Scion cap is appropriately flat for Toyota’s desired demographic. Did this vending machine also have walker rubber feet and cat toys for the acutal Scion demographic?

  • avatar

    Time was you spent 50% of your T&E budget at NAIAS, too. The king is dead, long live the king.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I just can’t imagine people falling over themselves for this stuff, the value of which is usually short-lived and appeals to a very limited audience. Waiting a decade or two for something like this to be worth $50 isn’t worth it to me.

    But I don’t collect baseball cards, either.

  • avatar

    Are giveway die-cast/plastic models like this 2015 Mustang model later offered to the public; or are they strictly car show giveaways? The dies to make these plastic models are not cheap; the price per car most be quite high if they are a limited run for car show giveaways only.

    One thing that impressed me in building my display of Fords from 1982 (when the Ford Sierra came out) to today is how well represented Ford is in the minature world. I had to turn to cardstock models (much better detail and proportions than the giveaways in this article) to fill a few gaps; and there were some that I left out because of space constraints; but most models and generations are represented. The only exceptions were:

    * The second generation (Fiat 500 based) Ford Ka
    * The third generation Mondero, found the first and second generation in 1/72 scale, but strangely not third
    * The Ford Scropio; an obscure Spanish maker of diecasts is the only one that made one in 1/64 scale.

    Saw a Ford Transit Connect on the way home and thought “nah, bet I won’t find one of those.” Wrong, Matchbox made it, and it is now in my display as well. It was a taxi; I guess one reason why Fords are well represented is because they were popular in the taxi, law enforcement, and NASCAR/WRC/NHRA worlds.

    For those who did not pick up the plastic model 2015 Mustang, Maisto is coming out with the 2015 Ford Mustang in various scales in the second quarter of this year. While Maisto models are more cheaply made and priced than equivalent Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, their attention to detail is very impressive.

    Edit: Finally, I made a nice cardstock model of the 2013 Ford Escape (it compared well to a Greenlight Collectable Escape of the same scale), and am working on one of the 2013 Ford Focus. When I finished the nose section of the Focus, I tried and found it fit perfectly on the nose of the Escape. I knew the Escape is in essance a tall Focus; but did not expect the nose to be that close in size and shape. One of the little things I have learned so far in putting this display together.

    • 0 avatar

      Maisto’s 1:18 and 1:24 scales are not bad. They’re not Autoart or Sunstar quality but they are much better than Jada at the same price.

      • 0 avatar

        This is counteracted by Maisto’s 1/64 stuff being absolutely awful, seemingly not much above dollar store quality.

        • 0 avatar

          Depends on what you use them for. The newer ones have better decals than the lower end hot wheels so they’re occasionally prettier. As a toy they’re absolutely cheap shit. There’s no way they’d hold up to my god son or any child for that matter. For my display case however, I usually prefer Greenlight for 1:64 scale stuff.

          • 0 avatar

            Agree on the Maisto 1/64 scale stuff; I have two in my collection, a second gen Durango, and a Ford SportKa. The Durango has poor fitting window glass that is tinted so they did not have to install an interior, but the overall profile and the decals are very good. The SportKa is a convertible, so it has an interior, just not a great one; but the overall profile is good; it actually has the correct wheels, and the headlights and tail lights are correctly painted along other details. I prefer them to some of the crazy stuff Hot Wheels is releasing now.

            I need to upload an up-to-date picture of my display. When it is finished (3-4 more cars to go), it will include:

            – 7 Greenlight collectables
            – 7 Hot Wheels
            – 7 Matchbox
            – 7 Paper (cardstock) models
            – 6 NASCAR collectables
            – 6 Miscellaneous (Johnny Lightening, etc.)

            Many of the cardstock models are very good; especially by Japanese designer Kim S.; though they are display only; of course. But assembling them in 1/64 scale is very difficult. Here is a picture of the 2013 Ford Kuga (Escape) next to the Greenlight Collectible Ford Escape; a portion of my collection is visible below:


            It has rear view mirrors; just didn’t have the patience to try and assemble them this time.

  • avatar

    They had thieves walking away with “boxes of press kits and cases of die cast models”? So their solution was to drop the giveaways instead of jumping all over their own people handling the stuff, or Cobo Hall security letting people walk out the door with it? Amazing.

    • 0 avatar

      The car companies will never admit it, but they want the stuff to end up on eBay. Why else would Ferrari put holographic authenticity stickers on their press materials or Chevy give out numbered first editions of die cast Corvettes?

      I think most of the change was due to economics and technology. Printed hard copy press kits with 35mm color slides and 8″X10″ color glossies were replaced by hard copy press kits with cd-roms. Then just cds. Now the cds have been replaced by assorted forms of thumb drives. Unless the thumb drive is really special, like the Ford Fiesta one of a year or two ago that was a fairly decent model of the car, nobody is going to want to buy it.

      Sometimes I wonder if the lack of ephemeral artifacts in the brave new digital world will make existing ephemera like hard copy sales brochures even more collectible in the future. Anybody can have a digital copy. In the world of ebooks and iTunes, how do you get a signed first edition?

  • avatar

    Now you need to buy a PS3 and Logitech G27 wheel so you can provide a review of the FT-1.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Anyone who knows or cares the least about computer security would refuse to put a giveaway thumb drive into his computer. So giving out web addresses instead is the smart move.

    • 0 avatar

      True, but I could still neetsfoot oil it to a dark mahogany and carry it around in my pocket for a quick leather fix :-)

      Edit… Whoops, thinking of Ronnie’s Shinola article and leather thumbdrive.

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