For the last 3 days I have been walking the show floor at COBO hall in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). This was my first time at the show and I have to say, I was blown away. The cars are amazing, the displays over the top and seeing as how I was brought in as a VIP, the lavish spectacle of extravagance was unparalleled. I mean, seriously, a box lunch that arrives 2 hours late? Top-shelf stuff here…. In all seriousness, the lunch was COBO’s fault, they are classically unprepared for every event like this, it’s a union thing. My hosts for the show were beyond professional and are truly some of the best people in the industry, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for inviting me to their show.
01-13-13: The reveal of the 2013 Corvette
As a gearhead, the Corvette represents 2 things- the epitome of American performance and sport, and to many musclecar freaks, the bastard that hogs all the factory go-fast goodies for itself. A lot of horsepower junkies hate the Corvette for its gold-chain and sansabelt slacks-wearing owners who bitch and moan when they see a ‘vette with a wrong colored bolt on the alternator. The problem is that these guys make so much noise, the rest of the Corvette enthusiasts get overshadowed. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of the modern Corvettes; the C7 however may just change my mind. At first look, it is a Corvette, but then you start to see the different styling cues that take this plastic fantastic to a new place, particularly a certain southern European locale. The slow slope of the rear window and the high peak of the rear quarters scream “Ferrari” to me, and that is a good thing. Up front, the grill fascia feels very much like an Aston Martin, also a very good thing. The new Corvette Stingray is an all-American sports car that has a very exotic feel, and I like that. A lot. Not to mention all of the technology that is inside the C7- reactive shifting, electric power steering and some really cool aerodynamic engineering.
At the reveal, we got to hear from CEO Mark Reuss about how the Corvette is the reason he works at GM. Corvette is the true American sports car, and the passion it breeds inside the world’s largest automaker is inspiring. Nobody gets excited like this over a Corolla.
Have shoes, will travel
I am not a big suit and tie person, I am usually found wearing shorts and T-shirt, so dressing up for the most formal auto show in America was a little uncomfortable. I may be wearing slacks and a button-down, but I still have on my Sketchers because there was a lot of floor plan to cover. The GM booth alone was 48,000 (yes, thousand) square feet. Unlike the SEMA show, the booths here are huge, with just about every automaker in the US market represented. Every hour there was a different reveal or press conference, it is impossible to catch them all, not that I would want to. I really don’t care about the new Toyota anything, unless it was being shot up by a mini-gun with Kari Byron in a bikini at the trigger. Now that I would be willing to wait in line for…..
I did manage to get a good spot for the Mercedes-Benz E-class reveal. The E-class lineup isn’t all new, just a facelift, but that didn’t stop Merc CEO Dieter Zetsche from bringing out Bruce Hornsby and The Range to soothe our ears with classic tunes while the cars were being driven on stage. I mean seriously, Bruce Hornsby, a Steinway and the “Way It Is”. Damn near went out and bought an SLK after that one!
The Cadillac ATS won North American Car of The Year, and having driven one last week, I can honestly say they got it right. The ATS is a stellar achievement for Cadillac- rear-wheel drive, 321 hp V6 and some of the coolest soft-touch buttons I have ever seen. The ATS has potential to be considered a luxury muscle car, and I mean that in the realest possible way. The pair of black stripes it leaves at every stoplight are a testament to its potential.
After the show, I got to have dinner with the Buick social media group, and as the biggest Buick fan on the planet, it was a highlight. I won’t go into too much detail here, but Buick, Cuban Mojitos, and bongos came into play…
CEOs and Engineers
Mark Reuss, the CEO of General Motors is a passionate car guy. You have to be in order to take control of a company in a downward spiral desperate for smart decision making. You can’t bring the greatest automaker on the face of the planet out of a tail spin with econoboxes and pretentious hybrids. You need excitement, enthusiasm and innovation. You also can’t win the market with a competitive attitude. If you go into a fight saying “I’m going to be competitive”, you are going to lose. Reuss said “You need a winning approach in order to win”, which makes complete sense to me. You either dominate or you get rolled over. The new C7 Corvette is the first win for GM since the bankruptcy and GM is extremely proud of it, as well they should be. The Cadillac ATS is a stellar achievement as well, and the new Caddy ELR is yet another win for the greatest automaker in the world. GM is back.
At the new Cadillac ELR reveal, it was asses and elbows, I had to fight my way to get a good spot. While it looks like a typical Caddy, it is anything but. This is the first EV (electric vehicle) from Cadillac, (the Escalade hybrid doesn’t count), based on the Volt platform, but with technology and style that only the Telsa can compete with, and at a far better price point. The ELR is aggressive in interior styling, using cut and sewn upholstery on everything, innovating controls and unparalleled comfort. While I am not yet on the EV bandwagon (I like the idea, but have not yet whole-heartedly embraced it), the ELR goes a long way to combine luxury and style with EV technology. If you don’t think electric vehicles will eventually dominate the market, you are living under a large rock with blinders on, listening to Kenny G. In other words you are crazy. It’s happening.
GM gave me a tour around the new GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado trucks. Being from Oklahoma, I have been a truck guy my whole life, I have owned many classic Chevy trucks over the years, I currently have 3 in my stable as a matter of fact. The new Sierra has aggressive looks that I really like, a new direct-injection all-aluminum V8 and all the technology on the inside that you could possibly want. It has me seriously thinking about hitting the dealership in a couple of months and buying one, and I don’t say that lightly, I need a new truck and the Sierra has everything I want in one.
Anytime a manufacturer allows journalists to actually speak with engineers is especially precious. Engineers have a bad habit of letting secrets spill because they are excited about what they are working on, so they don’t get let out that often. Cadillac took a few of us to dinner and brought some engineers along, particularly in the Electrification arena. I enjoyed discussing the merits and drawbacks of EV in rural areas and overall I came away with good impressions of things to come. Expect something in the near future in the truck market that will revolutionize the industry. I wish I could say what it is, but I don’t know either, I just know that something is coming very soon and it is going to be impressive. World changing even.
The auto show was fun; I learned a lot and will be sharing more over the next few days. Until then, please enjoy the gallery below of some the coolest new cars and concepts. I may have even thrown in a few duds to rag on too.