Metro Times NAIAS Journals
Swag-hungry journos descend on an unsuspecting Cobo Hall for the 25th annual North American International Auto Show.
Published: January 22, 2014
2:16 p.m. — Toyota has … Toyotas. Moving on.
2:21 p.m. — Nothing spectacular at Fiat, although they are selling leather sports bags that look like the type you’d get in ’80s with “Sport” printed on the side.
2:30 p.m. — The best thing about Scion is the cell phone charge bar, so we jump on that and attempt to build the paper kit car that they give us. We make a mess of it. So, we basically met Scion’s high standards impeccably.
2:39 p.m. — Lincoln has created what feels like the most clichéd nightclub atmosphere on its second deck, like something Topeka would imagine Miami feels like. Stagnant ambient music plays while lights beam random phrases on a beige wall. “What’s grace?” Huh? “Why be spontaneous?” OK, Aristotle. “Why is art essential?” Why are we here again?
2:44 p.m. — A commercial for Anchorman 2 is blaring on a colossal TV in the Dodge section. COMING CHRISTMAS DAY, YOU GUYS. Holy fuck, we can’t escape Anchorman 2.
2:51 p.m. — The European and Japanese cars outclass the Americans’. The U.S. automakers’ brand-spanking-new offerings are slab-sided boxes on big chrome rims. While that probably appeals to the many little-dicked chumps who require oversized behemoths, on the global stage, it seems America is clinging to its ’Murica status. We need to balance it out. Or at least go all out and just start wrapping every car in the American flag. Come to think of it ...
3:01 p.m. — Scion has a swag machine. All you have to do is post something on Instagram and hashtag it and let all your friends know they’re seeing this pic from you because you want some free cheap piece of shit. Two girls and a guy are standing in front surveying their scores when we walk up. “We got two key chains and a little car,” the girl says. “It looks like you could get a hat, though.” The last bit is uttered with a wistful tinge. Yes, young lady. Some lucky person will get a hat, just not you.
3:09 p.m. — Nobody makes solid, large sedans or wagons anymore. Sure, they’re “of a bygone era,” but we call bullshit. See all those SUVs and crossovers on the road? They’re station wagons, only pumped full of too much testosterone. Which is a shame, since cars (as opposed to trucks) inherently get better mileage due to aerodynamics. And with the CAFE standards getting tighter and tighter, and automakers needing to make their average fuel mileage more efficient, we think it’s high time to bring back the wagon. The Dodge Magnum was nice, as it channeled the Mopars of old, and felt like a muscle car that can accept a load of groceries with dignity. But as far as usability … no. Just no.
3:12 p.m. — There are feather dusters all around, aimlessly wiping already pristine, shiny cars, but the guy with a tennis ball on the end of a stick wiping off scuff marks off the white floor in the BMW section is a new one to us.
3:21 p.m. — Lexus? Oh, fuck off.
3:22 p.m. — Ford’s new Mustang is all right; not nearly as interesting as we had hoped. Middle-of-the-road fare. But then again, this is like a remix of a remix of a cover song. It gets diluted through the versions and upgrades. I’m sure it’s a wonderful car to drive. But it just looks … barely upgraded. Doesn’t have the attitude that America’s original pony-car should have. And Chevy’s Camaro or new Corvette have a bit too much “aggro” grafted on.
3:25 p.m. — The Hyundai driving game is switched off. Nothing else to see here.
3:32 p.m. — The Dodge Ram is the Truck of the Year for 2013 and 2014, the first time a truck has won for two years back-to-back. To celebrate, they’re selling fishing hats, knives and shirts that say, “Keep plowing.”
3:41 p.m. — When an engine is removed from a car, it looks like a big hunk of metal. When it is cleverly set up to look like it’s working, it looks like … a moving hunk of metal.
3:45 p.m. — The Mercedes Benz S-Class coupe is a dream. Yes, it’s high-end. No, most people can’t afford it. But good-goddamn is it a gorgeous piece of kit. We’re Nissan fans, but we imagine most ’Muricans will hate these little buzz-bombers. Jaguar’s F-Type R coupe is like a refined muscle car, with perfect proportions and strong yet subtle design. Its exhaust note is musical (you can hear it at Jag’s booth). What to say about Toyota’s FT-1? It began its life as an unlockable car from the video game Gran Turismo, and Toyota decided to build a concept. The world saw it, and is now begging for it to be born as the new incarnation of the Supra. I won’t say no to that. The nose could use a little slice-and-dice, but man, that thing’s lines are silky smooth, just like our waistline.
3:51 p.m. — The SRT Viper on display looks like a cartoon sports car. Inspector Gadget could easily drive this thing.
3:54 p.m. — Lincoln’s presentation is amazing, like stepping into the late 1960s, but with a modern take on it. Shame their current crop of cars is nice but uninspired. Bring back the Continental, guys. And don’t fuck it up. Put it on the Mustang platform, give it a modern take on suicide doors with no B-pillar, and offer it black. Only black. OK, flat black too. So … two blacks. Got it? You’re welcome.
3:59 p.m. — What’s with all the people acting like King Shit just because they get to sit in a nice car for 20 seconds? We all know you’re heading back to the parking lot to hop in your Civic.
4:01 p.m. — The Corvette simulator is also down. Shame — we wanted to pretend to be Face from The A-Team. The nice Corvette lady said that we would have certainly finished top of the leader board had it been working, but that’s scant consolation.
4:09 p.m. — Going from booth to booth can be an exhausting barrage of numbers and figures that, frankly, stops making sense after a while, so we’re relieved that Ford transformed its second floor from the typical lounge they usually have to a sort of miniature museum dedicated to the legacy the Mustang has left on pop culture. All the car worship can get a bit soulless, so we happily gravitate to something with more of a human element to it. We love pop culture.
One sign says that the word “Mustang” is one of the top 10 passwords for email accounts. (We have to wonder, though: How do they know that? Go ahead and try it with all your Detroit friends’ email accounts. We’ll wait.) A glass case houses many decades’ worth of Mustang Hot Wheels cars, and another has a Barbie doll driving her 1993 toy Mustang. A tiny television plays the video for Martha and the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run,” filmed at the Rouge Plant and showing Mustangs rolling down the assembly line.
We’re geeked to find a jukebox that boasts a slew of songs that reference the Mustang from the likes of artists as diverse as Dick Dale, Wilson Pickett, T-Rex, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg, Vanilla Ice, Tom Waits, Keith Urban, Elton John, Tori Amos, David Bowie and many more! But we’re disappointed to find that it doesn’t actually work.
4:10 p.m. — We make a weird video with Chevrolet, in which we record our reactions to various banal events (we’re driving, drinking coffee, etc). Truth be told, it doesn’t make a lot of sense but, hey, everybody else keeps saying no to the nice Chevy rep.
4:12 p.m. — There are sniffer dogs all over the place. Are there drugs here that we don’t know about? If so, can one of you meet us in the bathroom in 10 minutes?
4:14 p.m. — Toyota’s futuristic concept vehicle, FV2, looks like something Batman would drive if he were going to the club. The sales pitch here is more than the automobile; it’s about the emotional connection. Here’s what they say: “Emotional Connection: Toyota envisions an ever-developing driver-vehicle relationship. Both the driver and the Toyota FV2 can grow together. The vehicle uses voice and image recognition to determine the driver’s mood, accumulated driving history to suggest destinations, and driving skill information to assist the user. In addition to an augmented reality display on the windshield, the body color and exterior display can be changed at will, creating a more intimate relationship between the vehicle and driver. The vehicle and driver become partners in mobility.”
And there, friends, is the script for Her 2: I Left My Phone for My Car.
4:20 p.m. — We build our ideal Jaguar using a touch-screen monitor. Apparently, it will cost $92,855. We heave a deep sigh and head over to the Smart Car stand.
4:22 p.m. — Smart Cars are silly.
4:27 p.m. — We stand at Bentley’s booth for a minute, feeling the icy gaze of judgment goosing our flesh. Even though those working the booth can’t afford the cars they’re helping promote, they still stare us down, insinuating how much we don’t deserve to lay our unhealthy eyes upon their glorious, hand-formed sheet metal. Curse them, they’re right!
4:30 p.m. — Wow, Volvo is here. I ask the two nice Swedish guys if they can say anything to dispel the notion that Volvos are about safety and nothing else. They say that, no, they can’t say anything for fear of getting into trouble with their bosses. The very definition of safety then …
4:32 p.m. — Virtually every racing game is broken, for chrissakes. We hop over to the Honda version only to find an upside-down, MS DOS-looking screen. If not for all the police and dogs around here, we’d just ditch our coat here for a bit, but then they’d probably bring in a bomb crew to discreetly blow it to shreds.
4:40 p.m. — Ford has a life-sized Hot Wheels car. It’s purple, and it has fins. We want one. Ford also had a pre-dirtied truck on display, which is a very hipster move — kind of like pre-torn blue jeans. We’re guessing you don’t actually buy the truck pre-dirtied, though. Unless, that is, you want people to think you’ve been “out muddin’.”
4:51 p.m. — We’re getting hungry. Aisin has doughnuts and coffee — not bad. Denso has croissants and deli sandwiches, plus little chocolates and fruit — better. ZF throws us out of their amenities area because, they say, it’s for staff only. Maybe a sign would help? We’re just hungry journalists!
4:55 p.m. — The Michelin man is nowhere to be found. A young Spartan tells us all about the Michigan State Formula Racing team, and a lady from CCS shows us some cool local work. Also, CCS gives us a free thumb drive. Sweet!
4:49 p.m. — Enough with cars. Time to go home. Oh, yeah … in our car …
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