Most of the launches at the auto show have flashing lights and pounding music and a video of some sort, but the presentation of the latest Lexus IS350 stood out from all the others. It was an exciting and tastefully sexy video with marketing slogans scattered throughout that woke me right up: “If you want a response, give them a statement,” “If you want to change lanes, give them a signal,” — that sort of thing.
I’ve never thought of Lexus as being exciting, or sexy, but I do now.
Hidden in the back corner of the Toyota display is a silver Tundra pickup, that were it not covered in decals, wouldn’t stand out at all. In a stroke of marketing genius and uncharacteristic bravado, Toyota actually hitched this thing to 132,675 kg – that’s 292,500 pounds – of space shuttle Endeavour and trailer, and then towed it approximately 100 yards over a highway overpass deemed unsafe for the proper tow tractor. Probably any similar full-size pickup could have done it, but this one actually did. That’s pretty cool.
At a pre-show event for the Corvette, GM had the car under wraps on stage. Usually there’s a presentation and then the blanket gets pulled off, and so throughout the music and videos, everyone watched that car cover. When the speeches were over, the music got louder and we all focused our cameras, waiting for the car to be uncovered. So no one noticed the real Corvette until it came out from behind and drove around the cloaked car. Auto reveals are generally all the same, so it was fun to be completely surprised by this one.
What impressed me about the Detroit Auto Show was how big it was — the main building of Cobo Hall covered over 18 acres. Thousands of journalists from all over the world were there for two full days.
I spotted the Reverend Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover was protesting something outside, and Mercedes new E-class was driven onto the stage by actors Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson accompanied by Bruce Hornsby playing, “The Way It Is.” Cool.
It was a true glitz fest and proved that Detroit is back.
My grandfather’s cousins, two gentlemen named George and Hal Robson, were big time racers back in the 1940s: So much so that George won the first Indianapolis 500 following the Second World War, in 1946. George was killed in a racing crash just a few months later. I have never been to Indy, so I was super excited to find that Honda had the Borg-Warner Trophy, awarded to the winner, on display in their show stand. It was a proud moment when I found my distant relative’s face and name on the historic trophy. What’s really interesting is that the Robson family came to Canada in 1924 and settled in Toronto. George was three at the time and Hal was born in Toronto. Hal Robson was also in that 1946 Indy 500, making him the first Toronto-born driver to race at Indianapolis. The family moved to the U.S. when George was 15 and Hal was 12. The boys got into racing seven years later.
Creativity. That’s what impressed me at the North American International Auto Show. The creativity that goes into the design of a car, the design of the display booth, the music that accompanies the videos, the lighting on the stages and cars, and even the way foam is stenciled onto a cappuccino to represent a car logo.
The auto show is a big celebration of creativity. You don’t have to love cars to be enthralled by how a brilliant idea moves from the brain to a note pad and to a booth in Detroit. It’s human power, not horsepower.
I’m a sucker for smooth, gorgeous style, so my highlight at this year’s Detroit auto show was Hyundai’s HCD-14 Genesis concept.
No, it’s not a “green” car: Under the hood lurks a five-litre V8 engine, whose minimal nods to efficiency include direct injection and dual continuously variable valve timing. I’d prefer a more environmentally benign power plant.
But those lines! Hyundai says the premium sports sedan, “conveys a fluidic-precision, liquid-metal design language.” Whatever that means.
I simply say it’s beautiful, like watching deep, dark water flow hypnotically along Northern Ontario’s Albany River.
Here’s hoping it survives into the production version.