Story by Jack Baruth and Carl Modesette; photos by Zerin Dube, Carl Modesette, and Dave Everest
Oh, what we wouldn’t give to return to the fashionable ennui of last year’s Detroit Auto Show! Back in those oh-so-innocent days, the floor was crowded, the giveaways flowed like water, and no manufacturer could foresee any problem worse than perhaps falling back a place in their particular front of the never-to-end horsepower wars. We didn’t know the “Carpocalypse” was coming, didn’t know that car sales would crater the way they have, couldn’t begin to guess that within a year the domestics would be on their knees while Toyota and Honda experienced thirty-percent-plus volume drops. Oh well. That was then, this is now.
The floor traffic was way down at Detroit this year, even if the increasing numbers of obnoxious soap-averse Eurotrash with monstrous rolling-tripod HD video cameras made the press previews feel a little… close at times. What’s the point of using a twenty-grand rig to film three days of a show, knowing that you’ll be boiling it down to a press-pass-contract-specified maximum five minutes of 320×240 Flash video? This was the worst-smelling NAIAS in history; the mulchy aroma of the “eco-drive” basement area mixed with the sweat-soaked polyester tops of the foreign press to create an aroma best described as “paint-peeling”. Some of these dudes really should have been thrown in the ol’ Silkwood shower.
Still, there were times when, comfortably seated in the fixed buckets of a matte-blue Murcielago or relaxing with Audi-branded chocolate squares in a manufacturer lounge, it was possible to obtain a little perspective on the show. Forget the economy, the drama, the naked pleas for government assistance, and the relentless howl of anguished prima donna front-row photographers. It’s still a show about cars, which means we’re going to name the Rockers, Suckers, and Snoozers of the 2009 North American International Auto Show.
GM’s press conference on Sunday was not the most depressing of the day’s events (See: Chrysler), but it certainly wasn’t the most inspiring either. Wagoner’s communications team set him up with a healthy four hundred words that had nothing to do with GM’s financial trouble. Now that’s a solid corporate communications strategy when everything is business as usual, but when you’ve just been floated a loan by some 300 million of your peers, a little humility may be in order. (See: Chrysler — sensing a pattern?). But while ChryCo’s conference may have been the most depressing of the bunch, it was the non-event that was Pontiac’s presence at NAIAS that depressed, disturbed, and frankly offended me as both an enthusiast and as “member” of the press. If you’ve ever shown up to a party where you’re surrounded by dozens of people who were your friends just days before and suddenly don’t want to talk to you, look at you, acknowledge you, or even share the same hundred-square foot area of their apartment, then you know what it’s like to be Pontiac. You don’t know what you did (or didn’t do), but suddenly you’re the fattest, pinkest, most foul-smelling elephant ever to be under the table.
The Speed:Sport:Life 2009 North American International Auto Show Photo Gallery is live! 550+ of the best photos of the show that you will find on the web. We’ve taken the time to painstakingly color correct and enhance each photo to make sure you feel like you were there. All photos are viewable as large as 1200×800. We’ll have the 2009 Rockers, Suckers and Snoozers for you tomorrow, but for now we hope you enjoy the gallery.
Today saw the introduction of what was justifiably called “the most important product introduction of the 2009 North American International Auto Show”, the mostly-new, .25 coefficient of drag, Toyota Prius… Oh, the hell with that. You don’t wanna hear about the Pious Pod. You want pictures of beautiful women, exotic supercars, Nurburgring-veteran Vipers, bad-assed turbocharged Lincolns, and a half-million-dollar pair of Mercedes super-SLs… and we will deliver.
“THANK YOU, AND GOOD MORNING FOR COMING!” Huh? Mark Fields doesn’t read a teleprompter terribly well, and he would go on to make at least one more hilarious malapropism in the following few minutes, (“WE CAN’T WAIT FOR ALL OF YOU TO GET BEHIND… uh, THIS CAR!”) but it didn’t matter. With their 2009 press conference, Ford broke from the troubled domestic-manufacturer pack and ran for full-throttle glory. We’ve seen this kind of bravado from the Blue Oval’s Detroit rollouts before, but there was a critical difference. Last year the 2009 F-150 arrived in a blast of pyrotechnics as a quartet of Mustangs twirled smoking donuts , but this year the fireworks were silent, replaced by a determined confidence in a simply spectacular wave of product. Gone was the machismo and Toby Keith-fueled manic energy; the new Ford wants to be a great car company, not just a great truck company.
See the S:S:L 2009 NAIAS Day 1 Coverage Gallery HERE.