Well, yes, as you might expect, the mood at this year's North American International Auto Show--a/k/a the Detroit Auto Show, for those of us slightly less embarrassed about the Motor City--was more somber than usual. A number of players--including Ferrari, Land Rover, Suzuki, Nissan, and Infiniti--chose to take their toys and go home. To be honest, I can understand Ferrari and Land Rover--not exactly a burgeoning market for their upscale playthings here. But Nissan/Infiniti? As I understand it, they pulled out of the show, and then the dealers offered to put up their own display. After all, part of the purpose of an auto show is to sell cars, right? But then Corporate came back and asked the Detroit Auto Dealers Association to please not let their dealers have any floor space. WTF?
As far as what did show up...
- Kudos to the PR folks at GM, Ford, and Chrysler for each managing to keep a secret concept car up their sleeves. There had been a whisper or two in the media of the Cadillac Converj, but the Chrysler 200C and Lincoln C concepts came out of left field.
- Lincoln's C concept--the length of a Focus and the width of a Fusion--brought the old AMC Pacer to mind ("the first wide small car!") fused with a bit of Renault Megane and vague hints of the new Lincoln design philosophy. Like many other cars at the show, the C's interior was upholstered in gorgeous but wholly impractical white leather. And, like some of the feminine-themed cellphones that have surfaced in the past few years, it features floral graphics imprinted on the upholstery.
- Wonder of wonders, Henrik Fisker has gone from Preston Tucker wannabe (bold visionary destined for a tragic end) to just-about-ready-for-primetime niche automaker. The Karma plug-in-hybrid is reportedly still on track to hit the market in tiny numbers by the end of the year, and is the sexiest green car on the market.
- I'm pretty sure if I gave my four-year-old niece a bag full of glitter and decals she could come up with something more impressive than the Toyota FT-EV concept. I mean, really; I realize Toyota wanted to make a 'statement' that they were getting into the electric car game, but they would have been better off leaving this pimped-out iQ at home and just announcing something during their press conference. As it was, the FT-EV didn't even warrant a platform--just some stanchions--and wasn't even mentioned during Toyota's press event.
- Volvo's S60 concept was gorgeous and Swedish. And by Swedish, I mean that the communication materials were littered with references to Swedish design influences, from the Viking longboats incorporated into the headlamp design to the full-length 'shoulder' inspired by the cliffs (?) of Sweden.
- Even more gorgeous was the Audi Sportback, a rakish five-door 'coupe' with frameless doorglass and unfinished oak interior trim. The production version--likely to carry the A7 badge--will probably show up at Frankfurt in September.
- And, finally, a 'speaking in tongues' award to VW brand chief designer Walter Da Silva, who presented the new--and apparently ready-for-production--Bluesport roadster concept entirely in Italian. With no subtitles. What a complete waste of everyone's time.