by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img Chrysler via Autoblog ::: 2012 New York Auto Show / 2013 SRT Viper
POINTEDLY, the 2012 New York Auto Show’s press days are not overlapping this year’s Shanghai Auto Show. And that’s a good thing. Last year, Gotham’s automotive showcase got upstaged by those upstarts in Shanghai. China was and remains the world’s fastest growing car market, so, it stands to some reason that every car maker save for Chrysler, Subaru, and Saab (sigh) splashed out for more razzle dazzle in the PRC and left Gotham as an afterthought.
Bah, New Yorkers never had a strong relationship with the automobile anyway.
Sadly this rendered NYIAS 2011 feeling like some glum after-after-after party where they ran out of booze (they didn’t have anything besides Coors Light anyway) and the host crashed hours ago.
With any luck, that won’t be the case this year. And with Chrysler leaking some tantalizing pics of the 2013 SRT (don’t-call-it-Dodge) Viper, NYIAS 2012 may prove to be a showcase worth seeing. Hopefully. Fingers crossed. Because in the automotive world, New York deserves its turn in the spotlight.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img Kevin Kusina for ADLX ::: Audi Press Conference NYIAS 2011
“BRAND” is a handy handle for marketers to describe a company or division that sells a series of products. It’s universal in application. That’s how advertising and marketing folk apply the term to anything and everything from Apple to Justin Bieber to Chiquita Bananas to Audi. All brands. The word’s been used ad nauseam at the auto show. Everywhere, really. This is a lousy practice and here’s why…
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img Kevin Kusina for ADLX ::: Mercedes-Benz A-Class
the Saturday dance the Mercedes-Benz presser but took a long look at the 2011 Concept A-Class which premiered Tuesday in – ahem – Shanghai.
Never liked the cheap ‘n tatty A-Class, but the concept you see here is sculptural with a “graphic” (pardon the jargon) that ties back to the Ocean Drive Concept from 2007. What’s more, the front end is even more powerfully stated with a flashy metallic dot-matrix (Mercedes describes them as little stars) grille that stands as the most compelling bit of automotive architecture present at New York.
The grille better make it into production. A+ for Concept A-Class.
By Gunnar Heinrich
WHAT can Blue do for you? Little, apparently. This time last year at NYIAS Mercedes was “a-buzzzzz” about BlueTEC – showcasing a diesel M-Class as the way of the future. But super efficient diesel SUVs are so 2008. This year it’s hybrids (!) which seems so, oh, 2004, given that Toyota’s been there, done that, & collected the trophies. But here we are with the ML450 HYBRID, nonetheless. Next year, “e85″?
By Gunnar Heinrich
BOTH powerful and powerful ugly, BMW has announced its plan to scratch the itch that never was – a 555 hp / 500 lb-ft torqued crossover – or “Sports Activity Coupe” to use BMW speak – and unleash the X6 M onto the world this week at NYIAS. Also on the cards is an M tuned variant of that most “active” of soccer mom ‘utes – the X5. Armed with pulse-tuned exhaust manifolds, now she really will be the first to the game.
By Gunnar Heinrich
OUR New York Auto Show segment is back online following its televised premiere on CPTV, the PBS affiliate for Connecticut.
For those who never saw it, this story (TRT: 10:22) takes the auto show through ADL’s unique perspective.
Rather than giving the viewer a dry recount of yet another auto show, we decided to give it the theme of one of New York’s fashion events. After all, the auto show is as much about style as it is about the brass tax of selling cars to an often indifferent public.
The segment covers events such as the Saab Bio Hybrid concept party,the Lamborghini Press launch of the LP560-4, and interviews with GM execs and Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez.
CAR companies need bloggers the same way elephants need dung beetles. It’s not that those towering pachyderms can’t live without us creepy crawlies taking their… poop, per se, but Mother Nature has made room for all of us in the consumer’s ecosystem.
So, the elephants have come to accept us. And to roughly paraphrase the guy from Big Blue (IBM), they really can dance an elephantine jig.
General Motors invited Automobiles de Luxe to be their guest at this year’s New York Auto Show. GM rep. Adam Denison first saw my writings over @ 4DriversOnly and sent me a complimentary e-mail that included the invite.
The company’s only request for what amounted to an it’s-on-us vacation was that I remind you in all content pertaining to GM products that the General played host.
It doesn’t escape me or my crew that in signing on to six interviews, four lunch/dinner events, and an invitation to one helluva party that the General captured ADL’s focus far longer than he otherwise would have in so diverse a forum.
Our here-to-there schedule of GM events (which we asked for and were by no means required to meet) squeezed out time for Bentley, Maserati, and Jaguar. As it was, yours was out of breath running back from Benz’s press conference to meet the Cadillac man.
Does such a heavy focus make this venerable little platform for automotive appreciation and critique an all-out sell out? Some have already called to say as much. Each of you can decide for yourselves.
As it is, the wider world of communications is still in a quandary on what to make of bloggers and our biases – real and perceived.
The Fourth Estate (print) is particularly keen on pointing that we produce very little original material (check), merely repost theirs (check), and often serve as nothing better than parrots to corporate press machines (again, check).
But all that said, many of the traditional press have been on “the dole” for some time. And it is easy to see why.
From our rooms at the Peninsula, we knew just what time it was thanks to the clocks on Fifth Avenue’s Presbyterian Church which we turned to from the comfortable, eye-level vantage afforded us from our beaux-arts tower.
At the Buick Cipriani luncheon held in the masonic halls of a former bank, there were some in the audience who with the air of the most practiced diffidence projected that they had seen it all before and had become well accustomed to the perks.
Others, namely some from the Internet community were by contrast new to such corporate generosity – that includes yours truly.
Over the ensuing two days, there would be various levels of pandering. Some of GM’s guests maintained friendly dialog without compromising their neutral role while others were rather eager to ensure GM’s corporate reps knew that they were – doing their part online.
Again, yours truly probably fell somewhere in the middle – which in some golden tome of tried and true journalism likely amounted to treason. I’m sure that somewhere Walter Lippmann cast a furrowed brow on me for failing to maintain objective distance when informing the island (that’s you).
Were he an empathetic man, Mr. Lippmann would see how difficult it was to be purely objective.
Aside from harboring the clearly selfish, not-so-hidden motive of wanting to be re-invited, there was the far more unsettling aspect of realizing that those who ran the corporate communications departments of the General’s various battalions -er – “brands” were – with few exceptions – good and decent people.
Such conditions speak volumes to the maxim that understanding has the hazardous potential of leading to forgiveness.
True, GM’s politesse was not altruistic. But it was nonetheless impressive that us bloggers were accorded respect and in most cases our communication enjoyed a real degree of candor that’s seldom found in exchanges with PR people.
One such well spoken gentleman was Jan-Willem Vester, manager of corporate communications at Saab USA.
Over dinner at The Park restaurant (their fillet was delicious, by the way) he brought faith to a profession that anyone in journalism or pseudo-journalism is geared toward regarding with wary contempt.
Mr. Vester proved “brand” (detest that word) loyal in the organic sense by being an owner/enthusiast through discovery and not solely by corporate attrition.
And what was even greater was that you could carp – as I did – about Cadillac BLS this, or 9-7X that, or why Saab chose to go with “Turbo X” and not replay “Viggen,” and what made producing the Aero X so unrealistic anyway (?) and you’d get the kind of honest, no-bull answers that one just doesn’t expect.
Let’s be clear that Mr. Vester’s engaging responses never for one moment compromised the company line, but they did impress by imparting that the people running Saab were human; and striving to learn and grow from their current, admittedly troubled position.
A quick Google search told me that others have been in receipt of Mr. Vester’s fresh candor.
To hammer this point home, let me tell you that so moved was I by this one rep’s performance that I commended Mr. Vester to one of his superiors at Saab.
Unfortunately, such commendations didn’t appear to register with the other gentleman in question who seemed to be somehow perplexed why he was in an interview with some kid in a suit.
That Zegna suit was tailored just for this kid, friend.
Anyhow, I’m sure to some whose self-appointed and truly bitter duty it is to seek some warped truth in all aspects automotive, this post must amount to a bill of sale. Bought and paid-for press for the General.
Well, perhaps on some level. But then again, let’s take a step back from such accusations and get a little real.
This century will see the end of the autonomous automobile.
As someone who genuinely loves the romance that is the automotive world, to acknowledge this is akin to remembering that all joys in life are ephemeral.
But watching the writing on the wall being written as it now is, it’s important to recognize that the dawn of colorless, robotic and alternative transport spurned by the pressures of urbanization and hyperbole driven, so-called “green” politics is our next destination.
We in the blogging community do have some innate obligation to be honest about that which we learn and then communicate to our audiences. But that obligation should in no way be mired in angry cynicism – which can be an all too tempting forum for a writer to displace personal rage.
To lesser degree, yours truly discovered this with respect to Mercedes-Benz. Physical exercise and other cathartic practices are much better antidotes to stress. Others might consider this where it pertains to their attacks on GM.
So when we learn of some blogger throwing deliberately personal fire bombs at an overpaid, but nevertheless Teflon coated GM exec, the firestorm seems less the virtuous act of the vigilant-corporate-watchdog and more some angry guy vomiting acid for attention.
We write about cars, ladies and gentlemen. And in the grand scheme of things, the subject matter ranks on the lighter scale of news. So, let’s lighten up, try not to be too serious, and grant ourselves permission to enjoy the drive while we still can.
And that means saving our ammo for when it counts.
Besides, how could we hope to deliver objectivity to our audiences if the very core of our coverage were inherently negative?
On behalf of my crew and myself, I extend our thanks to the folks at General Motors for graciously accepting us in amongst their fold for a few days.
As car enthusiasts and journalists, we have learned a great deal from our brief time in New York. And for that experience, we are and shall remain grateful.
Prone to carp and crow as the folks over at The New York Times are at present, the newspaper waxed unenthusiastic at the few original débuts that showcased at the Javits this year.
The Times pinned the blame for the failure to promulgate fresh product on the basis that, “crowded car-show [schedules] left many automakers played out, with little new or remarkable to unwrap in New York.”
Keyword – “remarkable.” Ah, so.
It’s true that despite the show’s location in the media capital of these United States, the New York International Auto Show plays second fiddle to events at lesser destinations like Detroit and Geneva and as such is less a home to first round concept premieres.
That having been said, The Times’ editors managed to give precious few column inches to the fact that NYIAS was particularly significant for at least one carmaker (other than Suzuki) >>>.
The division has for years wallowed in an identity crisis. Indeed, at last Wednesday’s press conference, Bob Lutz allowed that, “It was just five short years ago that Pontiac had no rear wheel drive cars, just one V8, and enough body cladding to fill Aztec.” That kind of funny talk seemed bloggish somehow…
Anyway, that all changed – dramatically – with the success of the functionally flawed but classically beautiful Solstice roadster. As part of GM’s invite to NYIAS, yours truly asked for and was granted three interviews with various Pontiac execs to discuss the Solstice (stay tuned for the videos).
The folks at Pontiac have since pushed that power envelope further with the introduction of the 6.2 liter, 402 horsepower (!) G8 GXP sedan – “Fiddy” should be getting his very own any day now.
Memory can’t recall a sedan from Pontiac so visually taught.
Couple those sharp looks with a hip and with-it marketing campaign featuring a NYC rock band called the Young Lords >>>, the aforementioned rap star, and a new TV ad that plays off the old arcade game “Spy Hunter” >>> (my personal favorite as a kid) and Pontiac is suddenly ready to be on the map of Gen X’s automotive lexicon.
Considerably less hip is Pontiac’s G8 based truck that looks like a lousy after thought. Indeed, 50 Cent himself seemed to have trouble pushing the ’09 El Camino.
Still for all the creative spark that’s finally hit the troubled GM division, let’s hope the youthful exuberance is here to stay. And let’s also hope that someone over at The Times wakes up to what is actually “remarkable.”