A Detroit Auto Show

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I hope we’ve learned enough from this period in history I like to call “the Great Regression”.  I definitely have to believe that the dependency we had/have on credit has adjusted our national psyche into the healthy belief that if you don’t have it you don’t spend it, that buying gold isn’t just for grandpa, and  purchasing a home is not an investment but a security. I want to believe in the unemployment rate going down, consumer confidence going up, the price of milk keeping pace with inflation, and my ability to buy new shoes when the many holes form to make one giant hole. I really want that American Dream back for crissakes.

The news that we are buying cars, splurging again on Christmas gifts, vacationing, and having early retirements is uplifting. And after coming across this article

(http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704055204576068170386119208.html)

I reflected more on my experience in the now passing recession (I hope!!)

Last year at this time I visited the annual Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Center in downtown Motor City. Car shows are, face it, a fun experience. I had gone to countless oldies shows, the kind that line little Main St. in every town in every state. I even went to the Portland Auto Show on two occasions. Mostly, I love the chance to wander around like a diplomat of the people, kick the tires and sit behind the wheel of a car that will never be in my driveway (unless it’s a Rolls, then I have to get permission to even look at it). So, to go to the lauded Detroit Auto Show meant I was to experience the show all others try to live up to. The Detroit Auto Show, where the new models are unveiled in flamboyant displays of debauchery and neon. I was excited.

First off: The Cobo Center is, on sight, horrid. I don’t care if it can fit the entire country of Jordan inside. It. Is. A. Monstrosity. inside and out.

Inside I saw what I would expect. There was some amazing cars but none that I went crazy about. None that said to me “the world is changed”. What I found most interesting was the depressing attempt to being optimistic about the show, about the auto industry, about the automobile itself. Reading about this years auto show I feel cheated. Last year I could physically feel the proverbial nail in the coffin of the newly acquired GM and Chrysler. Nothing was presented, it was parked. The big luxury brands of the industry (Audi, BMW, LandRover, Jaguar, etc.) appeared to have brought out their model from 2009 because I believe I saw my dentist driving the same model two years ago. Sadly, the most talked about car there was the Tata from China, a gas pinching tin can that was meant to be the Usonian car for the new working class of some country that still had more bicycles than people. I wouldn’t drive that car in 99.9% of America, not only would I fear for my life on the road, I would fear for my psyche off it. And I drive a Honda Civic.

Let’s just say the show was pretty bad, and to top it off I ventured to the basement where a replica synthetic parkway had been installed in order for the masses to test drive electric SUV’s around in silent curves and bends. I thought someone had died. If there were people there I met them all and I was down there for five minutes.

So, this brings me to the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, which I did not go to.  With the news and numbers coming out of the automakers this year I can imagine it’s a bit more upbeat. There are reports of grand unveilings, Toyota CEO’s being seen for the first time in a decade, and people really excited that their demand is being met by the industry. GM is a real company again and Ford posted profits after seeing the fruits of its restructuring, cars are getting better gas mileage and Oprah is giving away hundreds at a time, plants are reopening around the country and quality seems to have finally become a concern again. I turn to MSNBC, touting Mulally as savior of Ford and the market responding with 52 week highs.

I’m not sure if this means the recession is over for the car industry and I’m not sure I really want it to be the way it was way back in 2006. I like the lean car company, the company that cares about quality over quantity. And if that is priority then it should be celebrated. Tear down Cobo Center, sorry Albert.

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