By D. Brian Smith
Photography: D. Brian Smith
Another rousing success, that's what the 2011 L.A. Auto Show is. We have to use the word is, as the show is still ongoing. Should you reside in Southern California, you can still take a train trip out to the L.A. Convention Center and check out all the great new cars and concept machines.
Redline Review was there for the two days of press conferences. There were no less than 16 automotive manufacturers' press conferences on Wednesday, November 16 and a handful of press conferences on Thursday, November 17. The actual show began on Friday, November 18 and will finish on Sunday, November 27.
Like last year, a train trip from Oceanside, CA to Los Angeles, CA was the best way for yours truly to make the junket. Riding the train may have taken me a bit more time, but it actually cost me less money, what with the cost of fuel, wear and tear on my daily driver and the fact that I'd have to pay for parking in downtown L.A., which is quite an expensive proposition. Instead, I whiled away the hours reading my book and pondering what cool concept cars I'd spy at the L.A. Auto Show.
The Mazda press event came first. By all accounts Mazda is doing well. At the end of Mazda's brief presentation, we had a photo opp with a couple of Mazda executives and one of the company's Mazda racecar luminaries, none other than movie and T.V. star Patrick Dempsey.
I arrived at the next meeting with Cadillac welcomed by a standing room only crowd of auto journalists and dealership V.I.P.'s. Cadillac revealed its new XTS, which RR will write more about in a separate story. The Cadillac Ciel concept car was also on display. It's the sort of muscular coupe that looks as though it could tear up the pavement with nary a concern and in rapid fashion. There's a fair bit of elegance and muscle to the exterior styling of the Ciel. Check out the photo of the silver Ciel in the gallery.
Volkswagen debuted its VW Beetle R concept car and received the Motor Trend magazine award of Car of the Year for the 2012 VW Passat. VW's vehicle sales continue to be strong ; we're happy to report. Some of my journalist colleagues thought the Beetle R diluted what the Beetle is supposed to be. I greatly oppose those suspect opinions and think it's a righteous ride. Of course, how awesome would it be if someone took a Beetle R and installed a Porsche 911 engine in the back while retaining the front powerplant as well and converting the chassis to all-wheel drive? Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing!
Next up was Hyundai. This company is selling cars in record numbers. President and CEO of Hyundai Motors America, John Krafcik recounted the company's numerous accomplishments and product awards over the last year. He painted a very positive picture of how HMA is doing. Hyundai also debuted the new Hyundai Azera luxury Sedan at the L.A. Auto Show. The Azera fits in between the Genesis Sedan and the Equus. With its aerodynamic exterior coachwork and its elegant appointments inside, the Azera looks like it will be another big success for Hyundai Motors America.
Jaguar/Land Rover followed HMA. We were intrigued with the display of 2012 Land Rovers, Land Rover concept cars, the new Jaguars and the new Jaguar concept cars. According to Land Rover and Jaguar executives, sales are up for both of these legendary British marques. From the appearance of the brands current lineups and some of the concepts that may be available in the near future, RR hopes the upward momentum will continue for JLH. God save the Queen!
The time came to have an all too brief visit with Porsche. Remembering that last year the Porsche press conference was an overcrowded zoo, RR made it early to the Porsche display. Unfortunately, there were three rows of empty reserved seats - so much for getting to the press conference early to beat the crowd. Never mind, having SLR camera in hand, I squirmed my way in between several photojournalists and found a nice place towards the front to see and hear what would be taking place. I wound up standing next to a photographer for Car & Driver magazine, who was quite a nice guy. We traded jokes, and he seemed to understand my somewhat off-center sense of humor. Digression aside, Porsche revealed its new 911, a sports car that's lighter, more powerful and gets better fuel economy. Porsche also announced it will be constructing a Porsche Experience Center in Carson, CA. The PEC sounds like a welcome oasis for Porsche and supercar/sports car aficionados. There will be a Proving Ground racetrack there and a full fitness center, so that Porsche aficionados can experience the sort of athletic training that Porsche racecar drivers go though. All I can say is, "Sign me up!" And you can quote me on that. I wonder whether Porsche would let me exercise my Factory Five Racing Mk4 Cobra roadster replica on the Proving Ground track (probably not). Perhaps the 1936 Wanderer W25K roadster (with its Dr. Porsche designed powerplant) that the Smith Men own would be allowed on the course. Sounds like a wonderful photo opp to me.
Since the kind folks at Porsche Cars North America served us scribes and photographers lunch, I was a tad late to the Ford press conference. The Ford display was filled to the gills with Ford V.I.P.'s and automotive journalists. I arrived on the scene just in time to hear the end of the speech and to pick up a press kit. Arch rival Chevrolet did a very clever thing. While looking for the spot to get the jump drive with the Ford press releases, I happened by a PR person who was passing out what looked to be Ford press kits. Upon inspecting the gift, I saw the Chevrolet Bow Tie emblazoned on the box. I asked the young lady what was inside. She said, "M&M's courtesy of Chevrolet." What a cheeky way to get journalists thinking about the big and revitalized Bow Tie.
As you can imagine, the Honda exhibit was also very well attended. The big news at Honda was the release of the all-electric Honda Fit. If memory serves, the electric Fit will have a range of 123 miles. So, it could make a great commuter car for many people. We shall see.
What's most memorable concerning the Fiat presentation was the magnificently creative Fiat 500 commercials that we all had the opportunity to critique. They reminded me of the clever VW commercials many of us watched in the latter 1960's through the '80s. The new Fiat Abarth looks to be the sort of car that Redline Review's readers would relish to own and drive with spirited youthful abandon. It's a sexy little car with lots of panache and allure, which is exactly the way it's marketed. Wait until you see those commercials. You'll be smitten.
The folks at Kia pulled out all the stops for their presentation. The V.P. of Sales and the V.P. of Marketing gave a 15-minute presentation, timed to the second, detailing the company's top 15 innovations, awards, records, achievements and advancements over the last year. Kia, like their big brother Hyundai, is kicking butt in the sales arena, in addition to producing some stellar new cars. We all also enjoyed watching a couple new commercials with Kia spokesperson and NBA great Blake Griffin. Mr. Griffin's best line was, "It's nice to see an L.A. audience." What with the NBA strike, he and his L.A. Clippers basketball team haven't seen an L.A. audience since last season. He's probably thankful to have the Kia gig, as he can get some salary while on strike from the NBA.
From a relatively new automotive company to a major brand that is celebrating its 100th anniversary, Chevrolet played up its storied history. Chevrolet told the story of a guy who bought a brand new 1965 Impala back in the day, but then sold the car to better afford raising his two boys and properly taking care of his family. The two sons, now grown embarked on a five-year search to find and buy back the Impala. His sons surprised their dad with the Chevy, and Chevrolet captivated the crowd on press day at the L.A. Auto Show with this story that has a happy ending. Chevy isn't just relying upon its glorious past. The Volt is selling in record numbers and was named by Automobile magazine as the Car of the Year.
Subaru is yet another automotive brand that is setting all-time sales records. With all this good news from these fine car makers, I'm wondering if the recession is finally starting to show up in our collective rear view mirrors. One can only hope that this is so. Subaru premiered its BRZ Concept Car. Check out the photos in the gallery. RR believes the BRZ would be a big hit. What's your opinion?
Bavarian Motor Works
There was a large crowd at Subaru and an enormous audience for the BMW conference. In case you hadn't noticed, BMW is an advertiser for the upcoming Mission Impossible movie. The fine German car company showed a movie preview during their presentation and then had the female co-star disembark from one of the electric powered BMW's in the movie. She said a few words, but I couldn't make out precisely what she was saying, as I was hypnotized by her mile-long legs.
The final meeting of the day was with another German car company, none other than the four rings of Auto Union fame, represented by the sole surviving marque - Audi. Audi's designing and manufacturing automobiles as if the company's older brother Wanderer is supplying all the designers and engineers. In other words, the company 's producing some spectacular vehicles. In fact, Motor Press Guild awarded its first ever Car of the Year prize to Audi for its A7. You can see the photo of MPG President Laura Burstein awarding the prize to a couple of Audi's executives in the photo gallery.
Redlline Review rode the train once again on Thursday for the Lotus Cars of America press conference. Lotus announced three IndyCar teams for next year's IndyCar season and introduced a new president for Lotus in North America. They also indicated that the five new models that were first premiered at the Paris Auto Show 2010, including the Esprit and Elite are all on schedule to make their respective production deadlines. We can't wait.
In the coming days, we'll be covering the concept cars, new models, the hybrids and the other new notable cars that caught our fancy at the L.A. Auto Show in more detail. But until then, visit our gallery and examine some of the sweet rides that will be coming to the showroom floors all across this great country of ours. By all accounts the automotive industry is coming out of the recession with a lusty vengeance and a roar of renewed vigor and vitality. We have faith that other industries won't be far behind.