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Posts Tagged ‘I-X Center’

NOTE TO THE READER: I took a vacation this weekend from the onslaught of “shows” that come around this time of year. However, my husband, an admitted car enthusiast took a stroll around the Cleveland Auto Show. I asked for pictures and a report. He talked me into letting him write a post. I expected a paragraph or two, maybe a bad pun or three. Well, to my surprise he had a lot to say (he’s a quiet kind of guy, or maybe I talk too much?) Read on to see what happens when you let your husband out of the basement and ask him for his opinion.  - Stacy Stevenson, Two Cents Blog

Andy Stevenson

My first impression upon entering the I-X center for this year’s auto show was one of surprise. Surprise that, in looking around and taking stock of the show in general, it seemed to have a fresh new look, appropriate to the new decade. Then I walked a few feet into the first display, and reality came tearing through the paper-thin illusion.

The Ford display was the first one visible from the main entrance, and it put up a good front. Of course there was a Mustang in easy reach, but the new racing-striped Fiesta was the model that was actually up on the pedestal – a nod toward the need for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. A few steps further revealed the true theme of the show: More Of The Same. The vehicles, signage, brochures, and even the carpet were all very familiar. At least one manufacturer, Jeep, was even using last year’s models in its demonstrations.

I did not recognize one new idea in the entire I-X center. The sea of silver and beige family sedans and pickups was sparsely dotted with the rare buoy of an “enthusiast” car, but even these were all old news. Charger? Mustang? Camaro? Corvette? All old, tired icons of the Baby Boomer generation.

The Asian and European marques are not much different – at least the ones that bothered to show up. Nissan, for example, has updated its Z car to the 270, but this is yet more recycled sheet metal. The Nissan Cube was one vehicle that seemed to genuinely be trying on a new outfit, but even it is using the same thought processes as the Scion xB.

Speaking of Scion, its parent company, Toyota, exuded a predictably dismal atmosphere. Amazingly, following its recent string of self-inflicted public relations nightmares, Toyota’s display was not totally deserted. However, unintentionally Moving Forward is not their only problem, and possibly not even their biggest one. Toyota’s strategy of cranking out lowest-common-denominator transportation appliances may not be enough to retain the glassy-eyed stare of their patrons much longer.

Case in point: there was a roped-off Avalon on a raised platform with “PROTOTYPE” emblazoned in big white letters on the side windows and not one person was even looking at it. It might as well have been invisible.

Toyota, in fact, serves as a useful analogy for the auto industry as a whole, at least from the vantage point of the Cleveland Auto Show. They used to provide a variety of attention-getting two-seaters and tough little pickup trucks alongside their family cars. Sadly, over the last few years, Toyota’s product lineup has been diluted to the point of models being almost indistinguishable from each other.

The Toyota Motor Corporation has recently announced two sports cars (neither made the trip to Cleveland, but I’ll get to that). The Lexus LFA is actually a $350,000 supercar, and is a perfect flagship for Toyota. It has no soul. It is fantastically fast – an extremely precise tool that is an amalgamation of what Toyota’s engineers think is supposed to go into a supercar, rather than what an ambitious gearhead would have designed on his own.

So why have all the sharply cut cogs of the industry’s manual gearbox been blended into a mushy automatic? Is mediocrity really what consumers are clamoring for? There was no Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini, and certainly no Bugatti at the Cleveland show because we are real people and we cannot afford these things.

But does that really mean that we just have to settle for the chaff that’s left over?

Yes, we have to bow to the safety gods at the NHTSA, and we can’t expect the manufacturers to go all the way out to the twigs on the end of the limb, but it would be nice if they didn’t seem so utterly terrified to try something new. It’s not even that what they are doing is bad; it’s just not interesting.

I’ll liken it to an old comedy routine. Yes, it’s still kind of funny, and maybe even a little relevant, but they’re old jokes and we can only laugh at them just so many times. The big car manufacturers still expect us to be entertained by Jay Leno’s monologues every night, but that demographic is starting to die off, so shuffling off the complacency might not be a bad idea. Say g’night Gracie.

Photos by Andy Stevenson

Toyota Avalon – Prototype

The “Browns” Chevy Camaro

The Nissan Cube and 270Z (in red)

Camp Jeep

2011 Ford Fiesta with “go faster” racing stripes

Ford Fusion: 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year

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