The auto shows in the States are vast and varied, hitting all the major metropolises one by one like automotive meteorites – Detroit, Chicago, New York, and of course Los Angeles. Being so close to the latter, myself and a colleague took a day off this week to see what all happens when the City of Angels meets the automakers.
As it turns out, quite a bit happens. You wouldn’t know it to just waltz in through the west hall atrium, this being one of the three “press days” (November 17-19, 2015) and therefore far less hectic and busy. But the action definitely kicks off as the frenzy of media-ites roams around in semi-professional attire, toting a microphone in one hand and a padfolio in the other, with the camera crews in tow.
The West Hall is occupied by the likes of Ford and Lincoln, Fiat Chrysler America (FCA), Honda, Nissan, Kia, and Mitsubishi (there’s also Porsche, but it’s tucked away in the Petree Hall, the better to feed off of its sophistication, self-importance, and delicate fruit parfaits). Ford has the lion’s share of its floorspace devoted to the trucks and crossovers. The new Raptor is definitely an exciting model, and it’s unlocked and open to attendees to poke and prod, but not to drive around, obviously. Nevertheless, Ford has the foresight to install a Raptor-centered video game on a full-motion platform with full 360-degree movement. It serves as a cool demo and fun distraction.
Meanwhile, the new 2017 Super Duty has all the red-blooded machismo one can handle while following the F-150’s lead in its aluminum body. It isn’t placed front and center like the new 2016 Explorer is, perhaps as a nod to the L.A. crowd and its disdain toward big, honking pickups, nor is its 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 touted as “best in class” in any category; rather, it’s promised to have the “highest combination of horsepower and torque” of any of the Power Stroke engines. Boxed frame, multiple cameras for surround surveillance, backup sensors, and more have shown the truck is really being brought into the 21st century.
Trucks and Jeeps are part of the Mopar section. RAM models like the Power Wagon and Rebel 1500 are the shiny jewels in the Chrysler truck crown here, as both are geared toward the off-road crowd. The Power Wagon may not be the newest kid on the block, having been debuted last year and found success with hardcore, capability-minded customers. But the Rebel has something to prove as it occupies a position somewhere between the Outdoorsman and Laramie Longhorn in terms of price point. It captures some of the off-road spirit with a factory-installed lift kit and suspension tune, Toyo Open Country tires, and fender flares.
Honda was proud to show viewers the 2&4, an intriguing concept car. It was born from the Honda Design Challenge, which gave Honda’s most creative minds – in this case, the motorcycle and automobile divisions, hence the name – free reign to come up with awesome ideas. In the case of the 2&4, track use was the goal in mind. Weighing 893 pounds and powered by a 212 horsepower RC213V V4, it’s as light as light can be and as fast as you can imagine. Pods can be installed or removed to make the car right-hand-drive, left-hand-drive, or even a two-seater. Finally, there will be peace between RHD and LHD nations.
The West Hall is joined to the South Hall by way of the Concourse Hall, where Galpin Auto Sports had a collection of cars and trucks to make even non-gearheads drool. In one corner, we found the new Aston Martin DB10, in another corner, a 2015 F-150 and first-generation Bronco done up in Gulf livery, and still elsewhere was the 2016 Mustang Rocket that looked ready for takeoff.
If what we saw from Ford, FCA, and the others was an appetizer, then what we saw in the South Hall was the entree. Here was where GM had set up shop with its various brands, with GMC touting the new Denali trim packages on its Sierra and Canyon pickup trucks. All eyes descended upon the nearby Volkswagen display, however, when the company’s press conference VW Group of America CEO Michael Horn took the stage and the crowd waited with bated breath for his speech.
What followed was yet another in a litany of sorrowful, contrite speeches made by VW’s higher-ups in light of “Dieselgate,” the scandalous discovery of VW TDI vehicles having cheated emissions tests for several years. Horn iterated and reiterated several times the shame and guilt that had befallen the automaker: “Nothing is more important than to make things right… we apologize to our customers and dealers, but apologies are not enough… we are committed to this market… we will take care of our customers…” and so on.
The new trim packages for the 2016 Beetle, Dune and Denim, as well as the next-generation 2016 Passat were all but ignored by the reporters who swarmed Horn after his speech. Like something out of a crime drama, Horn was pinned against the Beetle Dune and asked to speak on lawsuits, recalls, and other unsavory topics. The word “grotesque” came to mind as he sauntered off toward the Audi booth, as the press gaggle followed behind and in front, snapping pictures and directing cameramen to get better angles.
It was a lot to process as the 2.5-hour drive home through L.A. county traffic slowed down time. Shows like these have their moments of beauty, but there’s something to be said about the moments of ugliness too. It’s a yin and yang that makes for an interesting experience, and one we want to feel again next year.