Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Updated Appreciation of the Auto Show

Like many dutiful Michigan residents, I have made the cold winter trek to the auto show many years of my life. As I have noted before, I am not much of a man, so I don't really fully understand and appreciate all of the intricacies of the automobile. I know that some magical explosive force propels it forward and some other magical force stops the forward momentum. There are also several enjoyable knobs and levers that make lights blink, sounds come from the round things embedded into the doors and pillars, and switches that open and close pieces of glass attached to the car. When people pop open the hood of a car to look at the engine and men stand around admiring and whistling at the inner workings, I do my absolute best to fake that I understand what the heck they're whistling at. Look at that bump! And wow that thing is shiny, I wonder how they got so much power into that 3-D rectangular-shaped thing. That is me.

Yet, because I am Of Michigan and enjoy having something to do, I would go to the auto show. I would go with family or co-workers or friends and walk around and enjoy the displays and marvel at the concept cars or pretend I was driving a Corvette or Dodge Caravan. My current co-workers understand cars and when I went to the show with them last year, they talked about engines and torque and could knowledgeably compare and contrast many aspects of the cars and I stood there and nodded or stared blankly at one of the giant LCD screens. I loved that the event brought press to Detroit and people converged on Cobo from all parts of Michigan and the world. It makes that part of downtown alive for the weeks of the North American International Auto Show.

I never really got it. I would go, but I did not understand or appreciate what the show represented. I would go nutso when Channel 4 (NBC) would have a week long auto show preview that preempted Jeopardy at 7:30. I mean, come on, every single day in the run-up week to the public? My favorite part of the cars was how smooth they felt from all of their turtle wax (though my guess is that the show's workers were not big fans of people like me).

This year, for the first time ever, the auto show genuinely matters to me. The bright, innovative, exciting, and environmentally-friendly picture the automakers must successfully paint of themselves to the world is, suddenly, of utmost importance. I find myself rooting along with each new product introduction, genuinely hoping that a concept car makes its way to final production assembly, rising and falling on the positive and negative words made by auto execs to the local and international press. Oh man, did you see Ford's new Taurus model and their automated parallel parking assist? How about that Cadillac Converj? It matters to me, and I'm a little ashamed it took the events of the past year to finally push me into the appropriate level of enthusiasm. The show is probably the best opportunity of the year for the companies upon which Michigan was originally built to make the case for their future. I always feel the obligation to throw in the standard statement that it is necessary to diversify our economy etc., etc., but the auto show is a symbol of our past, a recognition of the present, and the image of a viable, desirable, and dreamfully exciting future.

If you are not a car person, that should not deter you from trying to make your way to downtown Detroit for the event. The show runs for the public from Saturday the 17th to Sunday the 25th. Bring some excitement, and show your support for your city, home, and industry. Pretending to drive cars is more fun than you remember. North American International Auto Show Homepage

2 comments:

Dave said...

Ken,

As I was catching back up on your blog I was searching for the post on TRAIL. Where is it?

ShannonS said...

Ken- Here's a blog post from another Detroit blogger that I think you'll enjoy:

http://www.sweet-juniper.com/2008/11/auto-industry-quick-postscript.html