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Charlotte Auto Show (PICS ADDED!)

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PICTURES: Charlotte Auto Show

Displays

Strangely enough, all of the domestic automakers were grouped together this year. And by that I mean, all of GM's divisions were together, all of Chryslers divisions were together and all of Fords divisions were together.

The Japanese companies chose the opposite approach. Toyota, Scion and Lexus were split up as were Honda and Acura and Nissan and Infiniti.

I'm not sure why this is or what mission it served or if it is good or bad or if it really even matters. I figured it was some underhanded attempt by the asians to establish a stronger identity for their luxury divisions since Detroit is struggling, but that could just be my bias.

GM: The GM display this year was pretty disappointing. It consisted of a pretty tall lighted GM sign and lighted signs for each of the divisions. Cadillac, Saab and Hummer occupied the 'entrance' of the display, right on the main aisle. Across the main aisle was Toyota and Acura. Next up was Chevrolet and Buick. Chevrolet bordered most of an aisle perpendicular to the entrance. Across from Chevy was BMW and Lexus. Next up in the progression was GMC, then the end consisted of Saturn and Pontiac. Saturn bordered the same aisle as Chevy and across for it sat the Honda display. Sadly, I overheard one of the talking heads from Saturn saying "We had a lot more planned but they pulled everything but the customer service people." (Meaning people like her)

Chrysler: The Chrysler display was as lame as the GM display... A few signs and 3 turn tables, one for the new Ram, and two for the Wrangler. Dodge started the display and sat across the aisle from the exotics on one corner and Acura and Toyota on the other. Next up was Chrysler which sat across from Infiniti and then Jeep which sat across from Hyundai.

Ford: Ford was the BIG winner this year at our show! Their display was nicer than any other company. The display looked great and traffic was up big time. The display consisted of props, lighted signs for all of the divisions, plasma screen displays. The only problem was that it was buried pretty deep into the hall. First up was Ford which sat directly across from Toyota on one corner and Subaru and Kia on the other. The Ford display featured 4 turntables; one for a new, decked out Flex, one for a 2010 Fusion Sport (!!) one for a new F-150 Platinum and one for a 2010 Mustang (!!!X2). It also featured the Interceptor concept AND the Airstream concept. Next up was Lincoln which featured a stand for the new MKS and sat across the aisle from Nissan. Last but not least was Mercury, which bordered Jaguar on one side and sat across from Nissan. On the back side of Jag was Mazda. Mazda had an impressive set up too, with elaborate signage and stands for both the Mazda 3 and new Mazda 6.

Traffic seemed to be even across the entire place with no manufacturer really dominating the crowd for the most part. The only exceptions were Ford, and BMW/Mini which seemed to be one exception as it was rockin' all night and Chrysler which was very quite. However, the BMW display also housed the 'exotics' which were supposed to be the stars of the show (Maserati, Ferrari, Aston Martin) so it's hard to tell if all of those people were there for BMW.

GM- -The good:

Cadillac: The CTS (3 of them there) really is a beautiful car and it was the first car people saw when they came into the show. They had both an XLR Platinum and Escalade ESV Platinum on display. The ESV was absolutely beautiful. It takes an already awesome package and adds to it. The XLR was a a lot nicer than I'd imagined, but it still looked dated and in fact, the trend of Cadillac adding more complicated front bumpers to their cars (STS, SRX, XLR) only aids to make the cars look more dated in general IMO. They also had an Escalade Hybrid. All three were getting a lot of positive attention.

Saab: The Saabs looked nice and got a few nice comments (especially the Aero convertible)

Hummer: They had 3 H3T's there and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. It's a damn shame that GM wants to/has to shed this division. I still think it makes some of GM's best offerings (Despite the bad stigma that the media has INTENTIONALLY attached to it) And, I found out that despite buying a Hummer apparently being the equivalent to killing a baby, MANY people still find the products appealing. I expected the display to be empty, that was far from the case. Even the H2 had "fans"

Chevrolet: SURPRISINGLY, the easter egg colored Aveo 5 was getting HUGE attention. I was pretty floored, to be honest. I guess all you need is effed up quasi-Korean looks and a tacky paint job, and voila, all of the sudden you have fans galore. The Cobalt SS was there in both coupe and sedan form. The sedan is equally as cool as the coupe and both had A LOT of young 'college/high school' aged lookers. (That's a good thing) This show was the first time I've seen an HHR Panel SS. I have to say, if I could buy any affordable GM vehicle right now, this would be it. I've really fallen in love with the HHR SS. The Malibu and Malibu Hybrid were there in all their glory. I still think the Malibu is the most attractive sedan in it's class. The Corvette ZR1 made an appearance and made a HUGE splash! No matter who walked by, young, old rich, poor, everyone seemed to know what it was and everyone seemed to salivate at least a bit. I just wanted to hump the thing and get it over with; that is one sexy car! It was in the dark gray, which is my favorite color on the car. The only Equinox there was an Equinox Sport. This is another sharp little vehicle that I've grown to love a lot.

Buick: The Buick display featured two very sweet Enclaves. The Enclave is simply stunning... I have no doubt that if GM gave Buick more models as well executed as the Enclave, the division would come roaring back to life.

Pontiac: Pontiac displayed a dark red G8. It was beautiful and drew a lot of attention. But more important was the KIND of attention it drew. The demographic seemed to be mostly 30-40 year old educated men. One couple was positively comparing it to a Nissan. If Pontiac stays this course, they will be a successful division again, it's only a matter of time. The target demographic is beginning to look, now all we have to do is follow through and convince them to buy. The G8 definitely had huge appeal, but the Solstice Coupe stole the show. People LOVED this car! I heard nothing but positive comments when I was standing in the display area about both the coupe and convertible. Sadly, while I was sitting there staring at the virtually vacant G6 area, I couldn't help but wonder what shape Pontiac (and to a larger degree, GM) would be in if they had more cars with the style and swagger and emotional appeal of the Solstice.

Saturn: The Vue and Vue Hybrid were getting a lot of attention and the Sky (A redline model) was, as always, a big hit. As I stated before, the Saturn display was across the aisle from the Honda display and Saturn had strategically placed 2 Auras and an Aura hybrid as the very first thing people would see when they looked over. I thought that was an excellent move.

The bad:

Cadillac: The DTS is looking dated as is the STS and SRX and XLR. (1 of each on display) Thankfully, at least the SRX is being replaced soon. I was sad to see that NO EXT was present.

Saab: Not sure what the hell the white things are behind the wheels on the BLUE 9-3 Aero convertible (looked like drum brakes, although I know they weren't) but they looked like $h!. It reminded me of the old blue and white 70's Chevrolet trucks (You know, people would re-spray paint the wheels white when they got dirty) Same texture and all. Saab needs a lot of work if it is to become a serious player in the market. All of their products are outdated and weird. It makes me wonder why GM would destroy it's once prominent and still full of potential domestic brands in exchange for virtually NO chance of gaining sales. Without serious money, Saab is a dead end.

Hummer: It would've been nice if Hummer would've played up the green image a bit. (You know; the concepts)

Chevrolet: The Aveo was being largely ignored. This needs to change going forward. The car needs a COMPLETE redesign like whoa. The Cruze can't get here too soon. FINALLY! Chevrolet is showing Impalas with the aggressive wheel option. They add so much to the car and after being available for what, two years now, Chevrolet is finally starting to inform the customer :rolleyes: I'm still disappointed that there was no Z06. I know that the ZR1 and CAFE will likely kill off the Z06, but some of us still prefer the car over the ZR1. The Colorado is pathetic and looks like a dinosaur; replace it asap. The Traverse was there (2 models) and I still can't seem to pinpoint what is so special about it. I'm sure it'll appeal to Toyota buyers (It and all the lambdas were getting good attention) but I certainly hope that this organic-bland-homogenized design theme isn't the future of Chevrolet or GM. And BTW Chevy, it would've been nice to see at LEAST a brochure on the Camaro.

Buick: The Buick display was pretty lame. The LAX replacement needs to come asap and the Lucerne is looking more dated by the day. I was a little disappointed that NO Buick Supers were featured at the Buick display.

GMC: This was by far the WORST showing of any division. No Sierra Denali, one Yukon Denali, one (horrible) Canyon and an Acadia about sums it up. One a positive note, the Acadia was getting a lot of great looks and comments. But one discussion I heard involved "Is this yours?" to which the guy replied; "No, mine is the Saturn version". There is something wrong with this... Despite GM differentiating the hell out of these things, the media has ran it's mouth so much about "The Lambdas" that the consumer knows too much IMO. I guess that's their way of sabotaging another excellent GM product (Makes them compete with each other instead of the market) And WTH is up with shoving the Yukon Hybrid out onto the edge of the display. GMC is a TRUCK division and it should be shouting about the Yukon hybrid from the roof tops.

Pontiac: The G5 was sitting over in the corner, forgotten and ignored... It makes me wonder why GM/the dealers even bothered. GM could make some serious inroads in the market if it were SERIOUS about making a competitive small Pontiac. THE VIBE: THIS MADE ME IRATE! Instead of taking this HUGE opportunity to showcase a VERY competitive product to the public (FOR FREE!) in a variety of trims. Thus possibly putting your division back on the map in some peoples eyes and sparking huge sales volume, they chose to squander the opportunity. The ONLY Vibe on display was an UGLY AS SIN SILVER (WITH SILVER HUB CAPS AND CHEAP ASS, MISMATCHED SILVER INTERIOR) BASE MODEL. No one was paying it any attention... WHY are vehciles like this even allowed into production again? This thing was so ugly that it made me gag. Pontiac is missing a huge opportunity with the G6 as well and it's obvious to see that a lot of the 2009.5 G6 upgrades were based on the disproportional GXP. And speaking of GXP, why the hell was the G6 "poser" GXP the ONLY GXP there or even mentioned? Neither of the Solsti were GXPs and they were painted in this flat looking dark blue. Other grips: Where was the G8 ST? It might've been a bit early for an actual model, but what about the info? And, why set the Solstice and Sky up side by side?!?! Seriously? The Sky RL was about 5 foot from the Solstice. Are you guys trying to convince the consumer that GM only needs one division?

Saturn: The poor Astra.... It was sitting there, all alone, with no attention being paid to it, in all it's silver on 'coal chamber' gray interior color theme. And to beat all, it was the plebian 5 door... Chalk this up as a missed opportunity for Saturn.

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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You can blame your local dealerships for the vehicular selection. They're usually the ones who supply the cars on display, at least thats how it goes for the auto shows around here.

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Chrysler -- The good:

Dodge: The Ram is more impressive than I expected and plenty of people were giving it a good 'one over' It seemed that everyone liked what they saw and it's safe to say that Dodge has a hit. (As much of one as you can have in this market) Despite the lack of traffic in this area, the Challenger was a HUGE HIT! The show featured a stunning Hemi orange R/T that I would've been proud to drive anywhere. BTW, I never realized how HUGE this car really is until I saw it parked next to the Charger. Wow, that's a lot of car!

Jeep: The Wrangler is a shining star in what appears to be a bad situation at Chrysler. It's still attracting a lot of people and it still has a lot of appeal.

The bad:

Dodge: No Viper, no Caliber SRT-4, in fact no SRT vehicles at all, no Nitro, no Journey... WTF man? Did I miss part of the display or something? And 4 Caravans is too many BTW.

Chrysler: I couldn't help but walk through the Chrysler section and just feel this 'outdated and cheap' vibe. EVERYTHING, even the 300, seems to be outdated looking or seems to have lost it's appeal. I hope I'm the only one that feels this way. But, I DID HOWEVER enjoy the hybrid Aspen with "Two Mode Hemi" on the side of it. That seems so awesome and such an oxymoron, LOL. I really wish Chrysler hadn't prematurely killed these models. they could've worked wonders for the company.

Jeep: Jeep seems to be almost in as bad of shape as Chrysler.

Ford -- The good:

Ford: I'm still divided on the 2010 Fusion. I've decided that I like the new nose, but the rear seems too busy. After seeing the 2010 Mustang, I was a bit underwhelmed. It just seems more 'japanese' now and less significant. The model I saw was black and hid the lines, so I'll reserve judgement and hold out hope. The Flex is cool, but it seemed to be getting love it/hate it reactions. The new F150 seems nice in upper trim models, but the STX looks a little dorky. The Interceptor had tons of fans, but surprisingly people seemed to be more interested in the Airstream. Most people didn't have any idea what it was and I was thinking to myself about how sad that is, given the technology and apparent appeal. Ford missed an opportunity for self promotion. People had a lot of dumb (not really negative) comments about the Interceptor too. It's almost as if they thought it was a production vehicle and were judging it as such. It didn't help any that Ford apparently forgot to put out any sort of explanation or documentation of what the cars were.

Lincoln: The MKX was getting some positive reactions and the MKS was actually a pretty big draw (Surprised me at how many people were looking curiously and taking pictures) If Ford markets the car right and continues to expose a lot of people to it, they could have a huge hit that puts Lincoln back on the map. This car could be the foundation for great things.

The bad:

Ford: Directly across from the Toyota display, Ford had placed it's Taurus and Taurus X; not exactly putting your best foot forward. The Hybrid 2010 Fusion should've been played up more, it was just kind of sitting there. Other than that, not much to complain about.

Lincoln: The Navigator is nice but Lincoln, in their attempt to go bling, took it too far. It's just weird and almost ghetto 70s looking instead of classy.

** I'm neutral on Mercury... Could've been better, could've been worse.

Other comments:

Mazda: The new 6 is ugly, but not as ugly as the new 3 and the Miata looks fresher than the Solstice.

Nissan: What I had feared has come to pass... I feared that I would have to admit to liking the new Maxima. Well, I admit it; I REALLY like the new Maxima... A lot.

Mitsubishi: And while I'm confessing my sins, The Lancer Evo is everything that the G6 SHOULD be IMO. I really like that car too.

Toyota: While walking through the Toyota section (like most people were doing) I heard young lady saying "Well, my grandparents bought one of those hybrid Toyota cars and they love it." I wanted to say 'oh how appropriate! Your grandparents bought and love a Toyota! Those three young people ended up in the Ford section.

Ford: (while looking at the Flex) An older lady said "It reminds me of a Scion or an Element." to which another replied "Yeah, but I'd be embarrassed to be seen in either one of those.

Subaru: I saw a relatively conservative looking couple debating the merits of a Forester. I thought to myself 'they must have an exciting existence.' (Yep, I'm an asshole)

The Ferrari F430: had PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH signs all over it. When I walked up, some teen dressed in a Carhardt jacket was leaning on it trying to get a good interior picture. I shudder to think of what all those bulky zippers did to the paint. And speaking of which, why do people feel that they should run their greasy fingers down the fender of a car when they like it? I saw that more times than I could count today and it reminded me of how pissed I get when someone does it to one of my Camaros. Fingerprints piss me off and dust scratches. (A lot of the cars already had clearcoat scratches thanks to the "detail team" that was getting paid $6.30/hour)

The GM section: This extremely hot college age chick and here "I dress like I'm in a whiney effeminate college band" boyfriend were walking by me (while I was checking her out :) and I heard him say "Why would they walk through an AMERICAN car section." Just made me want to punch him that much more, LOL.

The Buick section: Over heard one of the talking heads saying that all of Buicks cars are based on Cadillac platforms.

That's all I can think of for now.

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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You can blame your local dealerships for the vehicular selection. They're usually the ones who supply the cars on display, at least thats how it goes for the auto shows around here.

I know...

I just really wish there was some way that GM and the other two could coordinate their dealers better.

These people and their franchises are the front lines to the consumer and I fear that they will be a big reason why the companies fail.

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Very nice coverage, I would disagree about teh Maxima, interested to hear why you liked it. Glad you liked the Miata. Were Volvo and VW not there? How much appeal did Acura seem to have to people there?

Also, I have noticed young people up here seem to be turning back to American cars. You mention the couple where they boyfriend was panning them, were there very many young people there excited by American cars? Just curous.

Also, I would disagree about the Evo..to me the front end treatment on that car reminds me of a sname trying to perfrom oral sex on a lemmon. I just don't like the (current) Evo at all.

Chris

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Very nice coverage, I would disagree about teh Maxima, interested to hear why you liked it.

I just love the design... It's just 'different' enough to make you look at it but not 'different' enough to deter sales.

Of course, I'm a big fan of 'strange' and aggressive design themes anyway, so that might have a lot to do with it.

I think it just looks classy and muscular at the same time at a point where car design is getting more and more homogenized.

Oh and it reminds me A LOT of the SS concept :D :AH-HA_wink: That probably has a lot to do with it.

Glad you liked the Miata.

I don't really like it, but I can see why people are saying that the Solstice is beginning to look dated and the Miata looks fresher.

Were Volvo and VW not there?

Yes. I didn't make it to the VW section. The Volvo section seemed pretty dead when I passed though it. Nothing exciting (To me anyway)

Sorry for the lack of mention, I didn't really want this to be 'a report' per se, more just my opinions and observations.

How much appeal did Acura seem to have to people there?

Acura had good traffic. They were pretty much dead center in the show and they were promoting the new TL or whatever that electric shaver abomination was.

I see cars like it and the new Mazda 3 and think to myself; that'll NEVER sell. But then I remember that it isn't about the design, it's about the badge on the hood. So I'm sure it'll be a huge success (Despite all of the logic that it defies)

I thought the same thing about the new CR-V, but it seems to be doing fine. :shrugs:

Also, I have noticed young people up here seem to be turning back to American cars. You mention the couple where they boyfriend was panning them, were there very many young people there excited by American cars? Just curous.

There were a lot of young people in the GM section. They seemed to be drawn more to the niche products though (No surprise there, since that's what GM does the best) the Cobalt SS was a big hit with the youth, the Corvettes of course, the SUVs and surprisingly (to some), the G8 and Solstice.

GM has the chance to capture this generation and future generations. They are NOT brand loyal and a significant portion of them does not (did not) have the negative perception of the companies that their parents have. GM (and Detroits) problem is that the MEAT of the market or where the income is high, hates domestic vehicles. And it's going to take time for more unbiased buyers to come along and acquire wealth and become that part of the market.

The youth LOVES classic cars and americans are yearning for a sense of americana to escape the realities of today (Our country falling) that's why all of the 70's & 80's style clothes are in, that's why people are buying old Buick and Cadillac "grandma cars" to fix up. that's why we've seen this big retro movement in the look, feel and sound of marketing.

For Detroit, I would suggest the following marketing scenarios: (There are many more things they could do if they get their act together)

1) Market directly to youth. Even if GM needs to develop one of their divisions to cater to youth, it needs some sort of connection with the buyers of tomorrow.

2) Streamline the corporate image of the company to make it line up as something these buyers can identify with.

3) Promote your company as a POSITIVE aspect of the pop culture that surrounds these future buyers.

4) Connotate a sense of pride ith domestic ownership and disdain with foreign car ownership. Play the kids against their parents. Kids want to rebel naturally, so if mom and dad are loyal Lexus buyers, then the kid is probably more prone to being a domestic fan in the first place.

5) They absolutely MUST tie into the Obama campaign for change SOMEHOW The youth (college age) OVERWHELMINGLY supported Obama. If we can connotate "change" with a sense of pride in american manufacturing and owning and driving american, that will revolutionize public perception of this industry. (Hey UAW, why don't you get off of your ass and work on this? since Obama is promoting "the people" and "main street" Can't get anymore main street than the UAW)

IN SHORT: Detroit needs to completely transform the image of itself as a whole AND it's divisions. I'm a diehard GM guy and even I have the image of "corporate stiffs in suits driving 1992 Buicks" in the back of my head when I think of GM. Kids can't identify with that, hell most consumers (that witnessed that period) can't even relate to that.

And the fact that these "big CEOs" flew into Washington on separate personal jets from kingdoms of automotive prominence" as the media painted it only helps to reinforce that image.

Now, a company like Apple, for example, one can identify with immediately in a mostly positive sense. I can't say enough about Apple and what they've done to transform their image. GM should just hire their entire marketing and PR department.

And, as I've said before, the only way GM & Co. will get the consumer to PAY ATTENTION to them is to appeal to the EMOTION of the consumer.

Saturn Aura is an attractive and logical piece, yet it caused no commotion at the show and probably didn't receive nearly as much attention as the Honda Accord. But Solstice, Sky, Corvette, Mustang, Challenger, Wrangler... ALL of the designs that appealed to emotion brought in crowds. That is the key to Detroit's success IMO. They will never beat the asians on LOGICAL purchase decisions, especially when the media is paid by the other team.

Also, I would disagree about the Evo..to me the front end treatment on that car reminds me of a sname trying to perfrom oral sex on a lemmon. I just don't like the (current) Evo at all.

Chris

Welp, that just ruined it for me... LOL.

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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I think it would go a long way if GM mandated that all vehicles at the autoshows had to be fully-loaded or "average" equipment models, with multiple examples of a single vehicle line showcasing variations in configurations instead of trim levels (e.g. showcase different seating options with two Buick Enclaves, showcase the CTS in V-series, AWD and RWD with most commonly-ordered equipment).

I also think people would be more apt to seriously check these out if instead of having the window stickers on the vehicles, GM did what some other manufacturers do and just have a podium display featuring the base price, trim packages, and available a la carte options with their prices. If people are seriously interested in the vehicle they are looking at, let the floor reps disclose the actual retail prices of the models physically displayed.

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BTW, tieing it into "change" and Obama is a brilliant idea in one sense, if you could do it without alienating the Republican base that buys GM.

But yeah,a campaign for "change" might not be a bad idea.

Chris

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Wait...You got to see the '10 Mustang, Fusion, and Mazda3!?

Damn.

PICS PLEASE!

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I also think people would be more apt to seriously check these out if instead of having the window stickers on the vehicles, GM did what some other manufacturers do and just have a podium display featuring the base price, trim packages, and available a la carte options with their prices. If people are seriously interested in the vehicle they are looking at, let the floor reps disclose the actual retail prices of the models physically displayed.

That's exactly how BMW was set up.

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Wait...You got to see the '10 Mustang, Fusion, and Mazda3!?

Damn.

PICS PLEASE!

Well, the Mazda 3 was the current car.

I honestly wish I had never said anything about the pics :duck:

I didn't think anyone would be interested in seeing pics of cars that debuted at much larger shows, so I didn't take that many and the ones I did take aren't that good. (after reflecting on them today)

I got a clear shot of the Fusion Hybrid, but I couldn't get a good shot of the rotating Fusion Sport (They're all blurred) because a Ford rep was pestering me. Same thing with the Mustang (the pics are blurred) because the lighting and my camera (borrowed) sucked so bad.

I'll post the pics I have, but be prepared for a headache, LOL.

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The Buick section: Over heard one of the talking heads saying that all of Buicks cars are based on Cadillac platforms.

He probably used to work for White Oak Chrysler/Jeep/Kia where the salesman told me on a test drive that the 300M was designed by Mercedes Benz and that it had a supercharged V6. I apparently had not perfected my "Just shut up!" face because he kept talking. This was before the 300c even existed.

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:useless:

I'll second that!

Edited by ZL-1
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