Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NY International Auto Show

A car show for the common man may suggest merely a collection of family sedans, midlife crisis cars and the ever-ubiquitous hot hatch; however, the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) has more in store for the average visitor. Held at the Jacob Javit's Convention Center in New York City, the show Amidst the recession car manufacturers are shelling out little cash to produce new vehicles; if the price of oil were high, but the economy was in good shape, it would be 2007. This would also mean a plethora of fuel-sipping machines, designed with the average Joe in mind, but here and now in April, 2009, few efficient concepts are offered at the show. Design studies and concepts aren't uncommon at the NYIAS, but innovative production cars are more typically more common.

This year, the innovation seemed to come from Ford in the form of the 2010 Taurus. The car shown at NYIAS is ready for production and is no different from the European equivalent in terms of fit and finish, although it's not the Mondeo. The build quality is greatly improved from Tauruses of old, but this comes at a price, this family sedan starts at $25,000; the base price for the limited-production and high performance SHO variant is $37,000. At this point, it's in the price range of the BMW 1 and 3 series. One might wonder why an American family sedan is a high point of an auto show containing over 1,000 production and concept cars. Very few companies represented at the NYIAS suggested such an overhaul of not only the brand's image, but its future selling points as well.

For the car-forum-trolling, pimply-faced, 15-year-olds, the show satisfied all needs and desires; bright colors and displays dominated the Scion exhibit, plus Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Koenigsegg, and Spyker were represented. ShamWow was not represented; however, a knock-off vendor managed to shout at those passing through the merch section of the show. In keeping with the theme of mediocrity, GM offered up a natty Cadillac plug-in design exercise, this machine while shiny, offered up little promise for those interested in “green energy.” GM satisfied those interested in greenwashing; the presenter touted the Volt, a virtually production-ready concept as having 40 miles of 'completely green range.' Needless to say, the power source defines the range's environmental sustainability: someone using nuclear, coal, natural gas or oil is hardly sustainable. The presenter went on to suggest that the gasoline or ethanol-burning engine is environmentally acceptable because it doesn't power the wheels: it runs a generator, which runs an electric motor to power the wheels. This immediately raises questions regarding energy (heat) lost in friction.

As for the crowds and the overall experience; there was little interest in the SUV and light truck exhibits; the 'cars' were much more popular. The facilities were clean and organization was clear although legitimate dining possibilities were scant inside the building. In all, the experience was not a waste of time and certainly it goes without saying that the poor selection of outstanding vehicles reflects the economy. Then again, this asks the question of 'what is outstanding for a new car?' The fact that it's new implies a warranty and technology for the sake of technology and marketing, but that's another subject.

~Sawyer Sutton

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