Lunchtime postings

I never spend a full hour eating lunch at work, so sometimes I’ll get over here and put a few thoughts into writing. Today, I present my Family Guy “What Grinds My Gears” series applied to me! I will now do my best Peter Griffin impersonation, but on real subjects instead of his famous Lindsay Lohan rant or when he said that America grinded his gears before getting fired by the news station. You need to watch the episode to get the full experience.

You know what grinds my gears? SUNDAY DRIVERS – especially when it’s not Sunday! This has become a huge problem in America lately, but more so in Florida than any other state. This has been grinding my gears for the past year when I lived in Fort Myers and half of the population was over the age of 80. When you combine that with a college campus (where I worked) you got a lot of aggressive drivers and then a bunch of bad accidents right near the freeway. I consider myself a pretty aggressive driver, or at least I became one when I lived in Florida.

But then I came home to Michigan, hoping to be done with all of that and what did I find? MORE SUNDAY DRIVERS! The worst is when you’re driving on a two-lane road and both lanes have cars going 10 under the speed limit. That may be the single worst phenomenon in Metro Detroit right now, along with the consistent construction (you can’t get to Ann Arbor from Troy without running into construction somewhere, but that discussion is for another day). It really is incredibly annoying, driving to the store (I went to Target last night) and being stuck behind a slowpoke  for a mile. What’s worse, is that it’s a two-lane road but there’s an identical slowpoke next to the first! Come on! At least when I drive down one-lane roads (Adams) I know what I’m getting myself into and I expect some people going 30 miles per hour on a road with a “limit” of 45. Ridiculous.

The Best of the 2010 NAIAS

So this will be a fairly brief post, but here are some of the highlights from the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

Best Overall Exhibit – Ford
To me, this was a no-brainer. The bright, fluorescent lights set the scene for the largest single exhibit in the entire show. Whether it was the Mustang or the C-Max, it was really a spectacle to see all of the cars that Ford was showing. While few of the individual cars were truly stunning on their own, Ford made it look like a great show as they always had little demonstrations and interactive games for the audience.

Best Premiere – Chevy Volt
I created this category because there were countless vehicles being not only displayed on the turning platforms, but also explained by the employees over the exhibits’ PA systems. Of all of these, the Chevy Volt had both the most to offer and the best quality of premiere. This probably had the most hype coming into the show, and Chevy lived up to it’s billing, as the women who talked about the car on the platform consistently threw out eye-popping facts that drew in the largest crowds in Cobo. The actual vehicle was extremely sleek and the design was very cool for a car that is supposed to be all about the environment and electricity.

Best Demonstration – Volvo C70
I just could NOT get enough of this car. I’m not the biggest Volvo fan in the world, but after the NAIAS, I have really started to appreciate their sports cars. The C70 is by far the best car they have, and the vehicle automatically converts from a traditional sedan to a convertible. This may be somewhat standard in cars these days, but the way this car does it is something of  a masterpiece. Not only does it only take about 20 seconds total, but the process is so smooth and exhilerating that I watched it three times during the public days. They also did not perform the demonstration unless asked, so for me to get the show three times was really exciting. I may sound like a little kid talking about something is becoming somewhat of a standard operation in convertibles, but the way the car looks like a transformer with all of its moving parts is really something special.

Best Individual Vehicle – Dodge Avenger
I’m not the biggest Chrysler fan in the world, but the Dodge vehicles were stunning. I had never sat in an Avenger before, but when I took a seat in the driver’s seat I felt like I was truly driving a MANCAR. Of all of the vehicles, I think the most manly ones were this, the Jeep Wrangler with the Call of Duty: Black Ops decals, and the Chevy Corvette. It was so exciting to sit in the Avenger and picture myself driving this amazing vehicle around town. And it wasn’t the most expensive car in the world, either. This car wasn’t specially put on display like some of the other Chrysler cars, but I appreciated this one the most. The new Ford Taurus came in a close second for this award, but there were so many Tauruses on display (and many were not at awesome as the one I liked) and there was no signage explaining the different models. So, the Avenger takes the cake, and gets my little award for best individual vehicle at the 2011 NAIAS.

Final thoughts – Friday and Sunday

Today was the final day of the auto show, and I spent a good portion of the day taking a final look at all of the cars and examining the people who took an interest in all of the vehicles. Tomorrow I will list my favorites from the auto show as a whole, but for now I am just going to talk about the public days and what went on for the past several days. I spent a total of five days at the auto show, with two being the “industry days” and three being “public days”.

I started my day checking out the Buick/Cadillac section, which was actually a lot larger than I originally thought. With a huge wall next to the Buick Verano, I thought they were only displaying a few vehicles (the Verano, Lacrosse, and another one who’s name escapes me). But upon walking past the wall I saw an entire section of Buick crossovers. A lot of these vehicles were extremely similar to the Cadillac crossovers, and though none of them are my favorites, I really thought both Cadillac and Buick stepped it up this year in terms of their exhibits. While Chevy dominated the entire GM side, these two were still big players with their displays. The Verano was constantly being showcased on a spinning pedestal, and there was a cool back hallway with all of the historical facts about Buick. Cadillac, on the other hand, showed a sporty side with the smaller cars at the end of their exhibit. There were so many variations of the CTS that I’m pretty sure there could’ve been an entire exhibit devoted to the CTS and its variations.

From there it was on to the Toyota section, where I admittedly really liked the trucks they had on display. Even though I am an American car guy, the interior of the Toyota is much more in line with what I look for inside a truck. Instead of having smaller features and and panels, there is a nice, large interface that Toyota uses inside their trucks. And while the exterior leaves something to be desired, overall I was still impressed.

Mercedes was next, where my friend was obsessed with the SUVs being offered. The ML450 was pretty sweet, but at the same time the gear shift was incredibly difficult to find. Usually, a car’s gear shift is either in between the two front seats or protruding out of the side of the steering column. Instead, this gear shift was mistaken for the little knob that is used to turn on the windshield wipers. The parking shift was a button on the end of the knob, and just a flick of the stick puts the car into gear. It was so strange. If I’m going to buy a Mercedes, I’m going to buy a car, not a crossover. But it was still a nice vehicle and had a very roomy interior.

Finally, the Mini exhibit was one of the last stops I made on my auto show journey. It wasn’t my first time at the exhibit, but I wanted to spend some quality time with the smallest cars that anybody takes seriously. I fit surprisingly well inside the cars, and the one Mini which I sat in had a bigger speedometer than steering wheel. Front and center in the car was the huge speedometer that was outlined with red and black lights. It was really cool, but a cop could probably see how fast I was driving just by passing by and taking a glance inside the window. That’s how big it is.

That was about all of the highlights I saw on this, my last day at the auto show. Tomorrow I will list my five favorite cars and the five coolest things I saw at the show. I will also talk about some random fun I had that didn’t pertain to the cars themselves (hello, Michelin Man!). Stay tuned for that, as it will probably be one of the last posts I will create for the auto show. It was a good ride and I enjoyed the opportunity given by ZF and MSL group.

Wednesday’s Thoughts

I didn’t spend too much time at the auto show on Wednesday, but I did notice some interesting events during my brief stay.

First, the Ford exhibit was non-stop crowded. The C-Max is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. The display with the car on the wall is really eye-popping, and I talked to a few people who were taking in the sights who said that the C-Max was by far the most interesting display the show. Even though the car itself does not lend a ton of interesting or different features like the Chevy Volt, it still drew a lot of attention. The Mustangs always had several people surrounding them, and the smaller vehicles like the Focus and Fiesta actually drew a nice crowd, too. The trucks had the most interactive exhibit, which included a little game where individuals tried to tow as much as possible; they were then compared to a farm animal (I was ranked a “bull”). I guess that was a good little marketing ploy, but let’s be serious here. There is no way anybody is going to be able to tow a fraction of what the King Ranch can take. It’s the Shaquille O’Neal of trucks.

The exhibits which drew in the fewest people were the Subaru and Lincoln exhibits, at least from what I saw. I mentioned this before, but Lincoln really overplayed the Entourage connection with the theme song and the display car from the opening credits. It was Lincoln’s biggest draw, but I actually preferred the MKX, which to me seems like a good competitor for the Cadillac SRX and Chevy Equinox (but a little bit more luxurious). Subaru, on the other hand, looked exactly like it did last week. I took a closer look at the Outbacks they had on display and actually really enjoyed the feel. It isn’t too big, but it isn’t too tiny, either. Still, they should have had a few more sports cars on display instead of just the bigger crossover types.

I talked at length about Audi in my posts from last week, but I feel the need to continue today. ZF has a ton of parts in these cars, and Audi did a great job of displaying everything. Several have chassis technology from ZF and the 8-speed hybrid transmission is a new piece that has been included in the A6 and Q5 full hybrid. And I still maintain that the Spyder needs to be more front and center…

Chevy, my long-time favorite car, did not disappoint. The most popular single exhibit in the entire show, the Volt impressed people every time they presented it. One person I spoke to claims that with her five mile commute to work she will save tons of money on gas because she can get to work and back on electricity alone. That is one of the most impressive parts of the Volt. And it doesn’t eat up your electricity bill. Apparently it only costs about $1.50 to charge the Volt (DTE must feel jipped), but it will last 40 miles before switching over to gas. Very nice. If there is one thing I don’t like about Chevy’s exhibit, it’s that they didn’t display any new Trailblazer. As the very first car I drove as a new, 16-year-old driver, the Trailblazer has always held a special place in my heart. Now, Chevy is leaning towards the crossover cars and not the good old SUV. Sure, there are a bunch of huge trucks like the Silverado, but I want the Trailblazer to make a comeback!

There really is not much else to say about the show today except for the fact that I shall return again at the end of the week. School work is starting to pile up, so I should really get back to work on that. I’m going to focus in on Chrysler, Volvo, and a few others next time so look for that.

Looking Ahead to the Public Days

I will return to the auto show this week for a total of three days to finish my observations on the vehicles on display. I have several goals during this time, the primary one being the public reaction to some of the vehicles. I’ll be talking with some people as well as getting other opinions on cars of interest. I’m also going to check out which exhibits are garnering the most attention from people, and which individual cars are getting the most hype.

I should make my first public day appearance tomorrow afternoon and then return again towards the end of the week. Look for an immediate update after each day. I will also look at some of the cars which ZF technology, especially those that are being specially promoted by the automakers.

Industry Days – An Overview

I spent the better part of the last two days at the NAIAS taking in the sights and sounds of Cobo Hall. I devoted at least a few minutes to every exhibit, but spent up to a few hours on several, as well (that Ford exhibit was HUGE). Needless to say, I saw some amazing vehicles. But there were things that extended beyond the cars on display, too. Some of the lounges were larger than average restaurants, and the huge wall set up by Chevy really seemed to set it apart from everything else. And it seemed like Ford had half of the floor to itself.

But this is really supposed to be about the cars, so here are some vehicles that really caught my eye.

Spyder: One of the first cars I looked at upon entering Cobo on Wednesday, this re-defined the word “sexy” for me as it pertains to cars. Everything about it was fantastic. The design was great, the interior looked phenomenal (from what I could see as I couldn’t actually sit inside), and the sleek shape was just awesome. It received the most attention in the Audi exhibit by far, and garnered the most photographs, as well. Even though it sat right across the isle from the Bentley exhibit, it still attracted more people. This appears to be Audi’s pride and joy, though it was not featured like the A6. I guess the Spyder doesn’t need a lot of fancy signs to attract visitors.

XB: At least to me, the car is nothing too different from the older makes. But the way Scion prepared the exhibit was brilliant. A blue XB with the blue lights in the interior, there was even a blue spotlight shining down upon the vehicle. Once I sat inside, I felt like I was in a club, since there was crisp techno music blaring out of the speakers (the remix of “More” by Usher) to go along with the blue theme. I have never really considered getting any kid of Scion, but if I ever need a car for the sole purpose of driving to and from a nightclub, this is the car I will buy.

King Ranch: Ford has a ton of different cars on display, but the King Ranch stuck out in my mind. To put it in perspective for you, imagine a Ford Ranger (also on display) and then give it some steroids and leather seats. The result: the King Ranch, a behemoth on the road. Everything about this pick-up truck is huge. The cargo bed can probably hold a small house, there is a full back row of seats, and the side mirrors are half the size of my 6’4″ frame. I took a few Twitter photos from up in the driver’s seat, and I was afraid. Everybody looked so small down on the floor below me. If there was somebody standing in front of the King Ranch, I couldn’t see him or her from the driver seat because I was up so high. If I ever move to Montana and need a truck to drive up a snowy mountain, this is it.

Chevy Volt: There is a scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Ferris is home using his computer to hack into the school system and delete his absences. He then turns to the camera and says “last Christmas my sister got a car. I got a computer.” Well now those are one and the same with the Chevy Volt. I love the concept and it’s fairly stylish on the inside, but it just seems so computerized. A few years ago they didn’t make computers with hard drives as big as this (40 GB I believe?). I don’t even know what you would use that memory space for. But you can drive 40 miles on electricity alone, so if you only have to drive 10 miles everyday for work, you can save a lot on gas. Apparently, you can just plug the car into a wall outlet and it charges in just a few hours. I need to check this out for myself…

Subaru Impreza: One of the last vehicles that I saw on Thursday, it was displayed exceptionally well up on the spinning platform that most of the automakers use to show off their newest innovation. The display car was white with interesting blue lights inside that were not dominant like in the XB, but provided a backdrop against the rest of the white inside. It is kind of difficult to explain it, but for some reason I really enjoyed it. 2010 was Subaru’s biggest year sales-wise, and the Impreza should help continue that trend. To me, the blue backlight really made the car; the contrast really set it apart from some of the other sports cars.

I’ll post a little bit later about some other things I saw, including several cars with ZF technology which I found to be especially interesting.

ZF Automotive

It should be noted that during my time writing at the NAIAS, I will be compensated by ZF and MSL Group. ZF is one of the biggest automotive suppliers in the world, and they make parts for many of the vehicles that will be on display at the NAIAS.

I may not know a ton about cars, but from what I have read so far, it looks like ZF has many parts on display this year. I will be down at the show primarily on Wednesday and Thursday, and then sporadically at the public days as well. Hopefully I can learn some new things about both the vehicles and the perception they create amongst the public.

I’ll try to post a few more times before I get downtown, but otherwise look for me primarily later next week.

First post

This is my first post for my NAIAS blog! I am a senior at the University of Michigan and will be graduating in April with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Communications. I have no plans or job lined up after graduation, so any help on that front would be greatly appreciated. My best skill is probably the ability write and keep up a blog, to be honest. When I was in high school I had a popular blog that a  lot of my friends continuously viewed and read (it was a good ride, Xanga) and I have been looking to get back into it ever since.

However, college changed my ability to blog because of the constant busy lifestyle I led. With two concentrations and leading one of the largest student groups on campus, finding time to blog has been difficult over the last four years. But now that the college chapter of my life is nearing the end, I think the blogging lifestyle is going to make a comeback. It’s my last semester of school, and this will be my first time bloging at the auto show. As a native Michigander, I have been around the auto show my entire life, but now I will be actually writing about it.

So here we go!