Like most auto enthusiasts, I’ve been going to car shows on a yearly basis for as long as I can remember. The gleaming sheet metal, new car smell, and the future promises held by concept cars are absolutely intoxicating. As exciting as all that is, nothing prepared us for our first media day at the New York International Auto Show.
Upon entering the show, there was a sense of occasion. Industry honchos gave their state of the union addresses, manufacturers had elaborate setups for their press conferences, and celebrities of the automotive world were just as excited as we were at unveilings. While all this is very grand in its own right, we’re here for the cars. Here are the unveilings that stood out:
Scion came to New York with both barrels locked and cocked. When it came time for the press conference, they held nothing back. While their FR-S has been seen in various other guises on the auto show circuit as a Toyota, this latest, more production ready variant was an absolute stunner. Even amongst the seasoned automotive press, the car created quite a buzz. The car is amazingly proportioned, if not achingly beautiful. When’s the last time anybody said that about a Toyota?
From one end of the automotive world with Scion to the other with Mercedes, it just goes to show there isn’t any reason for a manufacturer to rest on its laurels. Mercedes did this by showing off their brand new SLK and C63 AMG coupe. They definitely brought their A-game with the unveiling of the A-class concept. It brings a lot of style to the entry level Mercedes that will be sure to attract a younger demographic. That younger demographic interrupted the whole press conference to show their appreciation for the car.
For years the affordable subcompact segment filled an important but uncelebrated niche. However, last week’s small car unveilings showed that it is arguably the most competitive market today. Subcompact segment press conferences definitely stood out from the rest this year and off the top of my head, new small car debuts for 2011 include the new Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza sedan and five-door, Nissan’s new Versa, Hyundai Accent, KIA Rio, Mini KISS Countryman, Volkswagen Beetle, FIAT 500, Mercedes Benz A-Class.
With an industry leading sales growth of 36.6%, Kia has been enjoying one of the greatest turnarounds in industry history! Rather than going the Ford and Hyundai route with a middle of the road “start-up family” conscious press conference, Kia introduced their Rio 5, Rio sedan as well as a facelifted Kia Soul on one of the brightest and loudest stages at the expo thanks to Brianna, the cute DJ!
At sub $14k, I predict the 148 horsepower, 40mpg highway, 1.6 liter 4 cylinder Rio 5 will be a real contender.
|Love its SEAT dad
Fiat is a returning player in the North American market. Needless to say, first impressions count and Fiat delivered. Thanks to a very pretty presenter as well as a very chic, very unique display with a vertical unveiling, the quirky 500 Cabrio surprised every journalist that attended. This is not a joke; the Fiat 500 was so popular, I never got the opportunity to snap a photo of the car without someone standing next to it. (To those of you that are curious, the handsome chap wearing a suit in the photo below is James Riswick, editor of Edmund’s Inside Line)
A little more than a year ago, I recall an article revealing that the redesign of the Fiat 500 model will be heavily influenced by Apple’s marketing and product development strategies. And now, one of the key attractions to the 500 right now is the Eco-Drive application. Driving information from your commute can be stored and shared so that fellow owners of the Fiat 500 can compete to see who can score better gas mileage. By making “saving the world” a game based on an app designed for young buyers, this car is hitting all the right buttons.
Finally, having finally seen the 500 in the flesh, it quickly made it onto my shortlist of cars I’d heavily consider owning.
Stay tuned for part 2!
I hope everyone’s having a good weekend so far!
-Danny Chin and Danny Choy