It was cold in Chicago – no surprise there – but it was also a cold Auto Show. Perhaps it was the continuing onslaught of early release information, or maybe automakers just don’t have a lot to talk about right now. Either way, the show had an anticlimatic feel. Even the more important debuts were muted, as if the automakers were saying, in essence: whatever. Of course, there’s always Ford. They’re always good for a few paragraphs, this time because they think rental car names curry favor with car buyers. The romance, the history, the memories of…the Taurus? Say Taurus and most people think of that white rental car they drove in Florida. Or maybe the company car they drove into the ground. As Ford president Mark Fields will tell you, in MBA-talk that’s referred to as a lose-lose situation, or as Blackett writes, it’s a boondoggle. Wardlaw – ever the optimistic Michigander – notes how it’s a shame, for the name game hides two very decent vehicles.
Unlike Ford, Scion has no such trouble with names. In fact, they’ve got it down, to the point where it can market a warmed-over Yaris as the next Scion and gain favor in doing it. Keith Buglewicz gets out from under the sheets of the Swissotel to marvel at the marketing might of Toyota/Scion. As a matter of fact, Toyota, with its Scion and Lexus badges, is headed straight for a fight with GM, which, according to yours truly, is ready – finally – to take ‘em on and battle for automaking supremacy.
As if any of that matters to car buyers. What’s missing here, sadly, and what was missing at the Chicago Auto Show was forward motion by the automakers in regard to fuel economy and conservation. There were lots of exciting cars debuted, but ultimately the show in Chicago was another opportunity missed to demonstrate how the automotive industry can be part of the solution to what is emerging as the most critical issue of this age.
- Brian Chee