In Other Words

Slow Times Reflected At The Auto Show

InOtherWords copyTHESE ARE HARD TIMES FOR AUTO MANUFACTURERS. And hard times for auto dealers too.
Thus, our annual visit to the Auto Show was less than it has been in recent years.
Gone were the concept cars that promised future automotive wonders. Also gone were new designs, with only a couple of exceptions. And worse still, gone were several lines of cars that used to dot the showroom floor.
As car shows go, this one came up a little weak.
Chrysler didn’t put in an appearance this year. Nor did Volkswagen or BMW. Pontiac has bitten the dust and Saturn is off the map. But there was still plenty to look at in the line of autos that were available for 2010 sampling.
Mostly, though, there weren’t many that were different than in the past. The body styles were the same, but the fuel efficiency has improved if the mileage ratings can be believed.
Getting the most attention at the session I went to was the 2010 Camaro.
Already available at the dealerships, the Camaro drew the most oohs and aahs from the audience with its sculpted styling and “chopped” roof line. It has a big body and a small roof. It also has a raised hood and enough different paint and trim packages to satisfy anyone’s tastes. It also has a variety of engines with horsepower ratings that stretch to the stratosphere. Detroit knows that muscle still sells when it comes to sporty cars.
With its big tires and small roof, it was easy to imagine idling impatiently at a stop sign then digging out on a green light  in a haze of burning rubber.
Prices for the Camaro  ranged from $30,000 to over $50,000, depending on the options you want.
If you were looking for another Chevy exotic, there was the ever-popular Corvette. The Z-1 version of this classic sports car will let you pass everything on the road except the Highway Patrol radar gun. It will also set you back a cool $122,000. Being the baddest cat on the block does get expensive.
If your budget is a little short of that price, try the Chevy Cobalt two door coupe for around $23,000. It has bucket seats, five speed manual transmission, dual overhead camshaft engine and styling lines that make it look exotic.
But it also gets 31 miles per gallon. You can see out the windshield without straining. one of the complaints overheard from showgoers was the narrow windshield on the Camaro and how it limits one’s view of the road. Definitely something the styling engineers will have to work on.
When you are after glory and nostalgia, practicality takes a back seat.
As you can see, Chevy was well-represented and causing the most stir among people at the show.
Also getting a few  nods of approval was the Chevy Malibu that is being touted on television with increased frequency.
Standing still on a showroom floor it looks to live up to its billing with a comfortable interior and high mileage. It also offers enough performance to keep the casual auto enthusiast happy. It has a price tag of $23,900 for the basic model.
There’s a hybrid version available for about $5,000 more that boosts the gas mileage about nine miles per gallon. And it makes you part of the “green” revolution. You decide if its worth it.
TOYOTA, AS USUAL, offered the most models for sale. You could go from very cheap and economical if you want to buy your kids a car to drive to college.
Or you could expensive and exotic with a vehicle such as the Toyota Land Cruiser for over $74,000.
With a full line of trucks, hybrid’s, SUVs and four wheel drive units, Toyota has become what Chevrolet and Ford used to be. A company that provides a vehicle for everyone’s tastes and needs.
Perhaps Detroit could take a few lessons from the Japanese these days. They certainly learned plenty from the Americans when the tables were reversed.
BUICK HAD A FEW CARS ON DISPLAY, but the number of models has dwindled as has the mid-priced line of cars. there used to be a class distinction between Ford and chevy as opposed to Buick and Oldsmobile, but those days are long gone with the cars that occupied that niche in the market.
Every car has power steering and brakes, electric windows and cruise control. The differences between models is largely that of price and how the brand is viewed by the public. We could easily see a few more models fall by the wayside over the next year.
Technology, fuel efficiency, electronics and economy are going to be the buzzwords that sell new cars for the next few years.
All in all, this year’s auto show was a look at what used to be instead of a look at what’s ahead. That future would appear cloudy indeed.

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