24 March 2016

The highs and lows of the 2016 New York Auto Show

Following an announcement to “Please, silence your mobile phone” a sharply-suited, typically bespectacled and balding executive walks out on the stage and describes their company’s highlights and direction. For the last few years, most automotive press conferences have included boasts about record sales, “largest sales increase ever!”, “Fastest growing brand among Millenials!” and “Most popular car company for dog owners named Rita!” Then the executive briefly discusses the debut, recounting the trillions of man-hours spent re-engineering the encabulator alone, before passing the presentation over to an engineer or product specialist, who is younger than the exec, usually also bespectacled, though infrequently balding.

If they’re debuting a sports car, the product specialist is required, seemingly by law, to mention the car’s Nürburgring time. If it’s a luxury car, then you’ll hear about hides harvested from hand-raised Austrian Alpine calves and the 100 terabyte hard drive and dozen servers integrated into the entertainment system. The stage lights dim.

An engine revs and music beats to life. Cue the video on the screen behind a car obscured by a thin, silky, translucent drape. A car slices through a mountain pass. A woman glances from behind sunglasses as a blurred object roars past a city square. The music rises. Strobes flash and the video fades to white. The sheer curtain is pulled off the car and journalists surge forward while those in the back applaud. The product specialist beams. Shutters click and flashes pop orgasmically.

Less than ten minutes later, only the most hardcore journalists (typically working for a specialty magazine related to the car just introduced) remain considering the car, and scribbling notes or shooting photos. The rest of the crowd is off to another booth, eager to stake their claim to a consistently shrinking space.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It’s a bit difficult to get excited for the New York Auto Show because precious few new cars are usually revealed here. Still, this year’s spectacle at the Jacob Javits Convention Center did seem more energized, probably due to the aforementioned consecutive record-sales years the auto industry has enjoyed. And there were some world debuts, though all were of refreshed or slightly modified, existing models except for Hyundai’s Genesis spin-off brand, which revealed the attractive Genesis New York Concept.

Mazda debuted the MX-5 Miata RF (featuring a retractable hardtop), which photographs better than it looks in person (blame stubby proportions). Chevrolet showed off the Camaro ZL-1 but if you’ve seen a Camaro, then you’ve seen the ZL-1. It will offer a six-speed manual or ten-speed automatic transmission though, and sub-3.5 second 0-60 times. Another car featuring a manual transmission is the Porsche 911R (yes, another version of the 911), which makes 500 hp, has special graphics and is limited to 911 units. It’s also very expensive.

Porsche also brought the next-gen Boxster (codenamed 718), hot off its European reveal. And while your editor tried to get a comment from a surly Dodge representative regarding the Viper’s future, the only response was “Dodge does not discuss future plans, only its current products and past history.” Instead of pointing out that “past history” is redundant, the Viper issue was pressed but to no avail. The smart bet is that Dodge still hasn’t decided what to do with its loss leader, err, supercar. At least it’s still around now.

One quality that made us particularly happy was that several OEMs proudly showed off classic models. Sadly, however, none of the Americans did. We won’t venture a guess as to why that might be, but we’d sure like the Big Three to celebrate their automotive heritage as much as Alfa Romeo, BMW or Nissan.

12 Reader Comments

  • 1
    vanman34 Canton, Ohio March 30, 2016 at 18:51
    Yoav Gilad, you are a breath of spring on an otherwise dull winter-ish day. I enjoyed and was greatly amused at the most apt and accurate description of media day at a motor show I've ever read. I'm going to file your name and look for your next great novel about motoring, the car industry, racing, or whatever you chose to use as your subject.
  • 2
    Dan Berglund Auburn WA March 30, 2016 at 19:15
    This is the "Feature" story, and it features nine paragraphs struggling to be funny and three pages of photos that tell me very little about the cars in question. I would rather have had a couple of paragraphs of real information. What's that MX-5 hardtop weigh? What plans does Ford have for the new GT? Couldn't Hagerty get a car guy to write and shoot this story? No wonder I read so few of these newsletter articles.
  • 3
    Rick Escondido CA March 30, 2016 at 22:48
    Regarding your comments about the "Big 3" not showing off new and exciting models, sadly our government has a strangle hold on emissions and gas mileage, and styling be dammed. Hence, without a badge on the trunk I can seldom tell a Buick from a Chevy. Ah, to return to the 60's and 70's when designers were given a free hand to make cars fast and beautiful to look at.
  • 4
    Nicholas Pacific Northwest March 30, 2016 at 23:56
    Ford has done a great job with the new designs for their cars. The Mustang GT is gorgeous. I'd love to see a Ford GT in person. I want to own a decked out Flex. I like the look of the Budd-E but I've owned a VW and won't make that mistake again.
  • 5
    Yoav Gilad Traverse City, MI March 31, 2016 at 14:17
    @Vanman34: Thank you so much for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope you'll enjoy the next article just as much! @DanBerglund: The MX-5 RF (not hardtop) weighs about 100 lbs. more than the convertible and the Ford GT will be sold in VERY limited numbers to "approved" buyers (ie you have to be "cool" enough to buy one. Seriously.), cost more than the last one and will race at Le Mans this year, as of now. But you could've discovered that using Google. My goal was to present you with a taste of what auto shows (particularly lackluster ones) are like. Due to this you don't think I'm ca guy? Ok. I can live with that. @Jim from Chicago: Not complaining, don't misunderstand. I LOVE my job. I just think that the automakers should try to differentiate their presentations a *bit* more - you've seen one... For instance, a couple of years ago Ford debuted the Focus by having Ken Block gymkhana the heck out of it in a debut outside the LA Convention Center. Now that was a model introduction!
  • 6
    Dave Clawson, Mi. March 31, 2016 at 14:45
    I would probably buy your book on the Nissan Skyline GT/R series if it was packed with color photos, and I got it at a good discount for giving you the idea!
  • 7
    mike ny March 31, 2016 at 15:29
    I go to Auto show every year. I begin by mention the price for parking. It was $69.00 for SUV for 3 hours around the building. Absurd! Bottle of fresh water was $5.00. As far as cars, boring as ever, nothing new you did not see, Except Prius new model. BMW and Ford section had the most visitors. Ford had very impressive GT on the stand. BMW somehow lost all colors but "silver gray". Porsche had new colors on sport models this year. Dull finish Grayish-Blue, as well as Cayman GT interior featuring black leather with bright yellow stitching. Anyway, another show was a massive stampede of people.
  • 8
    Derek webb UK March 31, 2016 at 06:22
    Did any of the OEM's say how many cars they themselves were going to register this year?
  • 9
    Sherman Brown Walnut Creek CA March 31, 2016 at 19:13
    Well written but blasé. A writer makes an effort to make the subject more interesting, not point out the ennui. See Dan Neil reviews in the Saturday Wall Street Journal. Yoav, you're a very good writer but you suffer from a need for something new. Get a girlfriend,
  • 10
    Will Owen Pasadena CA March 31, 2016 at 20:31
    Well, now we know what Press Day is like, except that our man neglected to mention that this "limited number of professionals" manages to pack any hall to the bloody rafters. If you want to really see every car, wait for next Tuesday and pay admission. My favorite moment was when the suit onstage waved his hand at this shiny blob of bloat and informed us we were looking at the most beautiful car on the planet. No, I won't tell you what it was …
  • 11
    Jim KY March 31, 2016 at 11:22
    Comments have been mixed amongst Miata enthusiasts over the new RF. I owned a third generation Miata with the retractable hard top. I liked it; but, the RF doesn't whet my interest. We'll keep our new fourth generation soft top GT, instead. It's probably the best Miata we've owned; and, this one is number six.
  • 12
    jim Chicago March 31, 2016 at 11:50
    Ho Hum, another day being paid for looking at cars. Ah don't feel your pain.

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