Made it to this one, where I stood and listened to many Germans practicing their English. Apparently, all those required to wear glasses have only two styles to choose from, both the same. Nothing really interesting shown there, except what looks like a clear M-B CLS clone. VW called it their first Coupe coupe—the Passat CC—"intimate seating for four".
Top Secret Location: 1:00 to 3:00
Can't talk much about what I did, where I went, and what I saw. Let's just say that I met up with some General Motors Fleet and Commercial people and we took a little trip where they showed me some things, I asked a few questions, gave a few opinions, and then they dropped me off back at Cobo Arena. Lucky for me they decided to slow down as they passed the convention center so when they opened the door and pushed me out, I didn't roll too far down the wet street. Will have to figure out how long it will be before I can write or say anything about the things I witnessed. More to come.
Ford Displays: 3:00
Was standing looking at the new Freeman Thomas creation from Ford, the Explorer America, and saw the head of Nissan Design, Bruce Campbell, staring at the highly evolved midsize SUV/Crossover with his head slightly tilted to one side, eyes squinting. It's always interesting to me to hear designers speak about creations from other designers because you know the things that pop out to them give you a pretty good window into what they value and prioritize. What they say usually tells you more about what they're thinking and doing than what they think the actual designer was up to. Maybe that's a duh to some, but it took me a long time to figure that out. Regardless, Bruce spoke about the challenges each designer and the team face when following a path. There needs to be a guider or shaper, he said (I could tell he wanted to avoid the word "leader"), that points the younger sketchers in a direction.
Bruce and his team just finished and are showing a new look at the minivan, called the Forum, strangely familial to the Explorer America. He kept talking about how far out, how many generations away, would the Explorer America be? "We look at our concepts as some of the most efficient time spent in the company," he said. "If we're on the right track, our concepts will make it to reality, and I want one of my young designers to have ownership of that, the responsibility." Not really sure what that meant, but I could tell he really meant what he was saying.
Kia gave away hot dogs and pretzels as if we were at some kind of sporting event. Among the hoopla and noisemakers, the loudest, most American music of the day blasted over the pipes. It sort of made sense when they revealed a fairly American interpretation of the SUV, called the Borrego, complete with a rigid ladder frame and V-8 engine (not something you see too much any more). But it all made even more sense when Kia announced it will be the official sponsor of the NBA for the coming year, and they proceeded to introduce five of the biggest names in yesteryear basketball: Spud Webb, Bill Walton, Willis Reed, Dominique Wilkins, and George "the iceman" Gervin. This was American glitz and schmoltz at its loudest and finest. Thank you Kia.
4:30 to 5:45
I truly don't remember what happened in this time slot. I didn't attend the Lamborghini or Mitsubishi press conferences but don't remember what I saw or who I met. There must be a black hole somewhere in the convention center. I suppose I could have accidentally wandered past the Ferrari stand and inadvertently got lost in one of the Italian supermodels deep blue eyes. Oh well.
Land Rover: 5:50
Land Rover has a new design guru and his name is Jerry McGovern, and the first of his new visions for Land Rover is called the LRX. The look and feel of this concept points toward Land Rover's future and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. The LRX is a two-door sport-minded compact SUV that looks more like a sporty coupe than anything else. It clearly has some of the touches, angles, and cues that would have anyone identifying it as a Land Rover, but what the Range Rover Sport does to the LR3, is what the LRX seems to want to do to the LR2. What this means to the rest of the Land Rover lineup, or the Range Rover for that matter, is uncertain, but don't look for anything like the old (or newly updated) Defenders to ever come back to the brand, at least not as long as Jerry is around. And with the success we'd predict for a four-door LRX for the U.S. market (and we could even see a next generation LR3 to carry on that look), we're guessing Jerry will set with Land Rover for quite a while, no matter who the eventual buyer for the Land Rover/Jaguar company will be. If sporty, eco-friendly, right-sized sport-utility crossovers will be our future then this looks to be the bulls-eye.
Photos by Melissa Spiering