A brand new 2016 model on a stand, yesterday.
Years ago, sometime after the New York Auto Show, I baffled colleagues, enthusiasts, and my own 10-year old self alike by asking the question: "what's the point of an auto show?" It was April 2013, and just like it stands now, all the doe-eyed, mewling cars brought forth unto this world had unveiled not underneath the searing bright lights of the Javits Center but at private events the night before. The most anticipated car of the show, the Cadillac CTS, had leaked days before, like all embargoed material is destined to, by some Eastern Bloc website safely outside the purview of threatening cease-and-desist letters. Regardless, journalists of our ilk trudged to the airport, all while humbly tweeting "Today's office: LAX->JFK!," and proceeded to inflate the numbers on their frequent flyer statuses.
Why have an auto show? Why rack up frequent flyer miles? Why crowd everyone in a dimly lit basement press room for hours on end, trying to upload a picture of their free breakfast onto Facebook on a network that would be overwhelmed by a Commodore VIC-20? Why bother having an unveil if the car will merely be shown the day before to a handful of specially invited journalists—out of the thousands, internationally, who attend these things—and will be across the Internet by morning?
With the 2015 North American International Auto Show happening right…right…now? tomorrow? next year? it means that it's all happening again. Let's look at the debuts: the 2016 Toyota Tacoma, angrier. The Volvo S60 XC: leaked, to help Subaru Outback SUS owners validate their own life choices. The next Chevrolet Volt: introduced at a tech show, fittingly enough. Production NSX? Infiniti Q60? Pontiac Grand Prix? Focus RS, maybe? The Lexus GS F, which we've been threatened with since 2012? Hell, and back to the start, we have none other than—the Cadillac CTS-V, all laid out with tech specs and glossy photos and press release snippets from enthused product planners all before anyone even boards a Delta flight.
Welp, that's your exclusive scoop. Everybody go home. All the news that's fit to print has already been printed.
Ok, yes, the cars are all in one place. And that's neat! It makes it easier for the legions of shady foreign "engineers" to whip out their measuring tapes and lock themselves inside cars on the show floor for hours so they can extract precise engineering details of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat's air-vent hinges. It's a great place for impromptu 11am bourbon tastings. (The only consolation for so much travel, of course.) Most importantly, it's a great way to catch up on colleagues, all of whom will be bitching about how terrible the weather is in Detroit, in early January.
Come visit scenic Detroit in January! Come board the last overbooked Delta flight on a rusting 757 packed with your fellow glassy-eyed colleagues, and come to a city where the wind chill hovers around 3 degrees, "colder than Daniel Craig's post-coital stare!" Where the Cobo Center Ice Palace welcomes you with doors that whack open like they were breached by SWAT explosives! Where every hotel has been booked since last year's show! Where the media center is located up seventeen flights of stairs and in an entirely different zip code! And take assurance in the fact that not since Kill Bill Vol. 1 has a single location been so swarmed with angry, sweaty men in cheap suits—all of whom are fantasizing about the next press trip to Los Angeles, or maybe Ibiza.
Sometimes, manufacturers do a sneak preview of their auto show wares, a week before—which short of copying and pasting the press release is probably the most helpful thing for journalists. The journalists prewrite the stories, interview the engineers one-on-one, and hold the story until the embargo ends under penalty of assassination. (Matt Hardigree, unbeknownst to industry insiders, actually has an army of surgically reconstructed body doubles assigned just for this purpose.) Before the Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda and Acura were particularly helpful in giving journalists a leg up—right down the street in LA, essentially. Embargoed or not, for the gaping maw of the content machine, it was as close to a Get Out Of Jail Free card as there is.
In fact, that's how the system should be. Send the hardworking photographers, the true underdogs to the show—less crowding at the press conferences, less spilled champagne, less bruised egos. Elevate the shutterbugs to the status of heroes. The journalists can all stay home and play with their dogs or go tanning at the beach. Through the magic and majesty of the Internet, photos can now be distributed instantaneously, beamed across the cyber-web, all to fulfill the LIVE!!! shots from the show floor. Embargoed story, live floor shots—ebony and ivory, in perfect harmony. No hypothermia, no kvetching about Terminal 3 at DTW. All you need now is the car news video host with an inflated sense of self-importance berating hapless foreign "engineers" to get out of the way of his goon cameraman so he can rattle off press-release stats and glare at passers-by.
Problem is, you'll have to make your own bite-sized deep-fried crab cakes.
Image source: IEDEI