Saturday, November 19, 2011

Before the Auto Show: Welcome to Press Days!

Two days, non-stop, moving from exhibit to exhibit every 45 minutes or so. You must be a fast walker to get a seat for each “act”. The major stars today are made of shiny sheet metal. Oh, don't be bored, there's a celebrity or two thrown into the mix. Lots of gents in black or dark gray suits far outnumber women in any audience. Most women dressed somberly as well, including myself. At any given time, you’ll see waves, hugs, small huddles of intense conversation, and people whizzing by carrying tall tripods or pulling a wheelie behind them.

Where are you? Press days at the Los Angeles Auto Show. And no, I'm not going to share a bunch of car reviews with you. Plenty of those already available. Instead, I’ll tell you a little bit about the day, starting with two things you don't see:

Pretty models.
A full array of vehicles for some brands; chairs hold higher importance.

The rest of the cars and the models will be there for the consumer days though. Whew, right?

The day began promptly at 8AM in room 515, a vast space with plenty of seating for all. A quick intro from the Motor Press Guild and then the keynote speaker, Takashi Yamanouchi, President and CEO of Mazda Motor Corporation. His speech was lively and chock full of Mazda heritage and terminology, from the Wankel engine to the more recent and enduring “Zoom Zoom” tag line.  I quickly befriended a woman who told me she “works on the Motor Press Guild website” but looking her up on LinkedIn that evening, I realized she was being modest!

Afterwards, the crowd moved from exhibit to exhibit, growing in numbers as the day progressed and soaking up news, including new car debuts, first looks at concept vehicles and announcements for important awards. Not every brand holds a press conference, but many do; day one included  seventeen of them, actually sixteen, since one was a “double bill”.

And it can be hazardous. Not just bumping into rushed people or folks appearing confused about where to go next (like me), but avoiding various stages of construction still going on, ladders, floors being altered, and the last speck of dust being removed from a vehicle.
Removing dust from an Audi
Final touches on the Hyundai exhibit

Waiting for the show to begin.
I managed to get yelled at by a gent who scored a seat at the Hyundai exhibit. Stepping aside slightly to let two polite guys (they said excuse me) through the crowd, I apparently moved into this fellow’s “zone”. He tapped me hard on the back and said something nasty. I said “I was letting them through”, then I stepped about 3 inches to the right. That seemed to pacify him.

Have a seat and we'll serve you!
And the food! Many brands provided snacks. The best edibles I found were at Kia, where servers came around several times before the 2:05PM “show” with chicken and shrimp dumplings, and my personal favorite for the day, spicy tuna in a crispy cone. I passed on the Kogi beef. Last year, Kia was serving up sliders, but this year they kept it more aligned with the brand heritage.

This ends part one; yes, there's more. For those of you who want to linger a bit longer, here’s a classic Mazda commercial that enlightens us to the fact that piston engines go “boing”... click here

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