Auto Shows Are Still Important

Auto Show Tmd

We’re in Los Angeles for the LA Auto Show and this morning we’re talking about that show as well as about grumbling from companies at the G20 Summit about American EV regs, the expansion of the GM Super Cruise network, and a new Pacifica for road trips.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Don’t Forget That People Still Want To Touch Cars

Panter Tmd

There’s been a shift in the auto industry, hastened by the pandemic, to spend less money on auto shows and spend more on bespoke events for journalists. There’s some definite logic to this plan; auto show booths can be expensive (millions of dollars if you build a whole mini city) and fewer journos are showing up (which is why automakers spend a lot of money flying people in to see the show).

Car And Driver announced the death of auto shows way back in 2018 when the German automakers started pulling out of shows.

As I walking around the Los Angeles Show yesterday during prep and getting excited over all the cars I’d yet to see in person, I was reminded that it’s as much a consumer event as it is a media event. David and I reminisced about how the biggest days of the year for us in our youth were the days that the local auto show came to town (Shout out Houston Auto Show!). [Editor’s Note: Kansas City Auto Show; I miss you!. -DT]

There’s a definite anti-show bias among some journalists who either remember the good times (pre-2008 when every press conference featured a celebrity and a bar) or are too jaded and cool for it. But we’re here because we love cars and we want people–especially young people–to also love cars, and what better way to get them hooked than to give them a chance to see the damn cars! When I brought my daughter to the 2019 New York International Auto Show she insisted on touching and sitting in everything with wheels (including a garbage truck).

We are having a party today (still time to RSVP I think!) at the LA Auto Show in the Galpin Hall of Customs, so we are definitely a little biased towards car shows, but I think my point stands. People expected the Detroit Auto Show to flop this year but, in spit of many challenges, it seems like attendance rebounded significantly[Editor’s Note: Not sure this is the greatest example based on what I’ve heard from journalsits, though I will say that the SEMA show was amazing this year, even if that’s an industry show more than a consumer one. -DT].

This year’s LA Auto Show is missing some big names who, for whatever reason, thought they didn’t need to be here. That’s their loss. Brands like Ford and Ram, in particular, filled the space evacuated by others with test tracks and huge interactive exhibits.

VinFast also has a huge display and, if I were walking around the LA Auto Show as an impressionable youth, I’d assume that VinFast was the most exciting new luxury automaker and that BMW didn’t exist or was going out of business.

GM Super Cruise Expands Its Map

Super Cruosetmd

Fun fact: I have a degree in Geography from the University of Texas. Even though I studied to be a cultural geographer, I still love maps. Old maps. New maps. Digital maps. Paper maps. Maps rule.

I have not driven every Level 2 driving system, but I’ve driven most of them at this point, and GM’s Super Cruise stands out as the best and one of the reasons is that it’s geofenced to certain pre-mapped roads. This means that it will only work in situations and on highways where it feels confident that the system can keep the car safely pointed where it needs to go.

The system is not perfect and there were two issues with Super Cruise the last time I used it:

  • The system is actually so seamless that people can become overconfident in its abilities, which is not unique to GM but an issue with basically all Level 2 driving systems.
  • There were some areas I’d have liked to have used the system on that were not mapped.

GM’s addressed the second issue by doubling the covered roads to more than 400,000 miles of geofenced goodness and put out this map showing everywhere you can drive. Look out Thomas, I’m headed your way!

There’s Now A Pacifica Road Tripper

Road Tripper Tmd

You know what’s cool, kids? Maps. I’ve established this. You know what’s also cool? Minivans.

I had to drive around large chunks of this country back when I was making commercials and TV shows and I cajoled a number of Hertz and Enterprise employees to let me take a Pacifica if one was available because it was an easy and comfortable way to get around with a lot of stuff.

There really isn’t much I’d change to the Pacifica to make it good at road trips and, fittingly, neither did Chrysler when it created the Pacifica Road Tripper package. Instead, what the brand did was add some unique orange graphics, the all-weather protection package, and a roof rack.

The MSRP for this is $2,395 for the Touring L, $2,095 for the L AWD and $1,495 for the Touring L Hybrid. That’s actually a decent deal as slotting all these options on yourself is, minimum, a $2,500 affair before the roof rack.

People Are Still Pissed About The Inflation Reduction Act

Biden Tmd

President Biden had a good midterm election, as far as those things go, but his victory lap in Bali for the G20 Summit wasn’t quite so cheery as he and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen got an earful from other countries about their new EV tax credit rules.

There’s an explainer here, but the basic premise here is that the United States opened up the $7,500 tax credit to all EVs with no limits on how many cars it could apply to. Automakers like this part. The catch was that the EVs in question need to be substantially built in the United States and the battery materials need to come from either the United States or their trading partners. This has caused some issues.

I’m just going to run down some of the quotes from various countries in this Reuters piece on the topic:

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said the revamped tax credits in the IRA are a “major shock” to the European industry and brought the issue up at a meeting with Yellen on the G20 summit sidelines.


“We don’t want, at the end of the war in Ukraine, to have Europe being weakened,” Le Maire added.


[South Korean President] Yoon asked Biden to prevent discriminatory measures against South Korean companies, his office said, adding that Biden had said the implementation of the law should account for the contribution of South Korean investment in the U.S. economy.


Jose Munoz, chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor, told a Reuters automotive conference last month that the North American-only rule would be an “astronomical” blow to Hyundai.

I am of the belief that the transition to electric cars is great and important but also haphazard and if this law encourages automakers to slow down a bit and build batteries in the United States with materials sourced from places we aren’t possibly going to war with that we’re all the better for it. The law is fairly clear, but, as always, open to interpretation and it’s probably fine if the Biden administration makes a few interpretations that give automakers a break while they adjust to the law.

The Flush

What’s your favorite auto show memory?

Photos: LA Auto Show, Chrysler, White House, GM


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24 Responses

  1. Does Sema count as best autoshow? I recall talking to Ian Ziering and Chip Foose about Ian’s old camaro while Boyd and his entourage walked up to us and interrupted about the show being filmed for Chip. I felt a little lucky to be there.

    1. This just reminded me of how much of an asshole Boyd Coddington was. Egotistical prick who only gave a shit about himself and his image. American Hot Rod, Charley Hutton, Duane, and Chip never had much nice to say about him.

  2. When I was 6 or maybe 7, I went to the Cleveland Auto Show at the I-X Center (really big open space under a roof). I was there with my Dad & Uncle, and had a great time. I came home with so many brochures! At some point during the day, Dad says to Uncle, “This is a really big open space under a roof. I wonder how they keep it secure?” Uncle, never at a loss for BS, quickly chimes in with “They let a lion roam the building at night. No one bothers the place, and no mice.” It was later, probably high school, when I was repeating that story when it dawned on me. “Dammit, they got me again!”

  3. 1). Auto shows are great for consumers and kids. Going to the DC one in…god, had to have been 02 or 03, absolutely blew my mind as an adolescent and was very influential. I’ll share more below.

    2). I have yet to try Super Cruise but it seems amazing. Outside of the Camaro (I love the current gen platform so much and will be sad when it inevitably dies), Blackwings, and C8 there aren’t really any GM products that I’m particularly interested in these days, so I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to try it out. But I will say that it’s nice to let the car do the work for you when you’re eating up road trip miles. As much as we all love an engaging drive not every drive has to be a spirited one.

    3). Hooray vans! Now stick a Hemi in one.

    4). I get why people are Big Mad about this but I can’t find any fault with the Biden admin’s decision here….American manufacturing is behind the 8 ball in a lot of ways and the EV stipulations in the legislation will directly benefit American companies and workers. I lean pretty progressive on most issues *ducks* but I think we can all agree that quality homegrown jobs, products, etc. are a good thing.

    Flush: I still have vivid memories from going to the auto show I mentioned above. I was already interested in cars for many reasons, but being able to meet some of my heroes face to face was just mind blowing. When you’re a kid actually being able to sit in stuff and interact with it is amazing, and I also loved being able to mess with stereos, move manual shifters around, etc. The Chevy sports cars from that era were my favorite of the show. There’s nothing cooler than a Corvette when you’re like 12 or 13 haha.

    I still remember my dad having to drag me out at like 9pm because I didn’t want to leave. I even got to do an Indycar driving simulator where they put you in a replica body of one of the race cars. Like many my memory can be pretty hit or miss (largely because I struggled with substance abuse issues in my 20s), but I remember that auto show like it was yesterday.

    Whenever my parents had to leave me with family for a few days my aunts and uncles always knew that taking me to look at cars was an easy way to keep me entertained. I’ve never driven an S2000 but I know how amazing the shifter feel is because my uncle (RIP) took me to a dealership to sit in one when I was a kid. I also know what it feels like to sit in a Rolls Royce and Lamborghini Gallardo because a different uncle and aunt had friends who owned a fancy dealership. I cannot overstate how cool that was to me at the time. Hell…it’s still cool now, and my aunt still has pictures of my cousin and I in the Phantom somewhere.

    Wow I went on a rant. The moral of the story is take your kids to auto shows and take them with you when you go car shopping. That type of stuff really sticks with you and gets those enthusiast juices flowing early on. Sharing a hobby with a parent or family member as a kid is magical stuff.

    1. 3. As long as it’s AWD!

      4. The issue for me is that it went into effect immediately and excluded everyone except american autos. I understand the need for some protectionism, but it should’ve been phased it.

      This hurts consumers who were looking into non american autos right now. It also kneecaps non-american companies that are heavily investing in ev manufacturing here that will eventually let them qualify under the IRA. They were already investing in America before the IRA, they just need 4-5 years to get up and running.

    1. I was trying to remember: were these in the AstroHall in the 80s? I remember being there multiple times and social engineering our way in early hours as high school dummies. Our line of BS didn’t get us anything beyond entry but it was fun to see the cars before all the foot traffic.
      Especially cool was the Alfa Romeo display partly run by the local dealer (I’ve forgotten their name. Age. Yay. ) They always just seemed excited about their cars and were happy to let us knuckleheads ask questions.

  4. Though I have been to a number of them, I never cared much for the low grade fever feeling of indoor auto shows and the crush of humanity and the standing in lines to sit in a mediocremobile or worse, those World of Trailer Queens boomer shows my father would bring me to, but when I first went to an Italian Concours at the Larz Anderson Museum, I felt overwhelmed in a positive way—optimistic, inspired, and encouraged by humanity’s capacity to create for the sake of enjoying life—and my father had no idea what anything was. I was probably 11 or 12 pointing out how to tell the big block from the small block Iso Grifo or the ‘60s Ferraris and what the model numbers meant or explaining that the European-bumper Maserati Khamsins looked MUCH better and not just because the bumpers were smaller. He seemed impressed that I knew that much and would ask me about them instead of the usual pretending to know. It was one of the rare times he was successful as a father. The guy was legit on the narc-psycho spectrum and it wasn’t easy for him to be human, so I’ll give him credit for the effort and successes.

  5. My favorite auto show memory was when Jeep had an off-road driving simulator at their St. Louis auto show booth when I was a kid. Sure, the PS1 graphics were probably awful and don’t hold up by today’s standards, but it was so cool pretending to off-road in a virtual Jeep Wrangler when you are 8 years old.

  6. My favorite auto show was the NAIAS in 2014. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what new hotnesses we saw, but I had just lost my job when the small, family-owned retail company closed up shop. While I had secured employment by that point, I had three weeks to kill, and asked my dad if he wanted to make the trip with me.

    Of course it was bitterly cold, and I had to pull of my best impersonation of Dad, and roll without a coat. Didn’t want to be bogged down once we were in there, after all. We got in, spent our time looking, talking and enjoying the experience. When it was time to go, we made a stop in Toledo’s East end to have lunch at the original Tony Paco’s.

    Dad and I don’t get to do much like that, so it will always stick out in my mind when thinking about auto shows.

  7. Favorite auto show memory was a couple years back at the Denver Auto Show. Some manufacturers brought out some cars for folks to test drive, and I saw an ND Miata RF in the lot. I was saddened to see it, because the line to drive it must have been huge! I went to Ford first, since they paid people to drive their cars, and during the test drive, the lady was complaining about the folks at Mazda letting people drive the manual Miata like hooligans. Manual Miata?!? Mazda was crazy enough to bring a stick shift and let the public drive it?!? Went to that line next, and there were only 4 people. Soon enough, I was driving it. And yes, the test drive guy from Mazda let me drive it like an idiot. Thanks Mazda!

  8. I’ve only been to one new car auto show. Denver 1990, maybe 1991. My parents were going through a divorce, and my grandfather took my brother and me out for the day. I must have been around 7.

    I recall all of the cars being bonkers and feeling like some kind of future was going to explode all around us in the next year. There was that Chrysler Voyager concept that was a hatchback that could dock into a minivan. Diahatsu had a booth. It was all future looking round blobs of future plastic paneled cars and vans, tiny Japanese cars, and remarkable high strangeness. Very little of what I saw seemed to ever end up on the road.

    It was a great day with my Grandfather and my brother during a pretty rough time with my folks splitting up. Now Grandad’s gone and my brother doesn’t talk to anyone in the family anymore. Hadn’t thought about it in years.

  9. Autoshows
    1. Some just are unattended booths with boring cars no new models hohum
    2. Sema is like a runway show. Cars with valueless crap added to them that no normal person wants and makes the vehicle useless.
    3. As soon as a show becomes successful the venue, hotels, restaurants, parking all triple their rates and make it unaffordable.
    4. Cars are great but how about some other interactive events
    5. They become to exclusive just for the car journalshits.
    You want good car shows? Attach them to a traveling carnival or race event. If NASCAR can move all the races around the country and make billions i think a smart marketer like me could set up a traveling show with some additional entertainment in more cities for less money. If interested contact Tacodave reply to this post. 😉
    Now Joe Biden put $4 billion put there to support unions to buy their votes. It worked. Now if we add every EV building country what $4 trillion? You know the government gets that money from us? Also those rebates only go to the people who pay taxes? And in 2 years you will end up paying them back as income and/or highway taxes due to less ICE vehicles? Most of you probably dont know that.

  10. The 2009 Chicago Auto Show, the first auto show that I had ever been to. It was like being in a candy store. Teenage me was overloaded with all of the awesome cars, and back then, Dodge was still on some crazy stuff with trying to pitch people on the Circuit EV.

    In 2011, I was invited to personally meet the president of Smart USA at Smart’s display in Chicago. Apparently, Smart USA was cooking up a marketing campaign about fulfilling dreams, and I was going to be a part of it. I chickened out because I was afraid to skip school. The marketing campaign also never happened, as MB USA took over Smart USA that same year…

    I should have known that I would end up going to shows as a job later on. 🙂

  11. My favorite auto show memory is easily NYC auto show in 2019. I grew up in PA, about a 2 hour bus ride from NYC and would take the bus out to the show every year. In 2015 I graduated college and moved out to the Detroit area for work and while I liked the NYC show, I didn’t like it enough to make the trip there from Michigan.

    2019 was the 50th anniversary of the GT-R and to celebrate, Nissan went all in on their booth that year by bringing over a bunch of historically significant GT-Rs. They had the C110 Kenmeri GT-R works car that was shown at the 72 Tokyo Auto show but was never raced due to the 70s oil crisis, one of the Group A Calsonic R32 GT-Rs, a new GT-R50 (they look much better in person), the first production spec R35 GT-R from the reveal at the 07 Tokyo Auto show, and most importantly the R33 GT-R LM. The LM was even up on a lift so you could go stand underneath it.

    As much as it pained me, I wasn’t expecting to be able to go to the show that year but then my parents called me and dropped a bombshell right before the show opened to the public. My dad had accepted a job that required them to move and they wanted me to come home and clean junk out of my old bedroom. I realized that if I flew home that weekend, I’d have time to head out to the auto show for one day so I used a personal day at work and booked a plane ticket ASAP.

    I took the early bus to NYC the day I went so I’d be at the convention center right when the show opened. I got my ticket and power walked my way straight to the Nissan booth before it got crowded. First thing I did was get underneath that R33 and boy, you can really tell that they just threw that together quick to meet Le Mans homologation requirements and never intended it to actually be used for anything. There’s quite a lot of hackjob-ery going on under there. After the Nissan person finished up their presentation that I hardly paid attention to because I was busy taking pictures of the lousy welds and open ports where driveshafts used to be on the R33, they handed out little golden Godzilla toys for the occasion. Hands down the best booth I’ve ever been to at an auto show.

    Fun fact: in 2018 I went to Tokyo on vacation and they had the works Kenmeri out on display at the Nissan Crossing in Ginza so I can say that I’ve seen that car on display on two different continents.

  12. I grew up going to the LA show, looked forward to it every January (you know, before the date move).

    I think my best memory is being 5 or 6 and my dad hoisting me into the driver seat of a Nissan Hardbody off road truck through the window. Were you allowed to sit in that one? Probably not, but he didn’t care.

  13. Early 1920s (1971?), NYC at the Coliseum still. The Kirk White “Cannonball” Ferrari Daytona outside, the Modulo and 512S concepts inside, along with the introduction of the 365 GTC/4.

    I was 16, and madly in love with Ferrari, and ultimately, NYC. I moved there in 1979 and went to every Auto Show through 2014 before I retired and left.

    And yes, auto shows are important: I sat in dozens of cars at that last show because I knew I was going to need to buy one at my new home. I was totally sold on what I bought and still have over 8 years later (see profile pic for my Fit).

  14. Not one specific memory, but it was a tradition in my family since I was very young that my dad, my grandpa, and I would all go to the Cleveland Auto Show in the I-X Center. We’d get breakfast at Bob Evan’s before the show, get as much swag as we could at the show, check out all the new cars, and share what our favorites were on the way back home. We even came up with the FDH or Funky Drink Holder award (Saab won that a lot). We started bringing my brother when he was old enough and the tradition continued with very few interruptions or deviations (we did the Pittsburgh show once or twice). COVID obviously changed things. And my grandpa passed two years ago from complications caused by COVID. We haven’t been to one since the 2020 show. The future of the tradition is as uncertain as the future of auto shows in general.

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