The big difference between the New York International Auto Show and a regular old car show is that the whole point of the NYIAS is to sell journalists on new cars so that they can sell the public. Everything is designed specifically to convince attendees that this year is the year for the most glorious, powerful, efficient, speedy, green, opposite-sex-attracting cars everywhere. Because of that, advertising trends tend to emerge. Auto show memes, if you will, that every manufacturer seems to employ in order to push a brand new SUV onto Joe Six-Pack. Check out part one of my guide for the introduction to the show, but today I’m looking at the rules each car maker follows to make themselves seem hip, sexy, and with it.
If you don’t make an electric car, you suck
The biggest theme at the NY Auto Show this year seemed to be the continual optimism surrounding electric cars. Every company had one, and a small test track was set up in the “EV Pavilion,” aka an electric vehicle ghetto hidden away in the back corner of the bottom floor of the show.
Have your EV fear allayed by letting someone else drive you around at five miles an hour! Whee!
Somebody’s restarted production of DeLoreans, which, before Back to the Future, were known as a heavy steel underpowered car made by a coke dealer. Now they’re electric!
But despite some new electronic gear, they still have the same 80s interior styling. Ew.
But did I mention it’s electric! According to a release, its range is over 100 miles of “city driving.” Top speed: 125 mph!
The Chevy Volt is an image car: great for GM to advertise, but they haven’t sold well. It’s a plug-in hybrid, which means it has an extra-large battery pack so you can drive battery-only for awhile before the back-up gas engine kicks in. They sometimes catch on fire.
Toyota, which has long dominated the hybrid market, has also made a plug-in hybrid. We’ve gone from filling up a tank in five minutes and driving for hundreds of miles to letting a car charge for hours before driving tens of miles before reverting back to the gas engine we started with. Progress!
Nissan’s Leaf has done relatively well. It came out around the same time as the Volt, and won the ad war early on because it’s a real electric car. No gas back-up for this puppy! (Also, it’s only zero emission if you don’t count that the energy you use to charge it likely came from a coal power plant.)
Now Ford’s jumped in the game with the Focus. It gets 100+ MPGe, which is the EPA’s way of comparing an electric car’s mileage to a regular old gas car. The number is always insanely high, partly because the power plants that provide electricity use fossil fuels more efficiently than cars, and partly because MPGe is dumb.
This is Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV. It’s a cheap, simple, light electric car. No Americans will buy it because it has roller skate wheels, cloth seats, and it’s small.
This is Mitsu’s i-MiEV Smart Air Concept. It apparently quick charges to 80% in just 35 minutes, and was my girlfriend’s favorite car of the show. It looks like it’s going backwards, but I thought it was a pretty cool-looking city car.
It also had a number of cool touches, like this photovoltaic smile in the front. I actually dug the concept a lot, but it’s small, so it won’t succeed in the U.S.
BMW really went for the gusto with the i8 (also pictured above). I’m sure it has tons of batshit crazy specs, but when it’s got glass flanks, you know it will never be produced. But still, I applaud BMW for building a concept car that’s actually kind of crazy.
sports cars must be sexy
Sports cars are loud, impractical, and inefficient. Or so they used to be, these days they’re much better. But the reason someone buys a sports car is because they want to get laid. Ergo, sports cars are all about sexiness. Exhibit A: That hump in the hood hiding this M3’s 4.0L V8 is called a “power bulge.” Really.
This is Lamborghini’s new model, the Aventador. Lamborghini has always been the in-your-face, brutal dominatrix of the supercar world. The company also names all of its cars after famous bulls from bullfighting lore.
Look at how much rake the windshield has. It’s almost flat. The whole car exudes a BDSM vibe that makes you tingle in weird places, and that’s just sitting still. Wow.
The Bugatti Veyron has been around for a lot of years now, but because R&D costs are so high, even a $1.7 million price tag wasn’t enough to keep Bugatti (owned by Volkswagen) from losing money on every one sold. If you think that price tag is high, the maintenance costs are insane. Imagine paying $70,000 for a tire change that first require you to ship your car to France.
The Veyron has also come in a number of special editions, which are a common move by hypercar manufacturers to suck more money out of people who want the most exclusive of the exclusive. This one is a Blanc Noir. My girl said it looked like a slut. Not sure why, but I kinda get it.
This is the Jaguar XKR-S. All those letters mean it’s an extra-special sports model. I don’t care about that though, I just think that it is one hot fucking car. Not joking: I dreamt about it the other night.
This Jaguar E-Type is the spiritual predecessor to the XK-R. It’s basically one giant rolling penis. (If you remember that Family Guy in-out bit, or any other phallic car joke, they were referring to the E-Type.) It’s one of the more gorgeous cars ever, although I don’t like that the guy who owns it put modern large wheels on there.
The Dodge (now split off into SRT, like Ram) was gone for a couple years, but it’s back and more swoopy than ever. The Viper was always a brutal car, powered by an equally brutal 8.4L V10 truck engine. The new edition has been sexed up with some very feminine headlights.
This Kia GT concept was the car of the show for me. Imagine me saying that about a Kia! But look at this thing: curvy, vented, carbon fiber everywhere (the blades on the wheels were a nice touch.) It’s lovely!
It’s got a real purdy mouth and all that. But seriously. It’s a Kia!
race cars legitimatize everything
Someone once said “If you want to make a small fortune in racing, start with a large one.” It’s true: racing is absurdly expensive, but companies sponsor race cars because showing off incredible feats of speed and engineering helps sell pedestrian cars to the masses. Here’s the new racing version of the Viper. Race cars rules because they’re cars, but more so.
Lotus is a British car company that has always known for founder Colin Chapman’s uncompromising quest for lightness. (Back in the 70s, that quest turned dangerous when his Formula 1 cars traded safety for speed.) Now, with Chapman long dead, Lotuses are getting more mainstream, with more computers, comforts, and weight. But this Evora GT3 is a great attempt at showing folks Lotus still has it!
Porsche had this legendary 917 on hand. It’s a beautiful, streamlined racer from the heyday of Le Mans. Did I mention that it’s beautiful? My knees were shaking I was so excited. Hell, I was so excited I was about ready to go buy a Porsche SUV! The ploy worked!
The 917 is powered by a flat-12 engine. So rather than the pistons going up and down like in an inline or vee engine, the pistons move side to side. It helps lower a car’s center of gravity, and is a Porsche (and Subaru) hallmark.
The Mazda RX-8 doesn’t even use pistons, it’s powered by a rotary engine, which essentially utilizes spinning triangles. This was a great example of a sports racer that’s actually built to look like a regular car.
This Dodge Dart, driven by Travis Pastrana, also looks like the street version. This one’s a bit different though; it’s all-wheel drive and has 600 horsepower, while the street car is front wheel drive and has a third the power. But even if they’re nothing alike, you see videos of this bad-ass thing sliding around in dirt and think “Holy shit! I need a Dart!”
This Honda Indy car was a particularly egregious example of race cars being used to sell lesser things. If you squint in the background, the Honda products being showcased near this streamlined bullet were a dirtbike and lawnmower engines.
Toyota knows what its doing. Near its truck section, it had this NASCAR Camry. It, of course, has NOTHING in common with a real, boring-ass Camry, but being in NASCAR helps Toyota keep it real with the truck-buying segment of America.
Unlike all the other cars out there, NASCAR rides are pretty freaking basic. Not even a GPS!
On the other hand, this Lotus F1 car in the Pirelli booth is anything but lo-tech. With the amount of R&D put into these things, each car costs tens of millions of dollars. Look at how many buttons are on the steering wheel! That alone can cost $50,000 or more. This car is sponsored by a deodorant company, by the way.
The Infiniti booth had this Red Bull/Renault F1 car. Red Bull won the F1 manufacturer’s championship and driver’s championships last year, largely because this car was way better than everyone else’s. Infiniti actually doesn’t have much influence over the car. But Renault builds the engines, and Renault owns Nissan which owns Infiniti, so someone somewhere thought Infiniti should be the brand on the car.
Never make a taxi
Here’s Nissan taxi, which will be replacing the fleet of NYC cabs. A lot of people aren’t happy about it at all, for millions of reasons, including the fact that Iran builds copies of Nissan cars. (Really.)
This is the interior. Notice the USB chargers. The floor is lit and puke-proof.
This VRG MV-1 taxi was also present. Another issue with the Nissan taxi is that it really has no accommodations for folks
The MV-1 is the apparent answer, with a spacious interior. I just like that it looks like it might have been in Blade Runner.
Stay tuned for Part Three of Motherboard’s auto show guide tomorrow.
Follow Derek Mead on Twitter: @drderekmead.