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The 2009 LA Auto Show: Shocking New Cars

December 9, 2009

Winter’s here, and with it comes torrential rains, mudslides, and temperatures in the 30s – frigid by LA standards. But there’s also something to look forward to when the beginning of winter rolls around, even for bike/transit boosters like me: the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Once inside, after a guilt trip from petitioners trying to keep Toyota from laying people of in Fremont, the first thing I came across was a SoCal Edison contingent, plugging a new metering system they were rolling out specifically for electric cars. I took a survey with them and got a free bag, not the sturdiest bag I’ve ever had but it should work to hold a few energy saving bulbs.

There was plenty of standard issue car show material: extravagant displays, expensive cars that most attendees couldn’t afford but were convinced they wanted, and plenty of overbearing representatives. Were it not for the strong showing of electric and green cars, I would have found the convention thoroughly nauseating. I suppose I can be proud that, though my hometown is more car-oriented than I’d like, at least we supply an audience that is genuinely interested in environmentally friendly cars.

A quick look at the display for the European-made Smart Car reveals the difficulty of marketing this plucky little vehicle in the land of Wal-Mart Megastores and Big Macs. An LCD screen displayed the company’s rather defensive logo in a slick font: “Do you need vast spaces to feel safe?” Silly Europeans, this is America! We insist on vast spaces, not only in our vehicles but in our suburbs and around our waistlines. I personally would love to see my countrymen (and countrywomen) abandon their consumptive ways and start driving Smarts – think of all the extra parking we’d have. But alas, that seems as unlikely as ever. I overheard a concerned father instructing his five year old son that the Smart was terribly unsafe; when the young tyke was older, he was only permitted to buy 15mpg or less Ford F450s, a truck which incidentally could fit three Smarts in its bed.

Next up was a significantly dumber car: the new Jeep. Being a rugged offroad vehicle, the Jeep was accompanied by a hostess who looked like every country singer I’ve ever seen. But judging from the Jeep’s outlandish moon-buggy look, it could have just as easily been hosted by Buzz Aldrin.

Toyota had garnered a very eco-friendly reputation earlier in this decade with its groundbreaking Prius hybrid car. But the environmentally friendly entries from Toyota were surprisingly absent this year. All I could find was this gas-guzzling Lexus, painted to look its fast-and-furiest:

Honda also has a solid environmental reputation, and it furthers that reputation nicely with its newest car, the P-NUT (personal neo urban transport). The car could be powered by either a gas, electric, or hybrid motor, and is one of the few cars with a steering wheel stolen from a fighter jet yoke. Much as I appreciate the low emissions and the idea of “urban transport”, the front of the car unfortunately looks a bit too much like the stormtroopers from Star Wars.

My personal favorite of the show was the iMiEV. With a Russian-looking name like that, one could easily imagine it as a communist-produced junker. But not at all, it’s a sleek new Smart-like electric car. The “MiEV” part stands for “Mitsubishi Electronic Vehicle”, my best guess is that the “i” is simply an appeal to futuristic techno-chic, as in “iPhone” or ” I, Robot”.

The best part: a plug instead of a gas tank.

Finally, the star of the show. In case you were wondering where your GM bailout money went, here it is: the Chevy Volt Dancers!

It was clear that Chevy knew their target demographic well. The music to which these guys danced featured a folksy acoustic guitar and a female vocalist giving her best Jenny Lewis impersonation.

The dude wasn’t much of a guitarist, perhaps another billion from the Obama administration would have cleared that up. But they could all dance like crazy, which was a damn good thing, because it distracted the audience from lyrics like:

E for electricity,
V for Chevy Volt, you see?
Chevy Volt is on its way,
It just might save the world someday!

The dancers cleared off, and an irritatingly pleasant hostess took the stage to explain the car. She was immaculately dressed but wore leather boots, cuz y’know, the Volt is kinda edgy.

Despite being an easy target for sarcastic jabs, the Volt is a solid entry into the fuel efficient market by a company better known for making sports cars and SUVs. Unlike a traditional hybrid, it can charge at an outlet and run up to forty miles without burning gas. After that, the gas engine kicks in.

The hype, festivity, and unnecessary noise generated by the car show will probably wear off soon. But hopefully, we’ll see these new environment and city friendly cars rolling soon – if we’re really lucky, we’ll get some new trains rolling at the same time too.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2009 2:55 am

    Hi,

    I’m just getting started with my new blog. Would you want to exchange links on our blog-rolls?

    BTW – I’m up to about 100 visitors per day.

  2. October 29, 2010 9:54 am

    i love new cars specially those prototype ones that have some out of this world feature,-‘

  3. November 17, 2010 12:49 pm

    the new cars these year looks very streamlined and very stylish, i wonder what the new cars next year would look like -~”

  4. June 1, 2013 1:16 am

    These all cars are beautiful and amazing. I think that these cars will be seen on the road after a very short time. It will be a great experience for me to see when this happen.

  5. December 30, 2013 3:29 pm

    Are the eco carriers that reliable? I heard about several cases where parents were
    dropping the youngster while using the carrier, not convinced if that is the families fault though.

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