Monday, January 16, 2012

Adventures in Detroit: North American International Auto Show 2012

Every January, the North American International Auto Show descends on downtown Detroit, Michigan. It had been thirteen years since we'd been there, so we decided to check out the fun this year, even though the weather had turned iffy--temperatures in the low twenties with a light snow falling.
Yep, that's me in a Jeep Rubicon! Photo courtesy of ChryslerGroup
The drive in was uneventful, until we tried to find parking near the Cobo Center. My husband and I played a round of, "Oh, there's a parking garage--whoops, you just missed it," and proceeded to perform a series of legal U-turns until we landed in a garage. Then we repeated the parking space number until we were fairly certain we would indeed find the spot upon our return.

Our garage offered a free shuttle bus (an old schoolbus painted red) to the event, so we hopped on and enjoyed a quick trip to the entrance.

Inside, swarms--and I mean swarms--of people merged onto the escalator leading to the main floor. We purchased our tickets, waited in a hefty line for the restrooms, and entered the show.

The first thing you notice, besides the overwhelming amount of people in attendance, is the sheer size of the auto show. We entered into the Mercedes Benz exhibit, and after oohing and ahhing over the luxury vehicles, decided to move toward the back to avoid the bulk of the crowds.

The show is all in one room but each automaker has its own unique space. They go all out on their displays--some with carpeting, others with laminate flooring, and still others with glass-like tiles--to highlight their vehicles. They also used different levels of lighting--some fairly blinded, while others provided ambience--and some featured frenetic, loud dance music, while others employed silence.

Our favorite areas were Ford, Lincoln, Porsche, Dodge, Jeep, Volkswagon, and BMW. Ford and Lincoln in particular exceeded my expectations in giving show-goers the wow factor. Ford offered simulated rides, roped off an area for attendees to watch workers build an engine, and hoisted the new Raptor truck's frame off its body. Ford provided plastic cards (like a credit card) to register and save information on any vehicle you were interested in.

Lincoln screamed luxury. The space relaxed and soothed, and the materials used in the display reminded me of an expensive showroom. They also built rooms to display the benefits of owning one of their vehicles. In one room, you could get inside one of their cars to witness the noise-reducing effects of their design.

We liked Dodge for their innovative trucks, Jeep, because, well, it's Jeep!, Volkswagon because of the disco ball and dance club atmosphere, and BMW because they had a really cool concept car.

Of the concept cars, our family also enjoyed GM's Camaro--the matchbox version--in a flourescent green. It looked cool! For regular vehicles, I loved the Dodge Ram Longhorn truck. The leather seats had embroidered stitching reminiscent of a saddle, and the entire truck was so decadent and big, I couldn't help but want it. Made me want to go out and buy a pair of cowboy boots, too!

Hours later, with aching feet, we said goodbye to the visual feast and made our way to the entrance where we'd originally arrived. Shuttle busses for hotels lined the front, but gone were the busses leading to the parking garages. The temperature had dropped considerably, night darkened the sky, and more snow had fallen, leaving the streets icy.

We asked a security guard about a shuttle, and while friendly, he couldn't give us clear direction on if or when a bus would be able to take us to our garage. A group of college kids started walking in that general direction and we decided to join them, knowing our garage was less than four blocks away. There's safety in numbers. However, we'd forgotten about the long tunnel on the way. So we hiked under a creepy, creepy tunnel with one foot of sidewalk--I felt like I was in a horror movie--and prayed we'd survive. The lack of sidewalks on the street (under construction) didn't help. Finally, we emerged and saw the garage. None too soon, I might add.

Minutes later, back on the highway leading out of town, we watched an accident unfold several cars ahead of us. Like I said, the roads had turned icy, and another mile down the road was an even worse accident with fire trucks, police, and such.

Downtown Detroit has such a different feel from the rest of Detroit city. Minutes away from the glitzy casinos, pretty skyscrapers, and upscale hotels, you're confronted with reality. Much of the city is rundown and dangerous. In the street-lit dimness, we passed a gasoline refinery. The electrical lines looked like dusty cobwebs strung over a forgotten neighborhood. As the miles sped away, I was glad we spent the afternoon viewing the automobiles of today and tomorrow, and I couldn't help but hope the innovation we'd witnessed spread to the rest of the once vibrant streets we passed.

Have you ever been to an auto show? Do you, like me, think you want a ginormous truck even though you're slightly frightened of backing up a big vehicle, and you know you'd never find a good parking spot?

By the way, we learned from the radio that over 92,000 people attended on Saturday. No wonder we felt crowded!

Have a fantastic Monday!


  1. Wow, that sounds like quite the show! I've never been to an auto show but I have been to Detroit, and I noticed how different the downtown core was to the outskirts. A bit scary.

  2. I don't think I've attended a car show. Having a big truck would be so cool. I'd finally be able to see over the hood. As to backing up and parking, I'd handle that the same way I do now. I try not to get into situations where I have to back up a long distance, and I never parallel park. Ever.

  3. fun stuff, Jill! I've never been to an auto show...have attended a few boat shows and one RV show, but no cars. May have to check one out sometime.

  4. I've always been able to see myself driving a truck. I'm so not a car person though. I can't tell the difference between most and generally see cars as a way to get from here to there. (Prob. why mine is always so messy.)

    ~ Wendy

  5. My husband and mother-in-law went to the show while I stayed home and played "mail catch up" (such a FUN activity!) after being gone for 3 weeks. They said it was a much bigger extravaganza than last year's show--definitely a hopeful sign about higher expectations on the part of the auto industry for the year ahead. You look good in that Jeep, Jill. I, too, sometimes think it would be fun to own/drive a ginormous truck. Especially love to imagine my skinny furball of a cat riding shotgun! He loves a good ride in a car and he loves to sit up high so he can look out and "meow/talk" to all the people. Ha!

  6. Sounds like an eventful day! I have never gone to one before and it sounds interesting. I don't like parking garages at all. When my friend visited, we drove down into Austin and had to go around the blocks a few times to find one. It creeped me out returning there as the elevator was small and in it a strange man. I watch too many murder movies that take place in them.

  7. It's funny that I've never been to a car show - I love cars! I've always imagined myself tooling around in a Jeep Wrangler some day, despite the fact that they get horrendous gas mileage. They're perfect for this area: 4WD in the winter, convertible in the summer!

  8. Sounds like you had a good time looking around. Driving a truck would be fun but I agree that tight spaces and parking spots would be challenging. That's why I love my Ford Escape. It's technically an SUV but feels small enough for me to manage safely! :)

  9. I've never been to an auto show. Sounds interesting. My kids would love it.

  10. I went to the Chicago Auto Show when I was quite young. I remember the late great Walter Payton was there signing autographs and you couldn't get near him.

    Later on that day, my bff and I were looking at display, when I heard one of my brothers whisper to the other, "That's Walter Payton right there." I turned around and the Walter Payton was standing a few feet away from me with his body guards...there was no one else around. He was checking out the same car display.

    His body guard leaned over and said to me, "Would you like to meet Walter?" Stunned by the question, I managed a nod. My brothers nearly fell over each other as they followed right behind me. The body guard introduced us, and we shook Walter's hand. I think I said something silly like, "Go Bears!" I didn't think to ask for his autograph or take a picture. It happened so fast. It was just one of those great moments in time.

  11. Looks like you had a great time, Jill. I've been to vintage car shows, but not a big auto expedo like the one you and your family attended.

    The inclines, aggressive drivers, and weather in Colorado make me want to get a truck, but I know I wouldn't be able to manuever it into the teeny tiny parking spots.

  12. You look adorable in that Jeep. What a show. Sounds like you had lots of fun. Too bad about the nasty trip home, but I'm glad you made it out okay.

    I have never been to the Auto Show. The parking thing sounds like a real bummer.

  13. If you buy that Wrangler jeep, Jill, LLBean has a jacket that will match. (Mandarin Orange.) Jeeps are the coolest, in my book.

    Driving a truck is fun, but they can be challenging to get up and in when pregnant!!

    I hope, along with you, that all areas of your city will get healthy again. (Mine has it's own issues, as so many do.)

  14. Wish you all could see the big smile on my face at these comments! You brighten my day. :)

    Talli, it IS scary. The 'burbs are really nice and upscale, though. :)

    CJ: I hear you on the parallel parking. My girlfriend forced me to when we were downtown Ann Arbor one day--she claimed we'd been blessed by God with a spot on Main Street, but the experience took years off my life!

    Kristina: I love boat shows! And RV shows! And home shows... ;)

    Wendy: My husband always had a truck, until about 6 years ago. We miss our trucks. I loved tooling around in it. :)

    Patrice: I kept my eye out for your hubby, but with 92K people, I just didn't see him! Huh?? Your cat would have LOVED the Longhorn Ram truck. You need to get it. :)

    Terri: Eek! I'm not a fan of strange men lurking in parking garages. Scary!

    Ayda: I know. Jeeps are cool. The perfect MI/OH vehicle!

    Lacie: We really like the Escapes, too! But, warning you now, the 2013 model doesn't even look like one. We're not sure why they messed so much with the design.

    Susan: It's fun for all ages. Our kids had a great time!

    Loree: HOw cool is that?? It's always great to hear about celebrities taking the time to make someone's day. :)

    Brandi: You need a truck! You'd have a blast with one!

    Nancy: Aw, thanks! We have a rule about downtown Detroit--go to the event and get on the highway. No side roads!

    Patti: See--I could have the whole ensemble. Sold!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. Jill, I've never been to the Detroit show, but a smaller local show. It's cool to check them out and pick the vehicle you want (for fun). I think next year you should audition to be a "car girl." You looked awesome behind the wheel of the bright yellow Jeep!

  16. We go to the Chicago Auto Show almost every year, and it's always fun. Of course, Detroit is the BIG ONE. Glad you had a good time.

  17. Jenna: Ha! That's so funny! I told my daughter to keep her eyes open at who was running the mic's and such. She quickly realized only models in mini-skirts were running them!

    Annette: Ooo, I'll bet the Chicago show is a lot of fun! I'd love to get to that one someday!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  18. You mean there are safe parts of Detroit? lol When I think Detroit, I think factories.
    Cute pic of you. :-) I've never been to a car show. It sounds a little crazy! lol


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