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Detroit 2013: 7 odd observations from the show floor

From black seatbelt buttons to Bentleys with hashtags, here are some important observations other news outlets may have missed.

By Clifford Atiyeh Jan 14, 2013 12:19PM
At auto shows, there is lots to see and little time to see it all. That's why, in the midst of our extensive coverage of the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, we've gathered a few odds and ends worth noting and nagging.

Anything we missed? We know you like to complain as much as we do.

Tired of matte paint

Matte paint looks cool on the show floor thanks to the flood of perfectly positioned spotlights. But on the street, these $4,000-plus jobs look dull and unfinished. At first, it was shocking to see the German luxury brands offer factory matte finishes, but since the Hyundai Veloster Turbo offered it last year, we're getting really tired of it. Who wants to pay more for paint that can't be polished and is extremely sensitive to dirt, bird droppings and other debris? Not us.

Bentley hashtags

Bentley printed Twitter hashtags for its promotional license plates, which may spring a sale or two for potential celebrity customers with too much time to kill. But mostly, it'll  excite high-schoolers and tweens in between the next hundredth tweet from Justin Bieber.

Who spilled orange juice in the Z4?

This Z4 is awful. The lower dash panels look like orange peels. Just look at it. Now look away.

Tesla's seatbelt buttons are black

What, didn't federal regulations explicitly demand red seatbelt-release buttons? No, in fact. The Tesla Model S hides them in black. Very slick.

The price is smart, the interior is not

The smart fortwo electric drive costs $25,000 before tax incentives, making it the most affordable EV on sale. It's also the only EV available as a convertible. This is a good move. An early run of smart EDs, which were leased to 250 people in the U.S., cost the equivalent of $31,000. The only bad part is the hollow plastic trim covering the flimsy stalks and the chintzy shifter. Even though this is Daimler's baby and has the strongest body shell of any subcompact, the smart ED needs some polish to be taken seriously.

Mowing you down, one electric truck at a time

This is America, and we don't give a damn about pedestrians obstructing the path of our lifted pickup trucks. Via Motors, a new EV company spearheaded by former GM Chairman Bob Lutz, has a truck in Detroit that stands as tall as my neck -- and I'm 5-foot-11. The front end is so flat and tall that it belongs on rails pushing a locomotive, but in reality, it'll end up in a parking lot in southern Texas. Of course, U.S. trucks are not sold in Europe and aren't designed with the Continent's stringent pedestrian crash standards in mind.

One Porsche surrounded by poseurs

We know the manual transmission is dying in the United States. We know Ferrari stopped selling them entirely and that most young drivers don't know what they are. But that's no excuse for Porsche to show five of its premier sports cars with only one of them carrying a stick shift. Apparently no one agrees with me, as 1 in 5 is roughly the ratio of buyers who'll order a Porsche with a manual. Plus, Porsche automatics command anywhere from $3,200 to $4,080 more, depending on the model. I'm outnumbered and don't like it.

Jan 17, 2013 11:15AM
"Ever heard of an auto manual tranny?"

Yeah, the Buick has that too. It is horrible. Slow, sluggish, there is no clutch.

And my "favorite" part:

Jan 15, 2013 7:00AM
"Even though this is Daimler's baby and has the strongest body shell of any subcompact, the smart ED needs some polish to be taken seriously."

Let us not be spoiled Americans and live up to the stereotype. The Smart car was designed to be a practical, small city car for densely packed European megalopolises and tight parking spaces, not as a "look at me, I'm a primitive showing off!" vehicle.
Jan 15, 2013 7:04AM
"Apparently no one agrees with me, as 1 in 5 is roughly the ratio of buyers who'll order a Porsche with a manual."

"One in five" is 20% of the buyers.

It makes no sense to buy a high performance, expensive piece of machinery and not have it have a manual transmission. One might as well buy a Buick or some other "autoblandbox", the outcome will be the same! Even Buick has the GS turbo model (courtesy of Opel performance center) with a six speed manual transmission, what does that say about Porsche?
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