New York Auto Show, I Love You
Among auto shows, New York was once a nobody. Now it's too exciting to miss.
Back then, I knew the show was pretty unimportant next to Detroit or Los Angeles, and certainly nonexistent compared with Geneva and Frankfurt. The debuts and concepts paled next to those shows. I never, ever read about New York in my four car magazines. But for me, it sure beat the dim fluorescent lighting and bored salesmen at the world-renowned New Haven Auto Show.
New York City, though, has a way of transforming ordinary events into something amazing. Entering Manhattan on the West Side Highway, the George Washington bridge towering over the Hudson River, and passing the USS Intrepid in a sea of yellow cabs was better than stepping inside the Jacob Javits Center. The city, not the show, was the overwhelming star every April. After all, by the time you could find a decent unlocked car -- and there were few -- someone had already stolen the gearshift knob. Grabbing dinner with my parents on Restaurant Row was the day’s highlight.
Needless to say, after a few consecutive visits, I stopped attending the show for about seven years. I didn't miss it. I did pine -- madly -- for the city.
While I live in Boston and pay no allegiance to a sports team, I can say this loud and clear: New York is the best city in the entire world. That’s a fact. It doesn’t make me want to move there and pay New York's outrageous rents and insane toll charges, but it’s a badge of honor to live just four hours north. To outsiders, it’s an almost mythical place. (My late grandmother, born and raised in Brooklyn, told me real New Yorkers only carried fifties and hundreds in their wallets. I still believe her.)
Only in the past few years has New York begun to host a serious auto show, and now it’s a major world stop on every auto executive’s calendar. Considering New York’s symbolic appetite for wealth, power and luxury, I never understood why it took the auto show so long to get respect. Somehow, finally, New York has an auto show as big and bright as Manhattan itself.
Just look at this year’s critical all-new debuts: Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon and Lexus ES. For top marketing brass to choose New York as the launch pad for these popular, high-volume models, it's clear the show means business. These big sellers are even more important to the industry's success than the high-performance baubles draped on the rest of the show floor, like the BMW M6 Convertible, Mercedes-Benz SL65 and new Viper.
If you’re lucky to get invited to one of a dozen automaker media parties -- usually in some random, super-chic loft in the Meatpacking District -- you’ll see the industry in true New York VIP form, a style otherwise known as "getting drunk on a Wednesday." And somehow, at the end of a long day of elaborate press conferences, deadlines and endless photography, it feels perfectly normal to sip a cocktail next to Megan Fox.
This year, I’m stowing my Nikon SLR, since everyone else seems to have two on their shoulders, and sticking to a more freewheeling script. I’ll interview a bunch of important executives, eat lunch with my colleagues in a Chevy Volt and lose my phone in a Porsche 911 like I did last year. The best part? I don’t feel jaded as an all-access, card-carrying journalist. I’m just as excited to enter New York City and gawk at the cars now as I was at 13, and when I published an article about it in my local paper -- my first-ever automotive story -- at 16.
Keep reading this space next week on MSN Autos, and we’ll be amazed together.
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