By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. The New York Auto Show, if nothing else, signals that spring is nigh, or something like that. With the L.A. Auto Show a distant memory, the Detroit Auto Show harboring lingering resentment and bitter disappointment for those who missed a golden opportunity to do better and the Chicago and Geneva shows duly noted, the New York Auto Show – though smack in the middle of one of the most hostile environments for automobiles on the face of the earth – is a harbinger of better times ahead for the industry, or at the very least better weather.
I’m not suggesting that the people who attend the show or the auto enthusiasts who reside in the New York area don’t enjoy the show and love their cars as much as anyone, because as I noted a year ago, they most definitely do. As a matter of fact I consider them to be some of the most committed auto enthusiasts in the world, just because of the mere fact that they have to enjoy their passion while negotiating some of the meanest of mean streets in the land.
But after attending myriad auto shows over the years, I must say that I’ve refined my carry-in gear to a few carefully developed essentials. I’m not talking about the usual array of electronic devices, because those items are a given and everyone has their individual preference. No, I’m talking about an elaborate array of devices that I have honed over the years, to the point where I can finally talk about them – sort of like allowing AE readers access to classified files that haven’t been declassified as of yet. So, here we go…
1. The Autoextremist Bullshit Detector. Yes, it’s the much-whispered-about, often-rumored, highly secretive and devastatingly effective micro-sized device that is embedded in an undisclosed location on my person. It could be in the lapel of my jacket, it could be in the frame of my glasses, or – as often rumored – it just might be a chip that has been inserted in my brain. I will never tell, but I can assure you that it is very much present and accounted for.
Featuring two settings – one for unmitigated and the other for unforgivable – it allows me to detect half-baked, delusional and certifiable crazy-town executive speeches from 50 yards away.
In the beginning, long ago and in a galaxy far, far away, when a sense of optimism for the industry still floated in the air like a warm spring breeze, the detector was much more forgiving, with a measure of slack built in that made allowances for the rookies, the relentlessly challenged and the simply overmatched. It even had a special setting for German car company executives, who exist in a parallel universe all their own.
Now? It operates with the precision akin to our most sophisticated unmanned aircraft. Laser-focused and able to detect the worst offenders from across a show floor, the AE Bullshit Detector blows up at a typical auto show like a Teen Queen’s phone after a bad romance. And it’s easy to see why, what with industry executives rumbling, bumbling and stumbling their way through fanciful, delusional speeches filled with hubris and wrapped around promises that can’t possibly be kept.
2. The Autoextremist Smarm Meter. A developmental offshoot of the AE Bullshit detector, the Smarm Meter has unique capabilities and sensitivity settings that can differentiate between a car company executive who has simply gone off the rails, and an Amway meeting. Smarminess happens to be a virulent strain of behavior at most auto industry gatherings, but at an auto show it is particularly cringe worthy.
As industry executives and their attendant entourages work the show floor in a backslapping frenzy made up of equal parts hubris and self-aggrandizement, you can almost see the smarm-generated haze trail behind them. It’s usually most apparent when an industry executive is enthusiastically regaling the media with all of the darn good things happening at his or her company, sounding for all the world like a game show host while everyone in the room knows their Belchfire-8 sales are clearly in the tank.
And unfortunately, as most people in this business know, there really is no antidote for it either. It’s like an intransigent fog that settles over the proceedings like a heavy wool coat caught in the rain.
3. The Autoextremist Asshole Repellant (spray, cream & lotion). No, not an electronic device, but we have developed this product by mutating strains of agave nectar and blending them with a trace of Knob Creek. We don’t pretend it can eradicate the rampant asshole-ism awash in the automotive world, but it can render an offender senseless with just a handshake. Formulated for backstabbing PR weasels, smarmy, start-up company self-promoters, the legions of hubris-fueled executives roaming the show floor and particularly effective against blatant assholes masquerading as Important Auto Journalists, the AE Asshole Repellant offers a welcome respite from the organized cacophony that makes up a modern day auto show.
4. The Autoextremist Time Compactor. We take particular pride in this device because it amazingly shrinks interminable 27-minute auto industry press conferences down to cogent 3-minute sound bites delivered right to our smart phone. The AE Time Compactor conveniently eliminates the over-zealous industry prognostications, the blatantly optimistic sales figures, the endless drivel about "It’s a new day at (insert car company name here)," while removing the bullshit and the relentless smarminess for good measure. Indeed, a handy tool if there ever was one.
Now, for all of you out there interested in obtaining any or all of these devices/products, let me just say I’ve been begged, pleaded with and cajoled, but they’re simply not for sale.
As we like to say around here, they’re simply “unobtanium.”
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week. (And oh by the way, happy next Monday.)