Here’s what a tech writer found wandering around the North American International Auto Show for a second straight day:
* Hey, I made a movie! Well, actually, I didn’t make a movie at all, CBS Detroit Web producer George Fox did all the work, all I did was play the talking head. Anyway, it’s about one particularly interesting piece of Auto Show technology, the Nissan display. You can watch it at this link.
* Good heavens, I can’t believe they start this thing at 7 a.m. Maybe it’s just the advantage of the time change when you travel westward, but it seems like the Consumer Electronics Show starts at a much more civilized time in the morning. No wonder the West Coast writers say such mean things about Detroit, for them this shindig starts at the effective hour of 4 a.m.!
* The Volkswagen exhibit is always so brightly lit I feel like I’m in a Stanley Kubrick movie. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if I tried to turn on one of the cars and it said, “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” But I still want a Jetta Sport Wagon TDI clean diesel. And my wife has her Ford Fusion coming off lease in March. Hmmm…. buy American? — as I have since 1992, when I gave up what I ruefully admit was a great vehicle, a Toyota pickup like the one Marty McFly lusted after in “Back To The Future” — or support a loyal WWJ advertiser, the new LaFontaine VW dealership in Dearborn, about 30 seconds from my house? Tough to decide. Heck, my wife’s Ford Fusion is assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico, for Pete’s sake.
* The new NAIAS media center in the basement of Cobo Center is bigger and nicer than anything at CES. These auto writers have no idea how spoiled they are. They even set out a really nice lunch — several different kinds of high quality box lunches, or a Pure Michigan sampler of a slider and a coney dog. (To be fair, the CES people also set out a nice lunch. But the media rooms at CES are way smaller and more crowded than NAIAS.)
* When it comes to a big vehicle, you can pay now or pay later. Hybrid versions of big cars and trucks still carry a stiff price tag, but if you drive a lot, you’ll break even. Small cars, meanwhile, are getting amazing MPG even without electrification, with 40 mpg the new 30.
* Chevrolet had tons of cool stuff on display. Not just the new Corvette Stingray, but a Hot Wheels version of the still-new Camaro, and a new all-electric minicar, the Spark, that execs say will beat the Nissan Leaf in range. And then there’s my new favorite family hauler, the 2014 Impala. Watch out Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and all those other midsize cars. The new Impala is gorgeous, will get about 25 mpg city and north of 30 mpg highway, and will run you about $27,000. It’s got amazing seating room — the front seat will go back far enough to make a giant comfortable, and even with the front seats all the way back, my knees were not touching the front seat when I sat in the back. And the trunk was huge! Coolest tech feature — the video screen in the center console rises up to reveal a hidden cubbyhole for your iPhone or iPod.
* While you’re at the Auto Show, be sure to stop downstairs near the green car ride-and-drive and visit the display of Ecojiva Solar Installation Co. The company is demonstrating its solar canopy, a carport with solar cells on top that can charge your electric car and provide part of your home electric needs, too. The canopy will run you about $19,000 after federal rebates and tax breaks. And yes, it works just fine even in a relatively cloudy climate like Michigan’s. Ecojiva president and CEO Sridhar K. Ayer says the company is targeting both the residential and commercial markets. More at www.ecojiva.com.