I venture to say that a day spent around (and in) shiny, colorful, beautiful new cars is enough to put a smile on most people’s faces. I know that I had a great time last last week when I was invited by General Motors to attend the Chicago Auto Show as a part of Social Media Day (Kudos to the organizers of the Chicago Auto Show, by the way, for recognizing the power of social media!).
I had some great experiences and learned some interesting things there, starting with what I heard during our breakfast. The room was full of us social media types as well as Chevy Volt owners, who General Motors had also invited as special guests for the day. These people, like every General Motors employee I’ve personally run into (and by “run into”, I mean “spoken to”, of course), is filled to overflow with passion for these cars. In fact, GM Communications Manager Connie Burke of General Motors (who I will now be referring to as “The Queen of All Media”) told me that the breakfast location was originally a smaller room, but so many of the Volt owners responded with a “Yes, I’m coming!” to their invitation that they had to upgrade to a larger room. I was incredibly impressed that one of the Volt owners said he had driven his car (which is a plug-in electric vehicle: you can drive about 35 miles on a charge before needing to switch to the gas tank, making it perfect for city drivers) for 9200 miles and had only needed five gallons of gas!
After the breakfast, we headed upstairs to the show, which is massive. It happens to be the largest auto show in North America (one million square feet of exhibit space!), which is one reason why I really wish I had worn more comfortable shoes, but that’s another post for another day.
We started off learning about the GMC Acadia and the Acadia Denali, restyled for 2013 and still containing some fantastic family-friendly features like extra cupholders, extra storage, and access to the DVD player from the rear seats for those families who have older kids. The Acadia also scores an industry first with front center air bags, which protect passengers during a far-side impact crash.
After spending about ten minutes in the GMC area, there was a HUGE surprise. We would not be taking a guided tour of the rest of the General Motors brands: we would spend the next hour touring OTHER brands.
That’s right: you heard me. (Er, you read me.)
THAT is how passionate the folks at GM are about their products: they aren’t worried about the competition. And if you think that GM took us around the auto show, disrespecting every other brand out there, you couldn’t be more wrong. They talked about the great things their competitors are introducing, objectively and in great detail. I was fascinated.
I saw some cars I loved (Hello, Hyundai Genesis Coupe!) and some cars I had previously loved but didn’t connect with this time around (The BMW 3-series vehicles now have “angry faces”, and if you’re a long-time reader you know I can’t get over that. Click here to read about it.). When our tour was done, we were released to enjoy the show however we wanted to; I went back to the General Motors brands with a couple of friends to spend some quality time.
If money were no object whatsoever, I would purchase the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Jim. How sweet is THIS??
I drove the Chevy Cruze and the Chevy Sonic for a week each in 2011, and I really liked them very much: they are fun to drive. That’s why I was particularly excited to see the 2013 Chevrolet Spark at the show: it’s an adorable mini car, a five-door hatchback, which seats four and comes in bright, FUN colors. I am on the edge of my seat waiting for this car to be released later this year and can’t wait to check it out from behind the wheel.
My friends and I spoke with Joe Baker, from the GM Advanced Design Studio in Los Angeles. Joe is one of the designers behind the two concept cars that were on display, the Code 130R and the Tru 140S.
Interestingly, Joe told us that men generally like the Code 130R (the red one above) because it looks more “muscle car-ish” and women generally like the Tru 140S because it’s more sleek. Also interestingly, my friends and I agreed that we liked the Code 130R MUCH better than the Tru 140S. Go figure.
I said to Joe, “So, what were you feeling when you finally saw these cars ‘finished’ as they are now?” His answer surprised me: he said that he wasn’t even phased by that time. His most exciting experience was when they got the car designs where they wanted them in the clay model process. After that comes a lot of time spent on making sure the cars are safe and have the right features. By that point he was less focused on the “concept look”, so it wasn’t as thrilling. I guess I understand that!
While we were there, Charlie Wojciechowski, NBC5 Chicago reporter, came with his cameraman to do some Social Media Day interviews. He chatted with Connie and then my friend Toni. Both of them were total pros.
Unfortunately, NBC didn’t use Toni’s interview, which amazed me because she was SO GOOD. They got a shot of her tweeting, though. I even made the report, tweeting my little heart out. See? (Make sure to watch the whole thing: it’s worth it to see Connie talk about gaining customers as “family members” and then say that Chevy is “not just a one-night stand”.)
View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.
The best news all day was that I found a front-runner in the race for my next vehicle, the 2013 Cadillac ATS, in red. In fact, I’d take this exact vehicle.
This car made me drool. Better yet, I looked at it and it seemed to whisper my name. And it has a friendly “face”. It might be a love connection as I get more serious about a new car in the next eighteen months or so: I’ll keep you posted!
Check out the Chicago Auto Show for yourself: it runs through Sunday, February 19 at McCormick Place!
Disclosure: I was given breakfast and complimentary admission for the day to the Chicago Auto Show by General Motors. I was not required in any way to write about my experience, but as usual, I wanted to. Also as usual, all words and opinions are mine.