LA Auto Show Press Days part 2, win tickets too!

Driving the Future and it looks pretty cool.

Mitsubishi MiEV has its moment of fame with the press

The day started off with the announcement of the Green Car of the Year award. It went to the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt. Mayor Antonio V gave a speech, in short LA is poised to be the electric car capital of the world. Not a bad goal as it will help us clean up our air more than simple emissions control has already done. Of course, its just shifting the emissions and CO2 out to the desert where the fossil fuel plants are that generate our juice that recharges them, but that’s another issue for another time.

Day 2 of the Auto Show is a tough one. The premiere car press conferences and unveiling continue non-stop and a dozen green cars, mostly Electrical cars (EV) are available to the press to test drive.  Its tough to do both and involves a lot of running between the various events one chooses and their scheduled drives.

I suppose this is the part where I should apologize to LA for the added traffic along the route caused by the press. If you were on the loop that was Venice to Hoover, to Alvarado, to Pico, then Figueroa back into a parking garage, I’m sorry if you got stuck in the mess. Half the press there wasn’t used to driving on our side of the road, or on the left and side of a car, and most importantly realize that pedestrians have the ultimate right of way in LA. I don’t know who was more scared the manufacturer chaperones or the motoring public in general as some of the press were just that bad. Sorry.

I opted to drive a mix of cars as the immediate future include just that a mix of traditional gas, hybrid, EV’s and in the near future more fuel cells. After driving them all I can see where the hybrid will have its place, particularly in the mid-size to large car categories. EV’s are in their infancy and have limitations that currently will keep them in the urban commuter category with their limited range and depending on the model, long recharging times.

Fuel Cell’s vehicles too are in their infancy with only a few cars coming to market in very limited production and even more limited infrastructure to support them. Currently the only fuel cell available to us is a leased Honda FCX Clarity. There are a total of 4 hydrogen fueling stations in So CA, with the one in Santa Monica the only one providing clean hydrogen via water and solar energy to remove the hydrogen. (Others are cracking natural gas which leaves nasty CO2 to be dealt with). Seriously, the fuel cell coupled with a hybrid drive is what in my not so humble opinion be the major player in our future. You give up nothing in terms of range, fueling time to a gas engined car and literally your exhaust is water vapor. With the help of CARB grants the infrastructure is going to improve to a dozen fuel stations in the LA Area by 2015 according to the Daimler rep I spoke with.

I started with what is the current state of the art offerings and worked my way into the future. As I had kid duty in the AM I missed getting into the line to sign up for the driving portion and many cars were booked solid by the time I got to the sign in station, cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf that I was very curious to test were gone.

Absent from the list was the Wheego LiFE that is going on sale soon here but has been in Europe for a few years. From the rumblings in the line I was able to gather that Wheego hand picked which press would be given access to the car in advance of the LA Auto Show. Could be sour grapes but I overheard an interesting exchange with some of the world press regarding this car. It went along these lines “I drove the car in London and there it was limited to 25 and it scared me. I understand its been reprogrammed to have a top speed of 65 and wonder how scary it will be now”. I wonder too. Seriously, though most of our freeway driving is during the commute hours you won’t see much more than a crawl so the top speed shouldn’t be an issue.

On to the driving impressions which are just my opinion and observations. They aren’t reflective of blogging.la as a whole, just my own  not so humble opinions and snarks.

Traditional Gas powered clean cars included the only nominee on the Green Car of the Year for this year. The Ford Fiesta. It is a nice little subcompact. It has electronic toys like Sync that others in its class don’t have yet. Compared to the European spec model I drove a year ago I can say nothing was lost in the translation to the US Market. Actually there was a gain, they 1.6L engine standard in our cars lent a noticeable difference in quickness compared to the 1.4L powered European prototype. With EPA ratings of up to 40 mpg on the highway it makes a good representation of the class for now and into the future.

41 mpg city, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Hybrids, specifically the Green Car of the Year nominee the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid was what I drove. Nice, very nice car with the luxury goodies one expects in the class. Good performance, not as stellar as the large v6 models in the class, but an acceptable trade off for the gains in fuel economy (epa city rated 41).  With no increase in base price to get into the hybrid version of the MKZ your return on investment from fuel savings is immediate.

EV’s and there was a boat load of them, some manufacture built others aftermarket conversions. I focused on the manufacturer built as, well those are the ones that will have the dealer network in place to support them. They also were the ones that had ample cars that I was able to get on the drive list. The one common theme that they all had a way of addressing was a) home charging and b)range anxiety.

Cooper Mini-E electric vehicle.

Cooper Mini-E. This is the slot car of the bunch. In many ways it actually drove like one too. The usual Cooper Mini ride was softened a bit with the weight of the battery pack but still handled like you expect a Mini to handle. It did have a short learning curve to get used to driving it as it has a very sharp cut off to regenerative braking, like down shiftin’ more than a gear if you abruptly remove your foot from the brake. Once you get the hang of driving with the electronic drive, it is very much like driving a regular car, IE you give up nothing to the experience. Currently the car is available only for lease as a test with a few large corporations and power company’s.  We’ll see a refined EV using the technology developed for this car in future BMW EV’s.

Eaton/Mitsubishi MiEV quick charge in action.

Mitsubishi MiEV is another EV that I drove. This one was more like your typical compact car, except it had really useable room in the back for two real passengers. Nice leg room and driving it you gave up nothing to a gas car. (It was right hand drive so that was an experience getting used to as even the turn signal stalk was in reversed position and every time I went to signal I hit the wipers instead…apologies to anyone behind me that got short notice of intent to turn). Mitsubishi has a novel approach to the range anxiety.

Mitsubishi teamed up with Eaton and Best Buy to set up “quick charge stations” that are either at the Best Buy stores or mobile to assist should you run low on charge. The system is capable of bring the battery pack to 85% of charge in 15 minutes. They will even have 20 mobile “quick Charge” trucks set up near key freeway interchanges or be able to move to large concert/sporing events to take care of their customers to help relieve their “range anxiety”. They will even have an iPhone app that will show on a map where you are and where the nearest Quick Charge station is located. This sort of infrastructure change is moving fastest for the EV’s and will make it possible to get a larger fleet of them on our streets than any other alternative fuel technology we have coming at us at the moment.

Volvo C30 DRIVe prototype test mule.

Volvo C30 DRIVe. This car I have to be fair with is just a prototype, chassis #2 to be precise so it wasn’t as refined as the others I drove. Refined as in battery capacity, not fit and finish. The drive itself was very much like that of the regular C30. It is indicative of the direction Volvo intends to take in the future, rather than purpose built EV’s it will be conversions of existing models. Its programming was more like a typical hybrid with a good “sail mode” or coasting without abrupt regenerative braking like the Mini-E. An impressive car in terms of what Volvo will give us in terms of a safe luxury EV in the future. One common comment made by the press was in regards to the position of the charge in the front grill. What happens if you break it when you bump someone and can’t get repaired right away. Interesting design feature or flaw, you decide.

The last and final car was the Mercedes. F-Cell. It’s a hydrogen fuel cell that when filled with hydrogen from a solar conversion plant produces zero emissions at point of use as well as zero emissions at energy conversion source. It is based on the “B” class Mercedes that is not sold in this country. Size wise think of it has a half scale minivan with some nice luxury toys tossed in by Mercedes. It gives nothing up to a traditional gas car in terms of the driving experience and has a refueling time as fast as filling your tank now. I was impressed with the amount of immediate torque and the silence of the car. Giving up nothing to driving experience and no need to learn a new way of driving and thinking will make the fuel cell the easiest conversion for the US market.

There you go…what the final day of the Press Days at the LA Auto Show entailed for me. Fun driving cars (I am a car guy after all) and getting a first hand glimpse into what the future holds in store for us. This is just a sampling of the nearly 30 alternative fuel and EV’s at the LA Auto Show. Definitely change coming, for the better and it will be easy to adapt as well.

This post also includes the last set of tickets I have to give away for the LA Auto Show. I have just 4 tickets to give left to 4 lucky winners, that is one ticket each. Make sure you have a legit email address so I can contact you for the info to pass on to the LA Auto Show folks so they can have your tickets waiting for you at will call.

All pics by me and will get bigger with a click. More in my flickr 2010 LA Auto Show Set.

LA Auto Show’s best contest: An iPad a day will be given away

Every year there is one manufacturer who does an over the top give away that results in lines winding through the halls because it is so good.  This years promises to be Yokohoma Tire’s contest where an iPad a day will be given away.  I stumbled across the press release info in the inundation information for this years LA Auto Show.  Can you guess where I’ll be for at least part of my day Saturday with my boys?  If you guessed in line for a chance at an iPad you are correct.

Lifted directly from their press release:
Yokohama Tire Corporation is going digital at the LA Auto Show, November 19-28 at the LA Convention Center. Consumers visiting Yokohama’s exhibit in the West Hall lobby will get a chance to try the company’s new interactive iPad app, plus enter a daily drawing to win a tablet computer.

According to Alan Holtschneider, Yokohama manager, advertising, promotions & events, the iPad app will replace traditional tire and vehicle placards at the show. “We’re excited about the new application that we’ve produced and have taken advantage of some of the interactive features that the iPad offers,” he said. “Visitors to the booth can check the iPad app, which includes Yokohama videos and tire information. All consumer tire lines, such as ADVAN® and GEOLANDAR®, along with tires like the AVID® ENVigor™, S.drive® and the orange oil-infused dB Super E-spec™ have their own sections for users to explore. During each day of the show, one lucky consumer who visits the booth and enters our contest will win a tablet computer.”
Holtschneider said Yokohama’s iPad app will be available through iTunes in early 2011.

Image courtesy of Yokohama tires.

LA Auto Show:family friendly too. Win tickets

Courtesy LA Auto Show

Auto Shows usually aren’t the most kid friendly events in the city. Its usually don’t touch and little for them to do. The LA Auto Show is different as thanks to a corporate sponsorship there is a special “kid zone” to let them burn off their creative and physical energy. Bring the kids to this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show and let them play in the bigger and better Nissan Quest Kids’ Fun Zone. The attraction is open both weekends of the show, including the Friday after Thanksgiving, and features a variety of activities for kids to run, jump, explore and learn.

The Kids’ Fun Zone will feature bounce houses, a car driving course from Dodge, video games provided by Game Truck and a chance to meet Otto the Auto from the Auto Club of Southern California. First Five California and the LA Zoo will be on hand with educational games and giveaways, plus there are a variety of other art and craft activities, like face painting from Party Face Magic. Nissan will have a special Quest zone so families can have a comfortable place to sit, play and check out the all-new Nissan Quest minivan. The Nissan Quest area will have multiple iPads loaded with drawing software so kids can create and then project their works of art on a large screen.
With something for everyone, the show is a family-friendly affair that is one of the best entertainment values in town.

Details: Admission for kids 12 and under is free and there is no additional charge for the Kids’ Fun Zone. Located in Kentia Hall, the Kids’ Fun Zone is open both weekends from 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

As with whatever I post this week about the LA Auto Show I have some tickets to give away. To be precise 4 tickets with this post to win. Tell me what family friendly auto you want to see at this years LA Auto Show and I’ll give you one ticket. Make sure you have a legit email addy for me to contact you to set up the ticket.

Image courtesy the LA Auto Show and used with their permission.

LA Auto Show opens Friday 19th, win tickets too!

The 2010 LA Auto Show opens on Friday November 19th. The show has now grown to being one of the most important shows on the planet and second to only detroit (lower case on purpose) in the US. At least 26 press conferences featuring 20 world and more than 30 North American vehicle debuts. The official arrival of the electric car era with production vehicles on sale to the public. Fiat returns to the U.S. and the LA Auto Show after almost a 27-year hiatus, Lambo after a one year break.

Green Car Journal has announced its five finalists for the 2011 Green Car of the Year, including the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the 2011 Nissan LEAF. For the sixth consecutive year, this increasingly important award will be announced during a press conference at the LA Auto Show Press Days on Nov.18.

I have 4 tickets to give away, tell me why you would want one. Make sure you include a legit email address so I can contact you for your info to get you your ticket. To make this interesting, what are you most interested in seeing? The concept cars, green cars or about to be released production autos? Any particular manufacturer you think that should be included that isn’t?

If you don’t win tickets this time around have no fear, I’ll be running a few more contests for tickets before this is all over. Look for details and stuff from my visit during press days that will also include a chance to win tickets as well.

DEETS: November 19-28. Admission and hours HERE. Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015. Directions HERE or Map HERE.

WTF moments at the LA Auto Show

Every auto show has a concept car or a production car, usually an exotic that makes you just stand back and go wtf.  Are they serious?  They can’t seriously expect us to believe it is destined for production, can they?  This year had two and I seriously just stepped back and thought wtf next.

Winner #1 was on the Mercedes bench.  It looked like a boxed up and updated Nazi staff car.  I kept waiting for Adolf and Ava to show up for a ride in their staff car.  Either that or it is waiting for the remake of the Rat Race film with Kathy Najimi finding Ava’s lipstick in the glove box or John Lovitz accidently giving a dyke on bikes bruiser the finger after he burnt his finger on the cigarette light of a Nazi Staff car.  Either works.  The car didn’t.  This really is my fugly winner for this years auto show.

Mercedes updated staff car concept -my fugly award winner
Mercede's updated "staff car" concept -my fugly award winner

Continue reading “WTF moments at the LA Auto Show”

LA Auto Show – driving green doesn’t mean giving up fun

German Press and Jetta TDI "Green Car of the Year"

Volkswagen did the unimaginable at the LA Auto Show.  It garnered the “Green Car of the Year”.  VW did it with a diesel, not a hybrid, not some exotic fuel, but a performance oriented turbo-DIESEL.  Hopefully that award will open up a few eyes to the ease one can “go green” and not have to give up any driving fun in the process.  (Snark alert:hopefully once and for all it will undo the diesel myths and damage done by GM with their failed attempt of making the diesel an important part of the US auto scene 30 years ago).

When I first heard it started inside the LA Convention center I knew there was going to be something really special about this car.  It didn’t smoke at start.  Other than a quick clatter when it first started it was silent when running.  It was silent under light acceleration.  The exhaust had a faint smell, not the sweet-sour you associate with a gas car, something more or less “nutty”.  Not objectionable, certainly not visible and something you had to look hard to notice.  That is a huge change from the last round of diesel VW’s we saw here a few years ago.

This years LA Auto Show had a few new wrinkles for press days.  The big one was that the manufacturers ponied up nearly 2 dozen “green cars” for the media to drive.   They were all were nominees for “Green Car of the Year” and represented a broad approach to cleaning up our cars more than they already are.  For my driving I opted for those cars that are more traditional in nature that the average guy would feel right at home in and get great results without having to change their driving habits or style.  (Well, one car was just for kicks and giggles simply because I want one.  You have to read to the end to figure out which one it is I wanted).

Continue reading “LA Auto Show – driving green doesn’t mean giving up fun”

LA Auto Show: Nissan Cube and Kia Soul

Can the streets of LA handle more automobile hipness?. Quite a few new razzle-dazzle cars were introduced at the LA Auto Show, but my eye picked out two that will possibly be big hits in my North East Los Angeles neighborhood.

First we have the 2008 Nissan Cube. Already available in Japan, the Cube is about the same size as a Honda Element, but infinitely cooler looking. They say it was inspired by a raindrop and they’ve carried that theme throughout the vehicle from the roof lining to the speakers, cup holders and even the asymmetrical rear window.

2008 Nissan Cube
2008 Nissan Cube

This vehicle, which Nissan calls “A mobile device”, is touted as a lounging pad, with reclineable passenger seats, way too many speakers and…mood lighting. Highly customizable with several of Nissan’s awesome colors, the car is very much geared to the Web 2.0 crowd. There’s the almost standard Bluetooth integration, but the car also features mp3/ipod integration. You can see more photos here or at Nissan’s website.

Continue reading “LA Auto Show: Nissan Cube and Kia Soul”

Must see at LA Auto Show (opens Friday 11/21)

I’ve spent the last two days wandering around the LA Auto Show checking it all out.  This is a quick run down of my favorite activities at the show that will be available to the public at large when the show opens.  

My absolute favorite was Volvo’s “City Safe” demo where you actually get to sit in the car and put the system to the test real time.  It works, amazingly well.  I have to thank Adam Kopstein from Volvo who let me ride along and “tape” the ride.  Its amazing how well the system works.  I did it and failed the first time as instinct stepped in and before I got close enough to activate the system, I braked myself and had to retry the test.  Its freaky.  It works.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2Ktf2P1byQ[/youtube]

It doesn’t take much imagination to see this working very well in real life.  Imagine being in a parking lot, or bump and go traffic, exhausted and turning around to hand the kid in a car-seat a bottle or just turning your head before a lane change and the car in front stops quickly.  City Safe won’t let you rear end them, or if fast enough you won’t do much more than a tap with no damage to either of you.  Bring your DL and be prepared to stand in line.  Its a trip but well worth the thrill…and no extra charge! Continue reading “Must see at LA Auto Show (opens Friday 11/21)”

Ford’s 2nd World Premiere in LA this week – 2010 Lincoln MKZ

Lincoln MKZ unwrapped for LA Auto Show

The news embargo is over on the Lincoln MKZ info I got at the reveal media conference last week. The MKZ is #2 of the 4 Ford World Premieres set for the LA Auto Show that opens on the 21st.  

Of course all the blather and hype of a media conference doesn’t mean a thing until the blue silk cover is removed from the car. It is a show stopper. Clearly the elements that make it a Lincoln are there, the grill split is nice as it does remind me of the original Zephyr launched back in the 40’s. It certainly fits the design theme of the MKS launched earlier this year. Continue reading “Ford’s 2nd World Premiere in LA this week – 2010 Lincoln MKZ”

Mustang Premiere in SaMo was loud and the fans were louder

 [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qj9bT6z4nM[/youtube] 

Ford’s 2010 Mustang Reveal Party last night was loud, frantic and attended by nearly 1,000 Mustang Club fans who brought along 400+ vintage mustangs. We got to hear the winner of the “My Mustang” story and watch him get the keys to his 2010 GT. We got to see the video from the video contest winner also. Both can be seen at The2010Mustang.com.

You just knew it was going to be a fun when they are handing out earplugs with a warning that it was going to be loud. The evening built to a crescendo capped with the 2010 models being drifted, skidded or simply driven onto the hangar floor at Barker Hangar in SaMo.  The fans gave them ovations as each one entered the arena.

The Mustang did get a gorgeous, chiseled new body and interior.  The engine options are the same but both power plants benefited from the cold air induction introduced on the Bullitt.  Short version is that the colder the air the more efficiently the car can burn its fuel.  End result is more power coming from a cleaner burn.   The options lists are extensive.  If you want more power than the base GT provides you can go through Ford Motorsports or an authorized dealer to have “super packs” added.  

Super-packs are how you make your ‘stang even more powerful and suspension tuned for more track performance to stay at the top of the performance pack.  “Super-packs” means supercharged engines producing 400 or 500 horsepower along with the mods to the car so it can handle that increased power.  Nice.

A few more pics and the drifting vid after the jump. Continue reading “Mustang Premiere in SaMo was loud and the fans were louder”

Shhh…info embargo over, 2010 Mustang world premiere will be LA Auto Show

The info embargo is over.  As of 12:01AM 11/18 I can share some tidbits that I was given at last weeks Lincoln MKZ reveal on the new ‘stang that should whet a few appetites around LA.  

First its no secret that for Ford, LA and So Cal is the most important market for the Mustang (base and performance versions) that it was only fitting that the World Premiere of the 2010 Mustang is to take place at the LA Auto Show. The LA Auto show has pretty much matched Detroits Auto Show in importance on the global car show circuit.  Us finally getting the World Premieres shows how important this show has become.

What most of you don’t know is that Ford is having a special pre-reveal party tomorrow in Santa Monica.  The reveal party details can be had by registering on the Ford 2010 Mustang Reveal site.  We get the real deal while 11 other cities get a satellite feed of the event.  At the reveal party there will be a huge Mustang only show presented by the Ford Mustang Clubs.  Mustangs from the last 40 years will be on display.  Followed by that is what they expect to be standing room only for the roll out and uncovering the 2010 Mustang. 

The technical bits on the new Mustang I can reveal right now, more once the official press releases are passed out and I can sift through them.

  • improved fuel economy on V6 and V8 models
  • new suspension on all models based on current Bullitt
  • Full Sync integration with Sat Nav
  • automatic climate control (solves my trivial complaint nicely)
There you go, a little advance information on one of 17 cars having its World Premiere at this years LA Auto Show.  Photo courtesy of Ford Motor.
Update: Blue Oval News went live this morning with additional info on the Reveal event tonight HERE.

LA Auto Show opens to public 11/21 at Convention Center

Lincoln MKZ is among 17 cars having its world debut at the LA Auto Show.
Lincoln MKZ is among 17 cars making their world debut at the LA Auto Show this year.

In the not so distance past the LA Auto Show wasn’t much more than the local dealers showing off the new cars and their in-house customization.   The problem was that the LA Show overlapped a few days with the Detroit Auto Show.  All that changed a couple of years ago when the show was moved to November.  

This years LA Auto Show runs November 21-30 and promises to be the biggest yet.  The LA Auto Show this time around will show case more debuts than ever before, certainly befitting our impact and importance in the world auto market.  The scheduling now is so tight the manufacturers are holding “preview” events locally in order to allow the media more time to kick the tires and pick the brains of the teams putting out the debut cars.  (Ford did one on Tuesday which I’ll talk about a bit later in this post).

Some highlights coming our way for the 2008 show:

  • 17 cars will get their world debut including the Lincoln MKZ, G37 Convertible, Mazda 3,Nissan 370Z and the “Mini e” (e for electric)
  • 12 cars will have their North American Debut including the Honda Insight and Ferrari California
  • Awarding the “Green Car of the Year” to those cars that are the cleanest of the clean…big surprise in store for you hybrid fans-among the top cars in the running there is a diesel and a regular gas car.
  • Sneak Preview Night” 11/20 is a tax deductible benefiting Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
For the info on Ford’s Preview day yesterday you have to make the jump. Continue reading “LA Auto Show opens to public 11/21 at Convention Center”