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Subject:  Fun at the Auto Show Date:  1/11/2004  11:19 PM
Author:  DuckVersion8 Number:  30478 of 73997

MrsDuck and I spent a romantic Sunday afternoon with about 110,000 others in a hot, sweaty, big place with hundreds of cars.

I knew it was going to be crowded at the Detroit Auto Show as the electronic signs on all the freeways broadcast the message: COBO ROOF FULL - PARK AT JOE LOUIS! In other words, the parking at Cobo Hall had already filled up (it was 1PM), so they were directing everyone to park at Joe Louis Arena (Trivia: This is where the album KISS: Alive! was recorded back in the '70's.) and most of JLA had filled up by the time we got there. We parked at a parking lot for the maintenance crews...still got charged $10 to park.

We tromped over to Cobo via one of the metal "Habitrails" (long metal tubes) from JLA over to Cobo and it retained cold better than a Thermos bottle! After tripping over about six derelicts and drunks, we made it into Cobo. $12 a head but the ticket line only lasted about 5 minutes.

I had been to the Detroit Auto Show in years past, but the last time I went was before they remodeled and doubled the floor everyone is saying it's still too small!

Anyway, MrsDuck and I made our way into the big hall. Now before we got there, MrsDuck finally mentioned what was on her mind and why she really wanted to go to the auto show: When the Saturn goes off lease in May and goes away, she wants another car. She doesn't want to drive the Aztek 120 miles a day and she doesn't believe the Blazer I bought from her sister is going to stay together for very long. ("Whaddya mean, it's a piece of s***? Oh sure, it's got a hundred thousand miles on it, but we can make it last a few more years, we got the alternator and the A/C replaced didn't we???") Well, she's fully well knows that keeping a used car forever is less than buying a new one, but she doesn't want the inconvenience of having to fix something every other month, unfortunately as we have been doing with the Blazer.

Okay, MamaDuck wants a new car. Ain't nobody happy if MamaDuck ain't happy. She wants something that will get over 30MPG and that will fit in the third bay of our garage. (Don't ask. The 3-car garage we have has all kinds of lawn equipment in one bay, the Aztek is in #2, and the Saturn is in #3 and it's REALLY tight!) We finally agree on one other major thing: It's gotta fit ME in the driver's seat with the Ducklings sitting in the back seat comfortably. This is because our working lives could change again, we could move to another state again, and I might be the one with a 120-mile commute a year from now AND still have daycare/school transport duties.

So, we look for (1) a car for MrsDuck for commuting in the near future (next few months), such that I can fit with the Ducklings in back and (2) a future "tot yacht" for when the Aztek explodes a few years from now (or when MrsDuck nags me to replace it).

We squeeze through the Honda display. We check out the CRV and Element. We test these for "tot yacht" use with me in the front seat and MrsDuck sitting behind me (Duckling1 is growing up very fast). The Element is neat, especially with the rubber floor. But the area behind the seat is smaller than the CRV and the CRV gets better mileage. She then takes a quick look at an Insight and wants to hop in right away. "Ummm...dear? That don't have a back seat. That don't even have four-doors!" Well, she thought it was neat. I did tell her that there's a Civic Hybrid and that Honda announced they'll have an Accord hybrid soon. She nods her head, we move on.

We struggle past the Mercedes display, until we get to a Smart car, one of those cute, little, "sold in Europe only" two-door mini cars. MrsDuck said she drove one on one of her trips to Europe. How was it? Fun, but scary, she said. We squeezed past Audi, BMW, around Maybach, past Nissan, and over to VW. But I wanted to stop at Maybach just to look. "What's a 'Maybach'?" MrsD asks. "About $360,000." She immediately heads the other way.

We get into the VW area and she says "I'd do a diesel car, that would be okay." They just happen to have a couple NewBeetles, a Jetta TDI wagon and a Passat TDI sedan. We hop in the Jetta, there's no room in the backseat whatsoever. We hop over to the Passat and everything fits. So MrsDuck starts hopping in the driver's seat, checks out all the controls, gets out, sticks her head under the hood, runs around, checks out the trunk. I think she likes this one.

Just as soon as I believe she's convinced enough to drive to our nearby VW dealership tomorrow to order a TDI Passat wagon, right next door to VW was Toyota and the Prius. We hop in. We fit just fine. She notices the display stand with the specs: 60 MPG Highway! Again, she's all over this car like a moth on a Klieg light. She interrogates the Toyota "spokesperson" (some young yutz with a blue Toyota shirt and a mile-wide grin) for 15 minutes. She gets a good education on the Prius fast. She wants one. Can we go home now?

Well, gee, I wanna look at all the other cars, even the concepts and the sporty things that we'll never afford in our lifetime, besides we had only been in the auto show for 30 minutes! I wanna get my $24 worth of show viewing....

We hop into a Scion Xb. We're comfortable. IT'S A BOX!

We walk past Hummer, which we were surprised to see that it's about the most POPULAR display, not because of any flashy concept cars (or models), but mostly that everyone wants to sit in a Hummer H1 and play soldier for some reason. I mean, we only had to wait for about 2 or 3 people in front of us to get into a Prius, the line was about 10 deep to get into the Hummer H1 and about 15 to get into the H2!

Another slow point in the show was trying to walk past the Rolls Royce display, as again, everyone wants to see a car they'll never own ever in their lifetime up close.

We get closer to the "American" brand displays, and because of "good ol' Detroit loyalty", that's actually where more people are hanging around, they all want to look at cars that they can hope to afford. We hop in and out of more cars, but we make note of the Chevy Malibu Maxx. It's a five-door wagon/hatchback, the rear-seat is adjustable and slides back and there's a DVD player available for the kids to watch. I hop in and MrsDuck is greatly impressed by being able to easily sit in the back seat.

The areas between the GM and Ford displays are even more crowded (again, people are checking out cars that they're REALLY going to buy), but things are REALLY crowded around the Ford GT40 and the 2005 Mustang. This was highly inconvenient as I wanted to get a close look at the Ford Five Hundred (Taurus replacement) and the Freestyle (crossover vehicle on a stretched Five Hundred platform). The Freestyle looks like a good tot-yacht and doesn't look too much like a minivan.

We meander over to Jeep, not so much that there were any Jeep products I wanted to look at (no back seat room in a Liberty), but they had this cool waterfall display, computer-controlled, it make pictures with the falling water, spelled out "Jeep" with falling water, and several other cool visual effects. Took me 20 minutes to pry MrsDuck away.

We get to the Dodge display, I want to check out a Magnum (the 5-door "sport wagon"). MrsDuck is impressed with the rear-hatch, station-wagon like design. I'm checking out the front-seat room and the HEMI under the hood. Gets 17 MPG city, 25 highway. I can live with that. And it's a HEMI. They had three on display, two of them wire fire-truck red. And they got HEMI's! We moved on. Did I mention these cars had HEMI's?

Over at Chrysler, one of the last cars we hopped into was a Pacifica. Very room, very comfortable. But I tell MrsDuck the only way we'd get one of these is if it was used. Sticker was well over $30K.

And we left.

What? You and MrsDuck went to an auto-show and didn't look at the COOL STUFF? What about the concepts? What about the sporty, "God-I-am-never-going-to-afford-this" cars? What about the display platform models wearing very tight, slinkly outfits that accent their hoo-hahs?

Okay, I WAS able to see other stuff. I got close looks of:

Honda's pickup truck concept,
Ford Bronco concept (built off the South-America-only EcoSport vehicle),
GM's Kappa platform display with the Chevy Nomad, Saturn Curve, Pontiac Solstice, and a Vauxhall car,
The Ford F250 Harley Davidson truck,
and quite a few other things (especially the models with great hoo-hahs!).

There was a lower-level as well, but we were tired as it was, swimming through that sea of humanity.

Oh well, after roasting in Cobo, we wandered back over to where we parked in the cold, and headed back home.

Well, I'm going to be hearing an earful over the next few months, "Have we ordered a Prius yet?". But at least I had some fun today. Mmmmmm....hoo-hahs.


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