Who is there – other than the marketing folks at BMW* – that doesn’t love an auto show? Whether you are, in marketing speak, at the top of the purchase funnel (where you would just begin to do your shopping) or its bottom (where you’re about to write the check), an auto show is one of the great ways to compare cars or categories in one long walk. And with the DFW Auto Show, that walk can be made in the comfort – and reasonable accessibility – of Dallas’ Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
Beginning on Wednesday afternoon (March 16th) under bright, blue skies, the D/FW New Car Dealers Association previews the show for area media with a ½ day devoted to press conferences. Informing automotive and lifestyle media isn’t a bad thing, and – as you’d guess – in the last few years social media has become a more significant part of the coverage and discussion. What follows is the news – or what works for ‘news’ – of those manufacturers expanding their physical presence in the show with press conferences. We’ll try and keep it social…
RAM: Carl Lally, Ram’s head of retail marketing, kicked off the morning with a rapid-fire reading of sales stats. And who doesn’t love a sales stat with the morning joe? Since debuting as its own brand, it’s been nothing but sunshine for FCA’s truck division. And the Ram brand is now fully invested in the commercial, luxury and family components that make up a fully mature truck lineup. But there’s always room for the immature, as we now have both the Rebel 4X4 and the newly introduced Power Wagon. While neither represents the full-blown offroad expression of Ford’s Raptor, both are fully capable offshoots of their more road-biased siblings, and are undoubtedly as fully developed as you need when still making payments – and not wanting to contact GEICO.
For those whose preference is for the show rather than the go, Ram is also introducing a Texas-specific palette on its Ram 1500 Lone Star. Covered in a yellow that is specific to this truck at this time, it’s dubbed the Yellow Rose. No word whether the Bob Wills estate will benefit, but it should.
CHRYSLER: Chrysler’s Town & Country is dead – or about to be dead; long live the Pacifica, a post-modern reinterpretation of the minivan. Although we are way tired of hearing Chrysler reps claiming to be the inventors of the minivan (we’d give the nod to Volkswagen’s Microbus), there’s no denying the success of their formula. And that family-friendly formula is pulled fully into this century with the debut of the all-new Pacifica. Although not new in the strictest sense, it is new to the Dallas/Fort Worth show, and should be on area showrooms later this spring. If you’re impressed with its redesigned take on the two-box concept, take a look inside, where you’ll find forty (count ‘em!) minivan firsts. And if that’s not enough, shortly after its formal debut FCA rolls out a hybrid, offering up to 30 miles of all-electric operation. We’re impressed, while soberly noting fully loaded variants will push up and over $40K. But aren’t your children (or grandchildren) worth it?
CHEVROLET: Forgetting we can – and will – talk trucks at the State Fair this fall, Chevy made their presentation while using the refreshed ’16 Silverado as the backdrop. Of course, with their featured offering a new trailering camera system (by GM vendor EchoMaster), this wasn’t something you’d want to discuss in front of Chevy’s all-new Volt. It’s very cool tech, especially for those of us suffering from tow-a-phobia. And with a suggested retail of just under $1K – plus roughly $250 for the install – it’s certainly cheap enough.
We also liked news that Chevy is offering 5th Wheel/Gooseneck prep on their heavy duty lineup for just $350, which beats the heck out of having it done by a 17-year old making $3.50 an hour. Perhaps we can drive Chevy’s all-electric Bolt in the fall, when everyone else is talking trucks.
FORD: Dearborn used its platform as, well, a platform. While throwing the appropriate amount of marketing love at its Escape and Explorer (both doing very well, thank you…), the main focus was the Life Rolls On foundation and its founder, Jesse Billauer. Billauer was paralyzed in a surfing accident, responding to his reduced capabilities with the very real desire to put a limit on his limitations. Life Rolls On engages roughly 100 kids with disabilities at ten or eleven venues each year. Most of those venues are beach-based and teaching the kids to surf, but at least one puts the kids in a skateboard park where they can expand their horizons in a controlled and supervised environment.
Ford tied in Jesse’s presentation with the debut of the Braun-modified Explorer MXV, Ford’s first accessible vehicle using an SUV as its donor. And to channel Mr. Billauer, the Braunability MXV is one bad boy. Look for more info on Jesse’s foundation at www.LifeRollsOn.org.
NISSAN: At the Chicago Auto Show in February Nissan debuted its all-new Armada. Here in Dallas we have the refreshed Sentra. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with a refresh, especially when it’s selling 200,000 units a year. But when seeing/hearing Sentra we start thinking secretary, and despite the near-disappearance of the category we still think secretary. Hopefully we could soon see an affordable Nissan for administrative assistants…
MAZDA: Craig Salsberry, the Gulf States regional general manager, introduced Mazda’s all-new CX-9 to a Dallas audience. Also due in showrooms this spring, the CX-9 benefits from its first full redesign since its initial debut in 2007. And it’s the last in the Mazda lineup to benefit from Mazda’s SkyActiv design philosophy. It looks to be a tad bigger, and considerably bolder, but with power provided by a turbocharged 2.5 liter four it also promises better efficiency. We liked the old one – and from its looks and attention to detail we should like the new one. But first we need a Miata.
TOYOTA: At Toyota’s display we were double-teamed by Steve Curtis, Toyota’s VP of Communications, and Katie Scallan, the senior manager for Engagement Marketing(!) at Gulf States Toyota, Toyota’s independent distributor. Front and center was Gulf States newly available mods – dubbed TForce – for Toyota’s off-road oriented 4Runner. For your $5K (plus the donor 4Runner ) Gulf States will provide you with 17-inch matte black wheels paired with Nitto Terra Grappler G2 All-Terrain tires; heavy duty rock rails with removable side steps; custom lightweight aluminum TForce roof rack and heavy-duty front skid plate; and painted pocketed fender flares. The TForce will be available in three colors: Midnight Black Metallic, Super White and Barcelona. If it was our $40K we’d pop for the TRD Pro version of a 4Runner, which is far more capable off-road – the original point in the first place. No arguing, however, with its aesthetic appeal; we simply weren’t fully engaged.
REZVANI: Over fifty years ago Texan Carroll Shelby took the chassis and body from British builder AC, installed a ripping Ford V8 and dubbed the now-iconic combination ‘Cobra’. Ferris Rezvani takes a purpose-built chassis assembled in Virginia, installs a turbocharged Honda powertrain amidships, and then crafts a custom carbon-fiber body shell in California. And rather than going ‘viperous’ Ferris named his custom concoction after himself. Publisher Adam Moore provides more details and impressions separately, but I’ll leave it at this. After turning over the Rezvani’s motor in his display area, we were left wondering how we could get our hands on the car’s asking figure of $160K. Unable to figure that out, we went to lunch.
Also, checkout our EXCLUSIVE review of the Beast!
* BMW was alone among the full-line luxury imports to skip this year’s Dallas Fort Worth show. The Ultimate Missing Machine?
For tickets, times, and more information please visit the website – DFWAutoShow.com