The State Fair of Texas Auto Show
FAIR TO MIDLAND
Dallas, TX – So, here’s the problem with having been around a while – beyond, of course, the physical problems associated with having been around a while. If you’ve done things, seen things and remembered things over the years, you’re imbued with a perspective that will inevitably shade how you view things today. The State Fair of Texas Auto Show is one of those events I’ve attended over the years, and I gotta’ admit…those past shows, and the Media Days held immediately before the Fair’s opening, will have definitely shaded my take on this year’s Media Day and the content offered to those of us showing up.
Automobile displays, of course, have played a big role at the Fair almost since its inception. (Hell, there’s an Automobile Building adjacent to the Fairgrounds Esplanade, effectively making it centerstage.) And with the growth in the popularity – make that ubiquity – of trucks and SUVs, acres of space devoted to those trucks and SUVs surround the Automobile Building. Only God and State Fair exec Kelly Pound know how much is invested by the truck makers in these displays, but it has to be real money…probably enough to delay a Federal shutdown.
To allow interested media to preview the Auto Show, the State Fair of Texas PR team and a few manufacturers host those writers, broadcasters and – of late – influencers to a Media Day. Back in the memory bank is an almost full day of presentations, beginning with a breakfast – often in conjunction with a meeting of the Texas Auto Writers Association – and continuing with press conferences led by regional execs (or occasionally Detroit-based execs) touting news of interest to those journalists and their audiences. Since we’re at the State Fair it’s assumed we – and those audiences – want to know about trucks, despite well over half of new vehicle buyers opting for cars and/or crossovers.
In this post-Covid era, you really don’t know what to expect. And making this last week even more unpredictable was the work stoppage at several auto plants represented by the United Auto Workers. Happily, the Ram team began the day with breakfast! Eggs and bacon were front and center, and we could kick as many tires as we wanted, but were offered no announcements or news while doing so. (But then, with no presentation you don’t have to take notes.)
I would have hoped Ram might have highlighted one of the many upfitters building RVs from the basic ProMaster vans, including a recently announced conversion by Westfalia. It’s a timely topic, and while Ford and Mercedes are doing similar conversions, Ford was talking pickups – and Mercedes wasn’t there.
Although the Toyota folks didn’t provide breakfast, its team did offer Tyler Litchenberger, Toyota’s Vehicle Marketing Manager for Tundra, Sequoia and the forthcoming Land Cruiser. On stage, with real sound, images and teleprompter, Tyler walked us through much of what’s new in the Toyota dealership. The not-yet-in-showrooms Tacoma was on display, and the Fair offered the global debut of the Tundra 1794 Limited. (The upscale 1794 trim commemorates the appointment of one Nathaniel Tundra to George Washington’s cabinet; Tundra, it turns out, was George’s first Secretary of Transportation. Who knew?)
With an interior covered in leather (provided by Texas-based Saddleback Leather Company), available luggage also provided by Saddleback, and an upgraded FOX suspension, the 1794 Limited Edition will be in dealerships this spring…but you should get your deposit in pronto.
From Toyota I, along with txGarage contributors Alan Pease and Harold Allen, did some tire kicking prior to Ford’s presentation of the 2024 F-150; that presentation was made by Ford’s regional PR exec, Alvaro Cabal, from the bed of an actual F-Series. Biggest takeaway is the newly available Pro Access Tailgate for, I’m told, “even more access and utility.” And Ford’s PowerBoost Hybrid is now available in more trims, which – I’ll guess – makes the upgraded power even more small-d democratic.
Over in the Centennial Building, Kia retained a product specialist to provide info on Kia’s all-new EV9, making its Texas debut. Having a show specialist recite the EV9’s high points was a good thing, until that specialist got to the recently announced pricing of the EV9. He gave the starting price of $35K, only to have to back up and correct himself; the starting price is $55K.
That $55,000, coincidentally, was also the price point of both Tellurides on display at the Kia exhibit. The Telluride offers a lot of content for $55K, but you can also build a decently-equipped Telluride for around $40,000. You’d think, as you put your product in front of roughly two million fairgoers, Kia’s team would want to feature a more accessible price point. Also of note: Kia continues to offer the Forte 4-door sedan, which was parked in a corner.
Between the two buildings and the large volume of trucks on the periphery, there were some highlights, even if those highlights didn’t come with a presenter. FCA parent Stellantis bought both an Alfa Romeo Tonale and Fiat’s new 500e to the display, while GM’s Buick offered both attractive sheetmetal and surprisingly low window stickers. At Chevrolet, electrified versions of Chevy’s Blazer, Equinox and Silverado were right there, waiting – we’ll assume – to be built after the UAW strike is resolved.
Despite the relative disappointment of the Media Day, the Fair’s auto show is still one of the better ways to cross-shop various vehicles back-to-back. There’s not much in the way of high-end vehicles on display (with the exception of $90K pickups and $100K Jeeps), but for those of you looking in the mass market, that inventory is well represented.
And your area dealer won’t sell you a corny dog. Or a Shiner to wash it down. And that, when you think about it, seems more than fair.