A Slight Detour – Fort Worth Auto Show – 03/20/11

Since one Friday night in early 1989, my dad and I have made it a yearly standing commitment to go to the annual Fort Worth Auto Show at Fort Worth Convention Center. I make certain to make no plans for Sunday mornings during the first couple of months each year so I can be sure I am free for whatever date it falls on. For many years it was in mid-late February, but in recent years the dates seem to vary wildly from January to March. It’s just one of those things, though. All my friends know that if I mention the Auto Show, there’s no question about whether I’m free or why I might go home early the night before, it’s just that important.

This year was no different, and like clockwork, we got up early this past Sunday morning, had our traditional pre-show breakfast (oh, by the way Golden Corral breakfast buffet, we’ve broken up after this year) and got to the Convention Center early to beat some of the crowd.

The conversations go the same, usually, discussions about interior, the ease with which any vehicle can be entered and exited (every year this becomes more of an issue… for both of us, ha!), gas mileage, prices, and a lack of imagination from American automakers. This year was no different.

Prices on cars, even in our economy, continue to rise, while gas mileage seems to stay the same, especially on the American vehicles.  As with each passing year, this year’s crop didn’t necessarily have any American standouts. Why is this? Why can’t our own domestic automakers capture any imagination with their designs, each copying the other to make an almost unidentifiable brand? Or at least so it seems. The real test was when we came across the Ford Taurus, which for far too long was a blight on our American roadways, and we were both surprised that it was a good looking, somewhat affordable vehicle. The FORD TAURUS! Aside from that, not one of the other American models caught our eye, and the general consensus at the show among other patrons was that the cars were too expensive. Period. These inter-patron discussions also hit upon the lack of performance as well, as it doesn’t appear – even with the hybrids – gas mileage has improved. I thought that was the entire concept behind the hybrids, jaw-dropping gas mileage. Not so much, it seems.

For the third year in a row, we stopped by the Smart Car, taking a little more time than with the others to look peruse. In years past, we were marveled at how roomy it was and surprised by the amount of safety features and the sturdiness of the frame (which had been on display). This year it seemed as though they had mailed it in a bit, not taking one of the centerpiece spots on the main show room, rather being in the overflow back part of the show and only bringing 2 models for display. And the tall blonde girl who usually represents Smart Car wasn’t there for my dad to flirt with this year, which can be quite humorous. Needless to say, the Smart Car has grown less impressive with age.

The good news was 2011 marked the return of foreign activity. Very much absent and sorely missed last year, Volkswagen, Volvo, Jaguar, BMW, Porsche and Land Rover all made their return to the showroom floor, and were the saving grace. Without any prototypes or concept cars this year, these foreign automakers provided some of the only flavor of the day. As well as my favorite car, the $35,000 Volkswagen CC. This classy, sturdy ride was not only the most comfortable car I sat in all day, but appeared to have the most functionality inside as well as aesthetically pleasing dash and controls. This was hands down, the winner of the day for affordability, appearance (both exterior and interior) and gas mileage. I’ll trade my 1998 Honda Accord any day for this one. Any day.

Regardless of gas mileage, interesting concepts and body styles, pricing etc., the whole reason we go is to have a good time. And once again, for the 23rd time, we had a good time. Maybe next year they will have some really interesting things to look at. At least we will still be able to talk about rising prices, lack of gas mileage, and why the American auto makers can’t seem to make an original looking vehicle.

Some things just don’t change.

~ by thesynaptic on March 22, 2011.

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