2005 New York Auto Show
by Dave Kinney
GM’s President Gary Cowger gave the keynote speech on press day at the opening of the 105th year of the annual New York Auto Show, and walked a tightrope.
Stating the obvious, Cowger said “It’s been a tough week for all of us at General Motors” Following announcements of a white-collar layoff, lousy earnings forecasts, as well as the cancellation an of an entire automotive platform, Cowger tried hard to put the happy face on GM’s myriad problems. Without mentioning the recent Fiat debacle nor the cancellation of both the sliding-roof option and four-wheel steering in the truck lines, Cowger instead chose to focus on GM’s “Legacy” costs, both healthcare (mentioned in the talk) as well as UAW contracts (left unmentioned), as well as the new-car introductions planned in the next few years.
Cowger interestingly brought up the Mini brand by name—a slide showing the Mini logo as well as a Mini projected on the giant screens at his side—as an example of the type of automotive marketing that deserves accolades. From the president of the company that at one time believed they invented marketing—high praise indeed. Ending his talk without taking time for questions from the audience broke tradition established in recent years, but, with the number of unresolved issues facing GM, perhaps a quick exit was warranted.
Among upcoming GM product is the Pontiac G6 Convertible, with a clamshell-style retractable top, developed with help from German coachbuilder Karmann. It’s a car that literally channels the Qvale Mangusta in both concept and—shall we say—interesting looks. Things are happier at the Cadillac side of the ledger, with the introduction of the XLR-V, GM’s Classic Rock division looks to keep rolling along.
Other auto makers fail to wow; Ford once again plays their Shelby card.
Mercedes debuted the new R-Class, and if your wondering what it looks like, don’t bother going to their Web site or waiting for one to appear at your local dealership, instead, just take a look at your neighbors Chrysler Pacifica and squint—and don’t bother squinting too hard. In fact, when the wraps came off of the car on the stand—and the annoying dancers stopped prancing—my quick— “hey look—it’s a Mercedes Pacifica” remark drew an astonishingly quick and complete glare from the large gentleman with the Mercedes-Benz pin on his lapel standing directly in front of me. Sometimes, I’m afraid, the truth hurts.
In a show remarkable short of stars—there seems to be no “it” car as of yet to emerge—it was Ford’s Shelby Mustang GT500 that made heads turn the hardest. The Blue Oval Gang’s on-again, off-again love affair with one of the most recognizable, as well as unpredictable, figures in automotive history seems to be once again on. At introduction, the assembled crowd of media—at least those standing—took an actual collective step forward to witness the arrival of both the Shelby car, as well as Shelby himself, as passenger in the car bearing his name. With a six-speed manual and 450-plus horsepower, it looks like the magic, recently seen circling the new Mustang but not quite making a landing—will be back for good with the Shelby name attached to the backside of a Mustang for the first time in 30-plus years. The engineering is by Ford’s SVT team, but don’t bother telling the public. It would seem the Shelby name just might bring the folks in for a closer look, and perhaps an opportunity to buy a New Shelby Mustang GT500.
Ferrari and Bentley also took the sheets off new, or at least new to this continent, product. For the Italians, the North American debut of the F430 Spider, joining the F430 coupe in the lineup. At Bentley, the Continental Flying Spur, a four-door version of the now familiar and fast-selling (for Bentley) Continental GT. First seen last month at the Geneva show, it’s a handsome and competent looking grand tourer with a reported top speed of 195 mph.
For those keeping count, it was less than four hours after the debut of the 2005 Shelby for the first signed-by-Shelby copy of the auto show brochure to appear on eBay. Even though GM might have trouble finding sources of income in 2005, it appears some among the assembled journalists have no such tribulations.