WHAT'LL IT BE? - Car company executives react differently when they're expected to participate in auto show hoopla:
Some really seem to enjoy it, like Roy Roberts, Pontiac-GMC general manager. Before unveiling the 1999 Grand Am GT, he put on a Blues Brothers outfit and pretended to play a sax with a rock band called, of all things, Let's Go Bowling. 'What'll it be next year? A firefighter? A wrestler?' Roberts asked.
Others are good sports about it, but don't have a great time. For instance, Dick Colliver, Honda Division executive vice president, played straight man in a tongue-in-cheek 'mind-reading act' with a magician who unveiled the new Honda minivan.
Others grit their teeth and go along. Jac Nasser, president of Ford Automotive Operations, was the keynote speaker at the press preview kickoff on Wednesday, April 8. Jerry Flint, president of the International Motor Press Association, gave him a Stetson cowboy hat as a keepsake. Nasser was born in Lebanon and grew up in Australia. He obviously had no intention of putting the hat on. After a minute, he put it on long enough to have his picture taken.
ONLY IN NEW YORK - The New York show is more apt than a lot of other auto shows to put on events that are of great interest in the show's home town, but of no particular interest anywhere else. For instance, New York Gov. George Pataki and Ford Chairman Alex Trotman jointly announced that Ford is promoting the sale of New York City taxi cabs powered by compressed natural gas. One model was on display at the Ford stand - without a doubt, the only undented taxi in New York City.
FIRST, FIRSTER, FIRSTEST -As they do at auto shows everywhere, car companies did their best to milk their 'world introductions' at the New York show. Ford 'debuted' the Lincoln LS6 and LS8 at least three times: at a 'sneak preview' dinner; at the International Motor Press Association breakfast; and again at the Ford stand.
On the other hand, Pontiac modestly billed the debut of the 1999 Grand Am as a 'North American introduction.' Since the New York show is the last major auto show on the calendar, that usually means, 'already been seen somewhere else,' even though the GT had not been shown before. 'Yeah, but we only sell it in North America,' said Pontiac spokesman Dee Allen.
WE'LL TAKE THE PICKUP - To be fair to New York, a lot of outsiders don't get New York, or America in general. Gilly Filsner, managing associate for London-based Ludvigsen Associates, had this to say, at a roundtable discussion on globalization: 'The idea that anybody would want to buy a pickup truck is just as confusing to a European as paying $5 for a gallon of gas would be to an American.'