I've done my fair share of schlepping through auto shows all over the world -- chasing executives for quotes, racing to product reveals, then rushing to makeshift newsrooms to file a story. It's tough work.
So when I heard Ford will reveal the all-new 2011 Explorer crossover (yeah, you read that right; it's a crossover, not an SUV) on Facebook, my initial reaction was “yippee!” I entertained a fantasy of all future reveals done electronically. We reporters could write about it from our desks.
And I get Ford's logic -- there are 500 million Facebook members, compared with just a few thousand journalists at auto shows.
But wait just a minute.
Folks on Facebook can't kick the tires, feel the smooth steel or experience the exciting moments just before the world reveal of a long-anticipated vehicle. Sure, you'll be able to eventually see the vehicle at an auto show, but that first-glimpse magic will be gone. We won't be able to rush an executive like GM's retired Vice Chairman Bob Lutz to hear him extrapolate on just about anything.
The greatest loss with cyber auto shows would be the demise of personal interaction with engineers, marketers and other auto types typically found milling about the show. Those encounters garner more insight than any press release or contrived online reveal ever could. And journalists pass that insight onto the audience.
Technology is a fine tool, but at the end of the day, this business is personal.
Let's keep it that way.