As preparations conclude for the opening of the 2010 Seattle Auto Show, its executive director, Jim Hammond, is one very busy man. With his cell phone in one ear and radio in another, there are probably better times to take a reporter’s questions. But the show must go on, and there is little Jim Hammond likes better than talking about this auto show.
The Seattle Auto Show, organized by the Puget Sound Automobile Dealers Association and sponsored – in part – by AutoTrader.com, is one of the first stops in the 2011 model year for OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers) from Asia, Europe and Detroit. And while you’d expect Seattle’s liberal political bent – and moisture – to lean toward ‘green’, the variety of machinery – including SUV’s – speaks to both the region’s transportation needs and recreational wants.
Notably, the show’s target market is much bigger than Seattle. According to Mr. Hammond and Dealer Association research, the area’s automotive love-fest attracts attendees from eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, Montana, and Vancouver, B.C. Even residents from Anchorage and Portland attend, which speaks to both Seattle’s regional connection with Alaska – think ‘gold rush’ – and Portland’s proximity via I-5. In Texas they’d call the less-than-three hour road trip from Portland a ‘commute’.
News coming out of the show included GM’s ready-for-primetime Volt (coinciding with the General’s ready-for-Wall Street IPO), the Seattle debut of Ford’s new Explorer, ride-and-drives in Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric car and a longer look at Nissan’s electric Leaf.
Some technology news was announced with a presentation of VW’s Touareg Hybrid by Doktor Kai Philipp (incorporating an obviously fake German accent); a sales update from Subaru (in the Seattle market the Japanese carmaker enjoys an 8% market share and outsells Chevrolet); and a technology overview from Toyota, whose stand featured a prototype plug-in Prius.
Chrysler sprung a surprise in its early reveal of the new Dodge Durango, built on a lengthened, three-row version of the 2011 Grand Cherokee platform. And the debut of a new 6.4 liter HEMI, dubbed ‘392’, is intended to inject some life in the Dodge division’s sales-challenged Challenger.
A visit to the Seattle Auto Show wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the AutoTrader.com booth. There, attendees – we’re told – will enjoy an engaging experience that helps them narrow all the various options at the show to the one that best meets their needs. Given all of the mind-boggling variables available to the new car buyer, this assist could mean a saving in both time spent and money invested. Showgoers can even receive a print out of their top five picks to consult as they view the cars on the show floor. And there are few things better when making a back-to-back comparison than when the cars compared are physically only a few steps from each other.
The Seattle Auto Show, taking place at Seattle’s Qwest Field Event Center, runs from Wednesday, November 10th through Sunday, November 14th. Additional show info is available at www.SeattleAutoShow.com.