Saturday, March 5, 2011

There's still some good stuff at the 2011 Kansas City International Auto Show, depending on where you look

The slogan for the 2011 Kansas City International Auto Show was "The Car is the Star." That might not be particularly original, but it seemed relatively accurate. Because when we were there Saturday morning, Bartle Hall was crammed with people, all waiting for their chance to sit in or photograph their favorite "stars."

The fact is, the auto industry ain't what it used to be. Compare this year's auto show with one from just a few years ago, and there is a decidedly different dynamic. Several manufacturers are just gone--Saturn, Hummer, Pontiac, and Mercury, to name a few. And the ones that remain don't even bother to send last year's concept car for display. Nobody wants to look like they're spending unnecessarily.

The result is a whole bunch of empty floor space. Of course, that's an issue for show organizers, because unoccupied carpeting doesn't scream, "extravaganza!"

To make up for some of the shortfall, this year's event had quite a few older vehicles on display. Most of them are cars that I remember seeing at the Art of the Car Concours at the Kansas City Art Institute last summer. And in fact, the art institute was running some sort of photo contest at the auto show, so that connection made sense.

There was still a lot of empty space, though, and as we were driving away from Bartle Hall, we noticed a bunch more old cars in the tunnel over Broadway street. I suspect they were getting ready for some kind of special display or something. It kind of gets my knickers in a bunch that we were there for more than two hours and didn't end up seeing them, though.

Anyway, what we saw was pretty interesting. I think a big chunk of these cars were on display from local dealers, as opposed to direct manufacturer involvement. There were some standouts, though, like the Camaro SS Convertible, a pricey (and a little bit homely) Porsche Panamera, and a Mercedes SLS AMG Gullwing. Mercedes also had a very nice, original 1955 300SL in their display.

They also filled up some of the space with things for the kids, like bounce houses, Radio Disney, video games, and soap box derby cars.

A few general impressions, before we get to the pictures. The Jaguar XJ is a very striking car, inside and out. The new Charger has neat taillights, but the grill leaves something to be desired. Ford is on a roll, and they remind you of that with the biggest display for one make of car. And Toyota, bless their pea-pickin' souls, are not made for people who have even the slightest passion for vehicles.

Of course, that may just be the way most people are these days. My mom was with us, and she evaluated every vehicle by the fuel mileage rating. Maybe some of these manufacturers are trying too hard to make good looking, fun-to-drive cars. 40-mpg and some kind of system that talks to iPhones may be all that's really necessary.

Nevertheless, I found more than 200 reasons to click off some pictures, and you can see them in the slideshow below.

1 comment:

  1. I too went Saturday and found it more cheerful than last year. I did miss Nissan and BMW amazingly, since it's unlikely I would ever buy one. I got my exercise as I had to park blocks away, but in addition to car photos, I clicked my way back east on 13th Street. Love those art deco buildings!

    You are correct tho it is not like the old days with the funky concepts and Bartle crammed full of cars.