2012 NAIAS – Show Awards and Events of the Week

The first week of the Detroit Auto Show is over and it is a good time to sit back and review the great activities of the week.   After seeing all the different awards that are thrown around the week of the auto show I thought it might be fun to give out some awards of our own.  Awards for things nobody else much writes about – but important nonetheless.  Before we get into those awards though, if you wish to see all the pictures form the show be sure to visit our flikr page here.  So on to the awards.


Attending auto shows on press days is something new to me.  Having worked in the industry for the past 30 years or so my only previous time at an auto show were either on the public or the supplier preview days.  That is not to mean press kits were a secret, I have collected the kits for the Mini ever since I bought my car in 2004.  But last year tat the Chicago show was a revelation – I had no idea manufacturers spent so much money on the kits.  In Chicago my favorite kit was the Mercedes Key Fob that included a hidden flash drive.  An so with great fanfare, I would like to present the award for best press kit to Chrysler, for the 2013 Dodge Dart Press Kit.  Not only does it have weight (regardless of the advent of plastic, or perhaps because of it, weight imparts value to pretty much everything – have you ever compared the difference between heavy and light fork?) but its clever too and I like things that are clever.  The USB Flash drive is shaped like a dart.  How cool is that? (apparently pretty cool because they are going for $50 on ebay)

Best Press Kit - 2013 Dodge Dart


Another thing that struck me was the amount of time and effort the premium brands spend on entertaining the press as well.  This being my first show as a freelance journalist, it also was the first time I took the time to sample the food at all the different booths.  Who knew you could be on your feet for the entire day, walk the show a dozen times and still gain weight?  In the end it was a close race between the winner and the Mercedes Cafe.  But in the end I had to give the award for best food to Volvo for the unbelievable cream potatoes and salmon.  If this was served in a restaurant I would gladly pay.

Best Booth Food - Volvo


If you consider that the Eminem Chrysler commercial from last year’s Superbowl was a game changer and made people think differently of the Chrysler brand then you understand what a good booth can do for you.  Unfortunately the Cobo Hall location limits the brands from doing some spectacular things in their booths like Audi and BMW having a track at last year’s Frankfurt show.  Over the year’s Audi has done the best job, from the days of the all-white cars to the quality of the materials they use in the booth design and construction.  But this year another winner emerges, and it comes from an unlikely source.  The winner of the best booth at the NAIAS is Lincoln.  While I wasn’t overly excited by the cars they displayed (and apologies to all my friends who work there for that comment), the booth itself was spectacular.  If Lincoln can manage to generate the same kind of emotion for there car designs that people feel just being in the booth, they will have winners.

Best Booth - Lincoln

The Lincoln Booth just felt right


The awards cannot all be great, there are also awards for things that aren’t so awesome.  For example, many brands come up with different swag to give booth visitors to convey a message or help with awareness.  Sometimes they are great – like a beautiful poster or a cool game.  But sometimes they don’t work so good and I have a suggestion that this award winner think twice about rehiring whichever agency came up with this idea.  Let me set a little background.  Give me something at the show that is cool and I keep = brand equity.  Give me something at the show that appears cool but I throw it away the first time I clean up = brand erosion.  The award for the worst swag goes to Chevrolet for the make them yourself buttons.  I can just see the results on public days – a line of kids waiting to get their buttons and a ad agency patting itself on the back for a job well done.  fast forward a week or two and imagine the parents finding these little buttons laying all over the house.  If you don’t fully get what I mean consider the little prizes you win at a carnival.  Get the idea now?

Worst Swag - Chevrolet Buttons


OK, enough with the awards, its time to review the great activities of the past 7 days.  The week started off with the MAIN Event last Sunday evening.  The MAIN Event stands for MotorCity Auto Industry Night and was held this year at the Coach Insignia restaurant atop the Rennaissance Center.  While the restaurant no longer rotates, it was still a great opportunity to see some of the industry leaders in a social setting.  This years featured speaker was Bob Lutz and the presentation also featured the announcement of the winners of the Ford and Lawrence Tech American Luxury Design Contest.

The MAIN Event 2012

Designer’s Night

Next up was the typical Monday evening party at Camilo’s on Woodward.  This is the place to go if you haven’t seen your designer friend in a year – as they always seem to show up here.  There are even people attending from exotic far away places like Savannah and India (you guys know who you are) or returning from a two year stint in Korea.  This year Camillo had a 917 body he had painted in Martini co0lors that was just spectacular.  Would LOVE to have that in my living room, even if it doesnt’t have the mechanicals (if it did I would rather have it in my garage).

Designer's Night

Camilo's 917 Art Car

Eyes On Design Awards

Tuesday night was the EvesOn Design awards for the best production and concept car int he show.  Having never attended before I was amazed at the amount of design talent that was on the stage between the judges and the docents.  Ralph Gilles also made a wonderful tribute to John Herlitz.  In addition to designing some of my favorite MOPARs from the sixties and seventies, I had no idea he was also a cartoonist.  Thanks to Ralph’s presentation I have attached some of the better ones here.  Congrats as well to the entire team at Ford for the Fusion’s selection as best production car and to Toyota Calty California team for the Lexus LF-LC selection as the best concept.  You know you ahve done a great job when your work is singled out by your peers.

EyesOn Design Awards Judges

John Helitz's Cartoons

John Herlitz's Cartoons

Autoweek Design Forum

Finally, comes the Design Forum by Autoweek held at the CCS campus on Thursday morning.  I have attended this event since the beginning and am always amazed at what I learn while attending (apparently changing grille bars from vertical to horizontal makes you a genius).  This year’s event was superb, as always, as we were treated with presentations by Max Wolff, Clay Dean, Peter Schreyer, Peter Horbury and Tony Fadell.  If you have never been I would highly suggest it – here is a quick write-up by the guys at Autoweek.  At a later time I will publish some of the better comments but to be quite honest I am almost out of words after writing about the show for the past solid week.

Tony Fadell at the Autoweek Design Forum

Come back tomorrow for The Auto Design Week in Review, Wednesday for the Top 10 List of my favorite cartoons and Friday for 10 Questions with Andreas Nilsson of Volvo.

About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of CarFriend.me and Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, partner in The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment and serial entrepeneur. A long time automotive enthusiast, Frank started reading car magazines at the age of 8 and has spent 30+ years working inside the automotive industry. In his spare time Frank races with the Sports Car Club of America, spends time working on his numerous project cars and supports many local charities.
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