Dad at a Car Show: Personality Disorder?

Attending my first car show (as I did this week — the North American International Auto Show in Detroit as the guest of Ford) stimulated three facets of my personality: the inner  child, the dad and the businessman.

Inner Child
When I travel, I grab a handful of car magazines. When I get the Sunday New York Times, the first thing I read is the car review at the back of the sports section. I’m never happier or more keyed up than when I’m in the throes of researching, testing and buying a new car. My love of cars is childish — having fallen head over heels when I was a kid and my dad pulled up to the house in a new, silver 928. I loved that car, and cars in general ever since.

So, without the restraint of friends and family, NAIAS was a flailing, spastic drool-fest. I almost broke out in a fresh set of pimples just walking onto the show floor, my adolescent pleasure was so great. The American muscle cars, the concept cars — I gawked and fawned and stroked the interiors. The German cars dazzled me. Despite my fear of being derivative, and with the given that money will never be no object — the new 911. That’s the one.

Dad
I also shopped, maturely, dispassionately, for a potential replacement for our aging Mazda MPV. Given the number and dimensions of my kids, 3 rows of seats is a must for us. In all the hundreds of cars, I could find exactly two minivans (Chrysler rolled out a minivan concept the day after we left) — a Toyota Siena tucked into the back of their lot-like booth, and a Town and Country. The adult part of me fulminated as I always do over the bias Americans have against minivans. Why are SUVs more appealing when they are so much less practical, economical and roadworthy? The Inner Child raises his hand, but I ignore him.

To my eye, the 3-row SUVs on display were every bit as boring as the tannest of minivans. There was not a single exciting vehicle there in that category. Explorer, Acadia, Tribeca, CX-9? Yawn. The Toyotas are so boring I can’t even mention them without falling asleep.

If we had two kids, the VW Passat or the new Ford Fusion — a stunner if you ask me — would be headed to my driveway. But that’s hardly a thought worth having.

So the MPV stays. For another year or two, anyway.

And I thought of my kids, particularly my oldest, my teen — thought how much he would have loved it, how much my Inner Child would have loved a buddy — and settled for texting them photos of all the cool cars I was seeing.

Businessman
Ford impressed me — the people and the products. Props to Scott Monty, the head social honcho there for having the guts and the power of persuasion needed to lead that  big old corporate giant into making such a bold commitment to social media. They flew in 150 bloggers, put us up in a nice hotel, feted us, and gave us access to the top brass.  Money, mouth is.

The team from Ogilvy that put the events together, like the five-star stations dinner at the Henry Ford Museum, that herded us from event to event, did a flawless job.

The Product Development Lan with its craftsman artists sculpting vehicles from clay — the IMAX scaled HD screen for CAD design and computer modeling defied even my fellow bloggers seemingly endless capacity for snark.  Awe was the only possible response.

And this new Ford, this Fusion — makes you proud of them, in a slightly jingoistic kid of way. It is cool. Okay, the front end quotes British sports cars, but the thing is handsome, has presence and quality. It’s better than a Camry. It’s better than an Accord. It’s going to turn heads and sell a ton.