Why We Still Need Auto Shows

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As the world in 2020 has become one of social distancing and avoiding large gatherings at almost any cost, the automotive world has had to resort to almost entirely of virtual auto shows and vehicle debuts. The trend of not physically participating in auto shows has been a steady trend over the last 5 years. However, this year has given manufacturers an easy out, with no excuse necessary of why not to attend, because there is nothing to attend.

When the internet became really big, and information was almost instantaneously communicated to millions, that started the clock on the end of auto shows. Auto manufacturers have started pulling further and further out of auto shows. The time and money it takes to set all of the sensory stimulating displays and participate in them is expensive and time consuming.

Even with all of those reasons, I think that auto shows should remain. If the world can get back to some sort of formal normal large group gatherings, there is a benefit to an auto show that there is a captive audience that wants to be there. They are there to experience everything about the vehicle and the display. Those things are very valuable. Auto manufacturers throughout the years have created displays with specific lighting, colors, ergonomics, sounds, and even smells to distinguish their brand from all the others at the show and draw people to their booth for the experience! Buick one time even went so far as to hire a chef and did a live cooking show at their booth where they fed a select number of attendees!

Auto shows are nice as well, because you can sit in vehicles and try them out and compare them to other vehicles in the brand, or others, in a NO SELL ENVIROMENT. That is one of the biggest reasons to have an auto show. Potential customers can compare your vehicle to others all at once, without having to feel like they are prey for sales department workers to cash in on.

Along with that, I am 6’4″ and it is very important for me to sit in cars to make sure I can see out of them before I would ever consider purchasing them. I don’t buy new because I do not have the funds, but even still, I would sit in brand new cars at auto shows, to know what I might want to get in the future on the used market.

Although the internet is cool, virtual debuts can be confusing! The Ford Bronco debut was a bit of a mess. There were supposed to be 3 short films debuting it on 3 different cable channels, at roughly 8 pm, but then Ford debuted a “live” video at 7 PM. But, it was simply just a video. There was nothing “live” about it. It was a pretty big let down to me.

The Ram TRX went, although it was a virtual debut, took a more traditional auto show approach, having product specialists speak about the vehicle live on a stage in Detroit while the truck was being demonstrated both on stage and in video. It was a good combination of blending new virtual technologies, with traditional auto show elements. I wish I could have been there, and hopefully someday automotive media can once again return to these debuts.

Maybe I am just a collector of experiences and never got to be a circuit automotive journalist flying from auto show to auto show to be impressed by manufacturers so their vehicles would get better reviews. I am slowly trying to work on becoming an independent automotive journalist through All Out Octane, so maybe someday I will get to review brand new vehicles!

I did enjoy many auto shows in Detroit, New York, and Hampton Roads as I possibly could when they were still around. They will be memories I will cherish forever. Hopefully I will be able to attend and experience them once again because there are so many vehicles I want to see in person. But, with the way things are going, that time might not ever come.

Bronco Launch: Boom or Bust?

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Ford introduced the Bronco on Monday night and it was met with great fanfare and rejoicing. I have been incredibly excited for it to debut and would love to have put down a deposit on one. The website to reserve one crashed almost immediately. It will be a very successful and popular vehicle. But for as hyped as the Bronco was, the launch, especially being all virtual, did not go as well as it could have in my opinion, and here is why.

Ford teamed up with Disney Creativeworks to create three short films about the Bronco directed by Jimmy Chin. You can watch each film here, here, and here. They were shown around the 8 o’clock hour on Monday, July 13th. One on ABC, one on ESPN, and the last National Geographic. Ford also did a virtual launch on their YouTube channel.

After watching all three, I now see what Ford was trying to do and where they were trying to go. They are trying to say get off your butt and go out in nature. Stop watching it on TV, get in a Bronco, and go live. They want to show they are going back to their roots, ready to tackle the tough terrain and take on Jeep. It is showing that Ford has climbed up out of there old ways because each film has climbing in it. Jimmy is not just an award-winning film director, he is also a climber. That is evident in all three short films that he made. The climbing aspect was much better in Jimmy’s own film than it was in the other two.

Jimmy’s own film was just much better overall. He did better at making the Bronco a part of his story, sort of like a supporting role, rather than just a vehicle being driven by a celebrity. I do not want to belittle those celebrities either. Their stories were amazing and they are awesome people. I just don’t think Jimmy could incorporate the Bronco into them as well and it seemed more forced and less natural. But that is simply my opinion.

The main issue I have is this. For as much hype that had been put into these films and the Bronco launch in general, it was insanely overrated. It is also ridiculously hard to find where they said they said they were going to place these films. They said they would be available on Hulu starting July 14th, the day after the launch. Maybe they were there. I wasn’t able to check. But, I did check on July 16th and did not find them. I searched, but I didn’t see anything Ford or Bronco related. Therefore, I went to YouTube. All three films are there but they have so few views in my opinion. Ford really dropped the ball on these films, I think. The most views one of the films has is 272,000. You might think that is a lot, but when you look at the live launch they debuted on YouTube, that video has over 2.8 million views. The films to me were a total dud and a total distraction.

Ford has had issues with launches in the past, especially the Explorer. If you want to hand Ford a pass because of the pandemic, that is fine. I will cut them a little slack. But really, they have rumored the Bronco for YEARS. Ford kept changing the date because the first launch date was set to be in the spring of 2020. Then the pandemic hit and caused them to set a new date. That date was July 9th, which was OJ Simpson’s birthday. How did they not know that? When your vehicle is associated with something like that, one would think a simple Google search would tell you a birthday? Not intentionally doing that, and wanting to not cause controversy, they moved it to July 13th and said all 3 films would come out across 3 Disney network of channels. Then there would also be something on YouTube. Yet, in none of these did a CEO get up and say anything about the vehicle, or show one in action in real life. Everything was staged and filmed prior. Nothing was live. There were hardly any facts given that we didn’t already know.

If it seems like I am ranting and long-winded it is because I can’t seem to articulate how confusing this launch was. My point is this. It should have been a very simple, inspiring, and proud event. In reality, it had very few of those things.

Let me be clear though. The Bronco launch did not fail. There was so much hype about it to begin with that it really couldn’t fail. It just wasn’t as amazing as it could or should have been in my journalism degree, automotive enthusiast opinion.

Kyle Larson-NASCAR-and BAD words

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Breaking over the weekend is the news that Kyle Larson, driver of the number 42 Chevrolet Camaro for Chip Ganassi Racing, has recently been suspended indefinitely, without pay, for using a racial slur in an iRacing event on Sunday evening.

I do not support cursing, vulgar, or derogatory language. That is uncalled for and shouldn’t be used in any circumstances. While I don’t support that or do that, I know that race car drivers, under pressure tend to spout things off. Radioactive clips have lots of bleeps. If you go to a race, you can hear many things live on scanners between drivers and crew. While, they might use specific words that Kyle used, they still use foul language. When is NASCAR going to start holding the drivers accountable for what is said on their radios during a race? Clearly it matters to them when words are said outside of their jurisdiction. Maybe they should work on cleaning up their own mess? Again, I do not support what Kyle said. I am just trying to state that the issue at hand is in NASCAR already, it just has been emphasized by this circumstance.

NASCAR has their driver for diversity program and it doesn’t look good for them and their image when the two most current drivers in the news are ones that NASCAR is trying to increase the amount of and appeal to fan based wise. Then there is the whole is this a video game or not debate. Maybe we just need to get back to real racing as soon as possible because it seems like iRacing is hurting NASCAR more than helping. We won’t have a whole lot of drivers or sponsors left, regardless of the worldwide pandemic issues that are already making things difficult.

The small, sad ending to all of this is that, it is said that Kyle didn’t even know he was invited to the race on Sunday and he wasn’t quite sure if he was going to even attend the race. He said he was most likely going to be spending time with family. At this point, I am pretty sure he wishes he had just stuck to family instead of getting on to go race.

Digital NASCAR Heading for Disaster?

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NASCAR has recently shifted to online racing and it has been awesome. I am thankful for it and have been enjoying it greatly. I have always thought this should have been a bigger deal and it is interesting that it has taken a worldwide event to make it happen. However, there are some strange circumstances that need to be addressed if even the future of e-racing is to continue.

My thought about the sport was that all the current drivers would be racing virtually and continue the season online. NASCAR fantasy could continue, drivers points would be awarded, and at the end of the season, we would have a champion. Even if when we do get back to real-life racing,  maybe it can be used for weather canceled races. Just a thought, but continuing on. Just recently, some issues have evolved that are beginning to blur the lines between real and digital racing.

At first glance, NASCAR moving online is a great idea. However, not all the current active cup series drivers are racing virtually. There are some retired drivers and other series drivers in the mix as well. What is the reason for this? Is it just for fun? I do understand that many of the drivers are not as familiar with virtual racing as others, so maybe they don’t want to race online. Is it for entertainment and for fans to enjoy until we can get back to real racing? Well, the next paragraph is going to make you ask what truly is “real” racing.

Bubba Wallace apparently “rage quit” after wrecking out of the virtual Bristol race on April 5, 2020. Blue Emu, a longtime real-life sponsor of RPM, did not take kindly to that action and fired Bubba. While there are many factors that go into this on all sides, ego, attitude, and expectations, one can’t help but wonder…what now is the point of this virtual racing?

If you can lose your real-life sponsor in a digital event where non-cup drivers are competing, how is that not real? I watched just about the whole race. The coverage is vastly different than real races. I had no idea that Bubba had even “rage quit.” How is it different than any driver in real-life wrecking out of a race? This just set a dangerous precedence and NASCAR needs to scramble fast to figure out some rules to this. Clearly, nothing can be for fun anymore.