It not hard to figure out why the annual LA Auto Show at the Convention Center is one of the most heavily attended annual events in southern California.
We love our cars. We practically live in them, right?
For nine days, auto makers from around the world show off their latest and greatest models at the LA Auto Show. The public gets to touch the cars, sit in them, and, like the experience of going on a first date, wonder if the vehicle they've climbed into will turn into the love of a lifetime. Or at least a fling that will last a few years.
Unlike previous years where I've had to push and elbow my way through the hordes who descend on the LA Convention Center, I got to see the Auto Show with almost no one around -- thanks to KCET's Huell Howser.
We were there on Press Day, which is not open to the public, and the experience was great because it was lots of beautiful cars minus the crowds. I tagged along with Huell and his team for a taping at the GM area on the floor of the Convention Center. Huell is producing a special KCET night of programming about cars that airs on KCET Thursday, January 14th starting at 9:00 P.M. The two hour Huell event isn't just about any cars - it's about electric cars, which promise to revolutionize the way we get around.
For the shoot, Huell positioned himself next to GM's great hope, the electric-powered Chevy Volt, which goes on sale in 2010. General Motors' future depends on the success of the new car.
There's an irony about GM's much-ballyhooed new car, Huell pointed out to the GM spokesperson he interviewed. General Motors, after all, is the same company that unceremoniously ended production of the first major electric car - the electric plug-in EV1 -- eight years ago in spite of protests from owners who said it was the greatest thing since the the invention of sliced bread. GM didn't budge and instead recalled every one of its EV1 cars which drivers could only be lease. After commenting on the EV1 debacle, Huell moved to the promise of the Chevy Volt.
Huell had two on-camera guests: a GM spokesperson and Chris Paine, director of the acclaimed documentary "Who Killed The Electric Car?" (KCET will air Paine's film on January 14th at 9:00 PM ahead of Huell's half hour special on the future of green cars.) During the interview in front of the Volt display, Huell stumped the GM guy with a simple question: what will the mileage of the Volt be after the first forty-miles the car runs on the electric portion of its engine. ("That's being sorted out right now," the spokesman said.)
Since I was inside the halls of the Convention Center there was going back to work before hitting every display area of the LA Auto Show. I needed my car fix for the year. I admired the speed demons named Porsche, which get housed in their own special hall off the beaten track. (When you carry a price tag like Porsche does, you can afford to do whatever you want.) I couldn't help but snicker at the Honda concept car; so did others next to me who couldn't understand the shape of the car. The Honda Element turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I took to the Element's boxy cargo-loving interior. I could see myself pulling out of the IKEA parking lot with a lot of boxes.
But it was VW's diesel cars that shot up to the top of my 'must consider for my next car' list. Using technology that has been perfected over the last seventy four years, VW's lineup of cars average around 50 miles per gallon. Many owners report their regular mileage is in the 60 MPG range! Sure, electric cars sound great. I like the sound of Nissan's Leaf which boats it will enjoy 200 miles per gallon. But electric cars are still in their infancy and it'll be another five years or so before the technology starts getting ironed out, according to "Who Killed the electric Car" director Chris Paine. (Get ready for his next documentary which will be "Revenge of the Electric Car.")
Tune to KCET on Thursday, January 14, at 9:00 PM for Huell Howser's special on electric cars and Chris Paine's acclaimed 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" (By the way, GM didn't sit quietly when Paine's critical look at the EV1 came out. It went after him in a blog entitled "Who Ignored the Facts about the Electric Car?")
For more of my photos from the LA Auto Show head here.