News Column

Electric Acrobatics and Showmanship Light Up Detroit Auto Show

Jan 15 2013 6:23PM

Frank Fuhrig

The goal at most car shows is to entice buyers directly, but the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is aimed more at generating publicity for shiny new models and jaw-dropping prototypes.

The pressure to draw the eyes and ears of the automotive press to the dozens of "major" announcements during the Detroit preview days leads companies to put on entertainment that seems to have little to do with their products.

Japanese luxury brand Infinity unveiled its new Q50 sport sedan with Cirque du Soleil acrobats making high-flying flips in front of the car while it was still draped under a black cloth.

Via Motors went a step further, with trapeze artistes Duo de Luna - direct from a circus engagement in Saarbruecken, Germany - racily taunting gravity, often clinging only to each other's feet. Any relevance to Via's line of electric work vehicles was as scanty as their outfits, except for static energy that might have been generated as the two women rubbed against each other.

The display was enough to build a crowd from the predominantly male journalists wandering through the press preview.

As Duo de Luna slid down from the ceiling, Via launched its hologram of an actor portraying famed inventor Thomas Edison. The father of the light bulb in American lore, Edison engaged in a rather awkward conversation with a hologram of Via chairman Bob Lutz, a retired General Motors executive touted as the father of the plug-in petrol-electric hybrid Chevrolet Volt.

After gaining an endorsement for Via's work from Edison, who argued a century ago for electric cars, Lutz in the flesh stepped out from behind a curtain to present the company's plug-in electric concept truck, the hulking XTrux.

He called it "the cleanest, most powerful electric truck in the world," touting it as "green and mean" and combining "the torque of a monster truck with the fuel efficiency of a Prius."

The truck is actually a six-cylinder Chevrolet Silverado with an added 402-horsepower electric motor an a lithium-ion battery array.

"We still call it a concept vehicle," Via president Alan Perriton said, "but we're already driving it here at the Detroit auto show."

Parked next to the hologram screen, the running board bore a faint muddy footprint, proof that the rugged pickup truck was not just a pretty prototype.

Glitzy announcements belie the industry's disappointment with early sales of plug-in vehicles by such car giants as General Motors and Nissan.

Lutz also presented Via's Presidential, a luxury SUV. Representatives from utility company Pacific Gas and Electric and telecom Verizon discussed the benefits of highly fuel-efficient plug-in hybrids that they are incorporating into their vast customer service fleets.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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