Jan. 20--The snakeskin-like hood of the Dodge Dart Carbon Fire caught Dem Glenn's eye.
"That is awesome. It's beautiful," said Glenn, 45, of Portage near Kalamazoo. "That looks like a black pair of jeans."
The sporty four-door with gloss black wheels wasn't the reason Glenn, her daughter, Grace Peguese, 12, and her mother, Mary Glenn, 67, of Taylor were at the 2013 North American International Auto Show on Saturday -- the first day the massive auto extravaganza was open to the public -- but they were impressed.
Glenn said she wanted to see the new Chevrolet Corvette; it's her screen saver at work. Her daughter wanted to see the Maseratis and Ferraris.
Those models are among the 35 brands on display at Cobo Center during the show, which runs through Jan. 27.
Marc Harlow, a spokesman for the show, said first-day attendance was 103,126, a nearly 12% increase over last year's total of 92,106, and the best first-day showing in eight years. The total attendance last year was 770,932.
"The weather was very, very cooperative," Harlow said. "People were dying to see the Corvette, I'm sure. Just a whole bunch of great sheet metal on the auto show floor."
He expects the strong number of guests to continue through Monday's holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the rest of the week.
The public show and previews generate about $375 million in economic impact for the region, he added.
On Saturday, the stimulation factor was high as crowds pressed to get a glimpse of cool rides showcased by glitzy models, pumping music and even disco balls. Detroiter Jason Scott, 36, and his 5-year-old son, Jason Jr., tried out their spokesmodel skills in front of a red 2013 Ford Taurus SHO.
Reading from a TelePrompTer, the senior Scott made his best sales pitch describing what makes the vehicle special. Along the way, he threw in a few comic poses for effect that would be captured on video and sent to him for viewing later via an e-mail link.
Scott said he has come to the show since he was a kid, when his uncle, a Chrysler worker, would get free tickets for the family. Scott was excited to bring his son for the first time this year.
"To me, it's a way for me and my son to get away," he said, calling it a good bonding experience.
Tammy Kibedy, 43, of Woodhaven said she and her husband, Alex, have made the show a family outing since son Drew, 12, was a toddler.
On Saturday, Drew was eyeballing the Jeep Wrangler, dreaming of off-roading in one someday.
"What's that place in the U.P., with the dunes?" he asked his mom, not realizing that Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is in the Lower Peninsula -- and a federally protected park.
A $155,000 black Jaguar grabbed Leonte Bivins' attention. The 24-year-old Detroit native said he's a Jaguar and Porsche fan. Oh, and he likes Bentleys, too.
Bivins comes every year to see what the designers have come up with.
"I like creativeness," he said. "They do come out with some nice concept cars."
And although Eldrige Gondo, 23, of Dearborn provides technical support for programming software in General Motors vehicles, he was dreaming about the lines and feel of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
"It makes you feel like you have money," he said.
Canadians Stephen Gottfried, 50, of Kitchener, Ontario, and Dan Armstrong, 46, of Strathroy, Ontario, haven't missed a show together in 22 years, since shortly after they met through a Studebaker club.
"It's the love of cars -- old and new cars," said Armstrong, who was impressed with the Porsche Boxster. Gottfried liked the lines of the new, sleek, performance-oriented Lexus LFA.
The show resembles a reunion for Brandy Lee, 39, of Shelby Township, a talent supervisor at Jaguar who has been interacting with auto show guests and training dealership employees all over the U.S. for 14 years.
"We have people come in from New York, Dallas, all over Canada," said Lee. "They do feel they've formed a relationship with me and the brand."
In between, she hears all kinds of comments as she shows off the cars.
"It's still the generic, 'Do you come with the car?' " she said. "At this point, I just smile. You've got to be a little more charming and creative than that."
But car displays weren't the only attraction at the show.
Hands-on activities also abounded.
At the Mazda Raceway Ridealong racing simulator, experiences differed a bit for two riders who had just spent several minutes strapped into racing seats that moved up, down and around as their virtual car sped through a race course.
"I like it. It was a really smooth ride," said Trevor Bennet, 41, of Windsor. His 9-year-old son, Jackson Bennet, liked it, too, but he said, "It was actually kind of bumpy."
Historical re-enactors even found their way to the show.
Jordan Whalen, 29, was one of eight actors portraying Henry Ford at the age of 40.
He recently moved to New York, but came back to Detroit for the show. He lived in Midtown for four years when he attended Wayne State University.
The auto show is quite impressive, he said.
"It's a wide array of wonderful distractions," he said.
(c)2013 the Detroit Free Press
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