Monday, April 25, 2011

2011 New York Auto Show, Part 1

When it comes to auto shows, I’m a bit of a neophyte. I’ve attended and worked at the Boston show a number of times, but that’s it. On the heels of Saab’s wild success at Geneva, I got an invite from Steven Wade, founder of, and newly appointed social media director at Saab, to join him at the New York Auto Show. I couldn’t resist. New York is so close, I knew I could see the Phoenix and 9-5 Combi, and I could spend some time with our friend Steven whom we had just seen at Swedish Car Day 2010.

While the official opening of the show was April 22, there was a dealer meeting and press conference going on there on the 21st so I made my way down that day to see if I could muster my way—having no valid credentials—into the proceedings. I left early Thursday morning from New Hampshire, stopping briefly in Acton to pick up some goods from Ralph Bockoven for Steven to take back to Trollhattan, and then made a leisurely drive to Manhattan. My steed was a 2010 9-5 Aero. While I had driven these before, this was my first long drive. I took time to set up the car for my use, including making the Bluetooth connection for my phone, and hooking up my iPod via USB. What I hadn’t previously realized was that when the iPod is thus connected, the car recognizes the device as an iPod, and suddenly the radio controls, including those on the steering wheel, and manipulate the iPod and display on the radio screen what otherwise is on the iPod screen. I know this is nothing really, but I’m glad to see the interface is so complete.

I did hit a delay in Hartford, where what appeared to be a construction site was in fact a clean-up operation for a rolled tractor trailer whose contents were spilled all over an entrance ramp to I84. There was another, on the West Side Highway in New York, but that was it. I turned onto 34th Street at about 10:30. I located a few parking locations a few blocks from the Jacob Javits Center, and all seemed to have the same “$8.32” out front, for the first 30 minutes. I chose a smaller, outdoor lot, left the car, and walked to the JJC. I entered and surveyed the area. Yes, there was security at all the entrances to the halls. Undeterred, I sent a text to someone already inside (not an employee of Saab, but he shall remain nameless to protect his integrity) to see if there was any way of surreptitious entry on my part. I was told to wait in the lobby.

My accomplice met me a few minutes later and whisked me around the corner to a blind corner out of sight of all the security types. There, he produced the requisite lanyard and wrist band. I was now “Chris” and he headed into the main hall. Through the guard station—no problem. We reunited with Chris, whom I did not know, and I returned the credentials. I was now running around naked, with no lanyard and no bright wrist band. I had no idea if I would be thus spotted and thrown out, so I knew that I should stay in groups at the Saab stand and not venture too far off—there would be time for that tomorrow. Before long, I was attacked from behind, a massive bear hug thrown on me. No, it wasn’t security—it was Steven Wade!

We chatted at bit, and he filled me in on the goings-on in New York. Then as he went about his business, I started catching up with friends and acquaintances at the stand. First off, the stand itself was spectacular. If you saw the Boston show, picture the same basic layout, but with the addition of the Independence Day convertible, the 9-5 Combi, the Phoenix, and graphics on the video screen specific to the Phoenix. It was all spectacular. So was the company. Working clockwise around the Saab display were Porsche, Audi, Spyker, Lotus, Volvo and Jaguar. At the stand were Saab reps John Longo and Roger Marlowe, dealers Tom Backes and Kurt Schirm, our very own Dan Leahy (who kindly authorized my attendance), and SCD attendee and Saab salesperson Meg Haviland. I was introduced to Jason Castriotta. I’m a diminutive guy, so almost everyone looks like a giant to me. When I saw pictures of Jason from the Geneva show, he looked sort of small—must have been all the giant Dutch and Swedish standing around him. He is anything but small. He’s not tall—just taller than me (who isn’t?). But even in a suit, in person, he has a physique which is quite imposing! He was very gracious, and displayed his Saab knowledge by knowing very much who we are at Charles River Saab.

After a time, Swade signaled it was time for lunch, and we, joined by Curvin O’Reilly, retired to the food court for a sandwich. At this point, I had traversed the security check point and was not able to reenter the show—that would have to wait until the next day.

I walked back to the parking lot, unsure if I should retrieve the car. My math isn’t that good, but I know that at $16+ per hour things would ring up fast. When I got to the lot and inquired about the cost if I took the car out then or later in the afternoon, I was pleased and stunned to learn that the $20 I had left that morning was enough to park all the way until 10pm! When I pointed to the rates on the sign, I was informed that those rates only applied to cars left from 7-10 am. There’s a lesson there—just go to NYC a little late, and park in mid-town for less than you could in Boston.

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