Washington Auto Show

January 27, 2012 by staff 

Washington Auto Show, As you might expect, the 2012 Washington Auto Show was dominated by political speeches and public policy debate. Plenty of cars and trucks were on the show floor, but most of the announcements were clearly targeted at future technology and responsible urban driving. Naturally, none of this was nourishing to any attendee who actually likes cars and pickups, but it is what it is.

Much of the underlying mood at the 2012 show was colored by the recent discussions on Capitol Hill, where various representatives asked GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson about the investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into the Chevy Volt and fire that started as a result of some improper storage of a crash tested vehicle. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spent much of his time on the show floor complimenting manufacturers for doing a great job “getting back to work,” and he defended his agency’s taking almost six months to investigate why the batteries in the Volt they crash-tested caught fire.

If you’ve never been to Washington, D.C., it is an amazing place to visit, but there is a strong sense that this is a very insulated town with some unusual priorities. In the several days we spent moving around town, we saw only one Ford SVT Raptor, no Ram Power Wagons, and more eight-lug Chevy Suburbans (big black ones with private drivers behind the wheel) around this town than we’ve ever seen in one place. Finally, for a town with a lot of great public transportation, there is always a lot of traffic.

Still, we noticed a few interesting things at the show floor. There was no real truck news, as most of the emphasis in Washington is squarely focused on electric and hybrid cars. It was nice to see quite a few full-size pickups on the show floor during the media preview (even Detroit waited until the public days to roll out most of the full-size pickups), but as far as announcements and commentary were concerned, it was like anything with a bed was invisible.

Below are some of our observations and quick news items we gleaned form walking the show floor. As more full-electric and hybrid-drive technologies get into pickup trucks, we’re pretty sure politicians will try to jump on the bandwagon and take some kind of credit for it and, as a result, make a speech about it.

Washington is a great place to get manufacturers, politicians and government agency officials together on one stage. This panel included representatives from NHTSA, J.D. Power and Associates, the EPA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Natural Resources Defense Council, auto manufacturers and the White House. But without a unified energy policy (with understandable goals), you needed three hands to count the number of “top priorities” mentioned by the various speakers.

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