Anyone been noticing that many of my blogs start off with song lyrics?
I should start a contest to see if anyone can identify them.
What can I say - music is my life. "The Compleat Works on their Mid-Life Crisis Tour", live '60s and '70s rock 'n' roll, available for your next party...
Anyway, it's the first week in January, and a car freak's fancy turns to thoughts of - Detroit?
Yep, as I say every year, is there any place you'd rather be in January than Detroit?
OK, just about any place else. At any time of year, actually.
But January means the North American International Auto Show, a.k.a. the Detroit Auto Show. And despite all the troubles the Detroit-based car makers have been going through recently, it remains the most important, if not necessarily the biggest, auto show on the planet.
More debuts happen here, even for International car makers, than anywhere else. We'll be highlighting them, both here on Wheels.ca starting next weekend as they happen, and in the print edition of Wheels the weekend following.
But like everything else 'Detroit' these days - except maybe the hated Swedish Dead Wings hockey team (my favourite team is whoever is playing Detroit) you have to wonder if the Detroit show's days at the top are numbered.
Already, Detroit is no longer the centre for car manufacturing, even in North America. Ontario now builds more cars than all of Michigan. I can't remember the last new car plant that was built in the Detroit area - they're all going south, literally as well as metaphorically.
As for the Show, several important car makers have chosen to give Detroit a pass this year, following the lead of Porsche which bailed a couple of years ago. There have been reports of a hissy fit between the Stuttgart sports car (and overweight overpriced SUV) maker and the show organizers, although Porsche said it was because it doesn't sell many cars in the Detroit area, so why spend the money promoting them there?
The point is, Detroit is - or has been - mainly significant because of the media attention it draws, not for the punters who visit the show during the public days.
Does the fact that these car makers have decided that this coverage is no longer worth the money signal a sea change in automotive marketing?
With magazine ad spending trending downwards and large TV audiences increasingly difficult to capture due to specialty channels and the fabulous PVR which allows you to bypass commercials altogether, many companies are turning away from traditional car-flogging techniques, and turning to the Internet, including viral marketing, movie product placement, and sports or cultural sponsorships to get their message across.
Some industry insiders even wonder if the entire concept of a major auto show has passed its sell-by date.
Several major high-end manufacturers skipped the once-prestigious Earl's Court show in London England this past fall.
The Canadian division of one importer looked at the cost of renting display space at the relatively small and expensive Vancouver show a couple of years ago - not to mention taking their sales reps off dealership showroom floors to 'person' (can't say 'man" any more...) the display - and realized they could put $1,500 on the hood of every car (that's industry-speak for 'rebate'), it would cost them less, and they would move more iron.
Even the gigantic Toronto show, by far the biggest and most important in Canada, is facing some pull-outs this February.
As with everything else, time will tell.
Short-term, Wheels will be all over the Detroit show like a bad rash. As always, we will have by far the biggest media contingent of any automotive outlet anywhere. Yep, 'WAY more than any of the Detroit papers (American newspapers have yet to cotton on to the brilliance of the Wheels concept, even though we've been showing them the way for over 20 years). 'Way more than any of the American car rags, web sites, anybody.