You always knew when you were in Los Angeles because you didn't see any American cars.
Domestic-branded trucks, SUVs, minivans and Crossovers, sure.
And the occasional Ford Mustang.
But that was about it.
They even made jokes about this on TV. Hank "Hey Now!" Kingsley, the 'sidekick' on the brilliant old Larry Sanders Show, once told Larry he had actually fallen in love with a woman who owned an American car.
"I don't know ANYBODY who owns an American car!" he said plaintively.
The only American sedans you ever saw out here had lights on the roof (cop cars or taxis) or limo signs on the door.
At least until recently.
On this trip, I have spotted a few Dodge Chargers, a Ford Focus or two, a Chevy Cruze, even a 'civilian' Ford Crown Victoria.
And a Chrysler Sebring convertible, but that was surely a rental.
Now, a shuttle ride from the airport to Hollywood hardly constitutes a statistically valid sample.
But maybe this is an indication that the domestics are starting to re-make inroads in this most critical of markets.
Just had a nice long chat with Alfonso Albaisa, the Cuban-American vice president design for Nissan North America, and head of Nissan's Design Centre in La Jolla California.
He was showing us details about the new Infiniti JX which debuts at the Los Angeles Auto Show tomorrow - we can't tell you anything about it until after the press conference.
But he did wax extremely eloquent about the differences between Nissan and Infiniti designs.
“Infiniti is more organic, more flowing, while Nissan tries to be more technical. We have guidelines posted on the walls of our studios, reminding us every day of the direction we want to go.
“We could probably make a business case for separate studios, but I like being able to work on both.
“Our designers are very competitive, and hungry. They want their designs to be chosen for production. Management's job is to choose winning designs which best fit the design direction for the individual brands.
“We compete with the other design centres in Japan, China and London England. We win more than we lose, but I tell you, it's like a morgue around here when we lose!”
The 'Essence' concept car was not chosen for production. Did that hurt?
“We will be seeing many elements from that car in various production vehicles over the coming years,” Albaisa said. “So that helps us accept that fact.
“Things like the 'crescent cut' treatment of the rear roof pillar which will become a design icon for the Infiniti brand.”
In the JX?
“You'll see tomorrow!”
Albaisa's teams have a lot on their plates.
“When we opened here 30 years ago, we typically did one and a half cars a year - maybe two exteriors and one interior. Today with just twice as many staff we do THIRTY projects! The technology is so different, the processes so much faster.”
A good job, because Nissan will be launching a new car every six weeks over the next six years.
Los Angeles has been at the heart of automotive culture almost forever.
It was never 'Motor City' like Detroit, in that car company headquarters weren't here, although there are (or were) some factories.
But what makes LA critical is that this is where the cars are bought - it's one of the single biggest markets in the world.
It is also where the styling trends are set.
You'd therefore think this city would host a major car show too.
Until recently, not so's you'd notice.
After trying to go head-to-head with the Detroit Auto Show monster in early January with little or no success, the show decided a few years ago on a late-November time frame, around the American Thanksgiving.
This date has little competition, and even scoops Detroit by two months. As a result, the show is finally getting its due recognition.
The press days are this week, and Wheels will have the usual boatload of reporters on the scene to keep you informed. John Leblanc and I plan to blog directly from the show floor - assuming the technology works; not all auto shows have wireless and/or cell service in their buildings, hard as that may be to believe.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Chevrolet.
Initially, it was a separate company created by William Crapo Durant (also founder of General Motors) and Swiss-born (and, briefly, Canadian resident) race car driver Louis Chevrolet, which Durant used as, you should pardon the expression, a 'vehicle' for his re-acquisition of The General.
It subsequently became a division of the 'new' General Motors, and shortly thereafter, the best-selling automotive brand name in the world.
We have a feature story on how this all happened in this weekend's Wheels.
But I thought I'd start off the celebration with a wee trivia contest regarding Chevrolet:
I will forgive Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell anything, because of her incredible body of work.
But do you know what anachronistic error she makes in one of her best-known songs?
First correct answer submitted to my e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) wins - well, I don’t know what, but I’ll find something in my closet with a Chevy bow tie on it…