Detroit Gives a Nod to Star Power

January 15, 2008

Everyone's been commenting about the subdued atmosphere of the press introductions here at the Detroit show relative to years past, and after two press days have come and gone I'm realizing one element was largely missing from the product introductions: the grand live entertainment.

That's not to say it was really missed.

Sometimes fitting though much more often obtuse and contrived, the elaborate song-and-or-dance arrangements that have accompanied vehicle introductions — increasingly so in recent years, it seems — had become old-hat, as the press was forced to be subjected to five, ten, fifteen minutes of 'entertainment.' On occasion the music or dramatic effect would fit the vehicle, but more often it has seemed more a matter of the questionable personal taste of executives or public relations officers.

Automakers seem to be coming to their senses and are spending their money on headline-generating star power instead of big stage productions this time around. GM again attracted a gaggle of stars, including home-town hero Kid Rock, to its GM Style event just before the press days; Mercedes-Benz garnered Kim Cattrall for a blushing moment with Dieter Zetsche and the new Vision GLK; and Ford brought out country music star Toby Keith with its F-150 pickup.

But one of the best uses of star power out on the show floor was at the Audi stand, at the world debut of the R8 V12 TDI concept and the new production TTS, along with the U.S. debut of the A4. Canadian rocker Bryan Adams walked our with a guitar and sang a short-and-sweet version of his song, “The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You.” The delivery was perfect and, because it was short and sweet and Adams has a generation-spanning appeal, the crowd was into it.

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