The companies only send out invitations to these events to a limited number of people and it isn't exactly clear how they choose. However, these events can be a bonanza for enthusiasts who, with a little savvy, can locate and register for these events online.
I recently attended GM's “Main Street in Motion” event in Landover, Maryland. Participants at this event have the opportunity to drive almost the entire Buick, Chevrolet and GMC lineup. But GM is so confident they also bring along several competitive vehicles for comparison.
Cadillac was absent, but they've had their own test-drive events over the past couple of years.
I started at the Chevrolet pavilion, which had the largest selection of cars to drive. The Chevy Cruze was pitted against the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Toyota Corolla. The Ford Focus was conspicuous in its absence.
For the Malibu, they offered only Camry and Accord as comparisons. Interestingly, they also brought the aging Impala and offered the much newer Ford Taurus and Nissan Maxima as examples of competitors.
2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand SportEnlarge Photo
Next, it was on to the Buick course where I sampled the Regal and Lacrosse against the the Acura TSX and Lexus ES350. The Acura TL was also on hand. Buick/GMC had a separate course for crossovers which included the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Terrain, Acura MDX, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Murano (none of which I drove).
Next, for something completely different, I tried HD trucks at the GMC truck pavilion. Trucks from Dodge, Ford, and Toyota were there in addition to the GMCs. From here I could also observe climbing demos of the trucks and a high-speed test of GM”s StabiliTrak system.
I then tried more trucks over at Chevrolet's truck tent. They only had the Silverado (in many forms,) the Ford F-150 and the Honda Ridgeline. Chevrolet also had a crossover course showcasing the Traverse and Equinox against the the Ford Explorer, Toyota Rav4 and several others.
2011 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
I stayed a while to look at the static displays and chat with the “Product Specialists.” I quizzed the specialists about some upcoming GM products I was aware of. They were knowledgeable about the Chevrolet Sonic, which was not on display, but none had a clue about the eAssist powertrain which is coming for Buick and Chevrolet.
I got an impromptu demonstration of the Cruze's trunk space. I commented that despite the space it was very difficult to get things into it and suggested they offer a hatchback. They said they would note that suggestion to their superiors.
I also got into a discussion about the privacy and security issues of OnStar. The OnStar rep said that only “one in a million” consumers brought up those concerns and that most of them were in tech-savvy areas like Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
This not the first time General Motors has staged an event like this. GM ran the “Auto Show in Motion” in the mid-2000s back when GM cars were far less equipped to take on the competition. This new event showcased a vastly improved set of products from General Motors.