The 2022 New York Auto Show

The 2022 edition of the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) began this year’s run with two press days, on Wednesday and Thursday, April 13 and 14. The show is open to the public from Friday April 15 through Sunday April 24. Located in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in the west 30s, the NYIAS was last held in 2019. Covid halted the proceedings in 2020 and 2021. Through my job at CARiD.com, I and two other gentlemen on our Creative Team were able to attend with press passes on Wednesday the 13th.

Walking into the Javits Center as I have done for this show since 1987, which is when it moved from the NY Coliseum at Columbus Circle, I could not help but be struck by the imagery. Everywhere I turned, the banners, posters, and signage all indicated The Main Attraction.

Can you say ‘electric vehicles’?

You would be forgiven for thinking that you had perhaps stumbled upon an All-EV show. Almost every vehicle manufacturer in attendance was touting the EVs in its lineup. Some of them, such as the Ford F-150 Lightning, have been known about for months and have been eagerly anticipated by the general public. Others, like the new brand Vinfast, have little name recognition at present.

Ford F-150 Lightning

Before we get further into the EVs (and there were plenty of very interesting ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles on the floor too), it’s worth listing the manufacturers who were conspicuous by absence. This is nothing new, as the combination of online launches, rising costs, and new car intros scattered across the calendar have driven many manufacturers to conclude that physical auto shows are no longer worth the time and expense. Here’s who was missing: BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Acura, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Rivian, Tesla, Audi, Porsche, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC. Most puzzling was the participation of only some brands under a corporate umbrella: Chevrolet but not sister GM brands Buick, Cadillac, and GMC; and VW but not their Audi and Porsche brethren. While Chevy, Ford, Toyota, and Subaru among others consumed significant floor space, there still was lots of room for other stuff. And that other stuff was not one, not two, but three indoor test tracks, devoted to providing rides in EVs.

A Volvo C40 EV on the indoor test track

Think about it: with no concern about tailpipe pollution, EVs can be run indoors all day long (as long as charging is available). Ford had its own dedicated track, running the aforementioned Lightning and Mustang Mach-Es; Hyundai had its own track, with both Ford’s and Hyundai’s on the main floor; and downstairs, a larger track was shared among legacy and start-up EV makers including Nissan, VW, Volvo, INDI, and Vinfast. You should not be surprised to learn that attendees will be invited to ride, but not drive; for each ride there will be a professional driver behind the wheel. By the time the NYIAS wraps up, thousands of show-goers will have had an experience as a passenger in an EV. The car makers are hoping to turn those experiences into showroom foot traffic for their expanding EV offerings.

 

ELECTRICS

The two big surprises to me were the two brands I had not heard of until last week: INDI and Vinfast. INDI seems to have one model, cleverly named the INDI ONE, a large, 5-door, sloped roof hatchback reminiscent of the Tesla Model X. I had to do some online research after the show to learn that the company is based in California, although it’s sourcing parts from around the world. Their claim to fame is the under-hood computer, intended to allow a higher level of gaming for passengers. (Full disclosure: I do not see the attraction.)

(Above: the INDI ONE EV)

Vinfast was founded in 2017 in Vietnam, and plans to be the first Vietnamese car maker to expand into global markets. They had three different EV models on the floor: the VF7, VF8, and VF9, all variants on the currently popular crossover SUV. Their styling was unoffensive bordering on mildly attractive (no attempt at ‘weirdness’ to make them stand out), and I was surprised to read online that the company has had styling assistance from Pininfarina and BMW. They have also announced that they plan to open a manufacturing plant in NC.

It had not occurred to me that I might see the VW ID.Buzz at the show, and a nice surprise it was. Photos don’t do justice to the ‘cheekiness’ of it. I broke into a spontaneous smile as I rounded a corner and found this update on the classic V-Dub Bus in front of me. It’s sized right, and for EV fans, it could be a worthwhile alternative to an EV SUV.

The Subaru Solterra, which shares its EV platform with the Toyota bZ4X, was featured within the vast Subaru exhibit. Let’s see if the Subaru faithful, whose passion is wed to that flat-4, will embrace a product without it. Volvo, despite a full lineup of sedans, station wagons, and SUVs, had only 2 cars at the show: an XC40 Recharge (hybrid), and a C40 EV. Rides in the C40 were available.

 

 

The Mustang Mach-E, which has been on the market for a year or so, was also visible at other displays. Here are four examples of the Mach-E EV done up in different liveries:

 

STELLANTIS

This automotive giant, created in 2021 from the merger of FCA (Fiat-Chrysler Automotive) and PSA (Peugeot-Citroen), sells the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo brands here. Roaming their large footprint on the main level, Jeep and Ram dominated, which is not surprising given the profits generated by those products. As examples, the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer was there, with one floor model priced at $103,000; the Ram TRX, which has been out for a while, was also present, with an MSRP of $97,000. The sole Chrysler vehicle on the floor was a Pacifica, although an updated version of the Chrysler Airflow EV concept was unveiled. Stuck in the poorly-lit back corner were Dodge (a single Challenger), Fiat (including two 500e EVs) and Alfa Romeo. The NYIAS marked the U.S. debut of the smaller Tonale SUV from Alfa, and it was quite the looker. Those attending the show specifically to see it might have a difficult time finding it.

 

Chrysler Airflow EV Concept

 

This is where you stick Alfa?

 

The new Alfa Romeo Tonale

 

ELVIS PRESLEY’S CONTINENTAL MARK II:

 

 

PERFORMANCE

Petrol power still has its advocates. Corvettes, Camaros, and Mustangs were on hand to entice those not ready to join the plug-in revolution. Toyota debuted its new GR Corolla, with a 3-cylinder gas engine pushing 300 horsepower to its front tires. Several copies of the new Nissan Z were there to be gawked at. And if you truly long for the good ol’ days, a small display of classic European and Asian performance vehicles, including a BMW M3, Acura NS-X, Porsche 911 Turbo, and Renault 5 Turbo, were clustered together in the rear of the main floor.

 

(Above: the Nissan Z)

 

(Above: old-school Euro sports cars)

 

CHOOSE THE LEXUS GRILLE WHICH LEAST OFFENDS YOU:

 

 

BOTTOM LINE

Despite making up fewer than 50% of the cars and trucks inside the Javits Center, EVs were clearly the stars of this year’s show. I wasn’t surprised by Tesla’s absence; I was by Hummer’s and Rivian’s. The other EV makers had no problem filling in the space they would have taken. As I was leaving, I realized there is a battle which has begun between the legacy automakers and the start-ups.

The legacy manufacturers are affronted by the new kids on the block. Many of the old timers have been at it for over a century and feel that they own the R&D process, whether ICE or EV. Yet Tesla, itself old enough to be considered a legacy car maker, went its own route, and did it successfully. Today’s start-ups, observing that success, are raising the cash, rushing to market, and trying to distinguish themselves in a field getting more crowded by the week.

Even the experienced ones are still trying to figure it out. Ford has 100,000+ orders for its F-150 Lightning, and after surveying existing truck owners, Ford paid attention when the survey results said “don’t make it weird”. On the other hand, Chevrolet’s new Silverado EV doesn’t resemble the existing truck, and the company is still about two yeas away from building deliverable units. Nissan, Hyundai, and Kia are deciding how different to make their EVs look compared to their ICE counterparts.

And here are INDI and Vinfast, expecting to ride the swelling EV wave. There is an understandable expectation that as the EV segment grows, there’s still room for new companies to capture their own slice of the pie. If history is any guide, and it should be, many of the companies entering the EV road race won’t make it to the finish line.

 

All photographs copyright © 2022 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 33: 2011 Brings Out the Car for Two Invitation-only Shows

APRIL 2011: THE PETITE CONCOURS AT THE NY AUTO SHOW

Sometime early in 2011, I received an email from an outfit billing itself as “Teeny Tiny Productions”. Almost deleting it on the presumption that it was spam, I opened the email to discover that Teeny Tiny Productions was actually associated with microcars. Reading further, I learned that they planned to host a special exhibit at the upcoming New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), and this email was my personal invitation to participate.

I called the provided number and spoke to a gentleman named Burt Richmond who assured me that this was legit. He and his business/personal partner Diane Fitzgerald had hosted a number of microcar-themed events in and around the Chicago area, where they resided. The email targeted me as an Isetta owner who lived in the NY Metro area. There were no costs to me outside of the need to transport the vehicle in and out of the city. He asked “are you game?” to which I replied “sure”, thinking that adding a display at the NYIAS to my Isetta’s résumé could only be a good thing.

According to the schedule I was provided, the “Petite Concours”, as the special display was named, would run only for the first five days of the show, including press days, and not its entirety. We owners would load our vehicles into the Jacob Javits Center before the show opened, and would get them out on a Sunday, after that day’s show had ended. This made it easier for me, as traffic in the area would be (relatively) minimized. Burt and Diane were on hand when I loaded in, and Burt was in charge of the floor arrangement. My car was chosen as one of four Isettas to be arranged in an “X”, with the cars’ tail ends inward. Thankfully, the vehicles were stanchioned off, and there was 24-hour security provided by the Javits crew.

My car is the red one on the right

Because we were in a room on the lower level, and not part of the main exhibit, I won’t pretend that the Petite Concours was a major spectator draw. Certainly, the other vehicles on display, which included Messerschmitts, Crosleys, Citroen 2CVs, old and new Hondas, Fiats, and NSUs, attracted some of the crowd that just happened to be meandering past, not necessarily aware of the special showing. As I’ve observed when an assortment of miniature cars is at a show, the Isetta becomes viewed as something that’s almost ‘normal’ when surrounded by some of its more abnormal contemporaries.

A view of some of the other microcars on display

The five days went quickly enough; the probable highlight of the entire affair was being behind the wheel of my car and piloting it through the dungeon known as the Javits’s basement. I’ve walked the show enough times, and had the pleasure of attending so often on a press pass, yet never imagined there would be a day when my little bubble car and I would be in that locale together.

A balcony shot showing some of the audience
OCTOBER 2011: THE MONMOUTH COUNTY CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE

Later in the year, my good friend Dennis Nash called me up. He explained that he was very involved with an acquaintance of his who would be hosting a car show called the Monmouth County Concours d’Elegance, and 2011 was to be its 2nd running. Dennis said that they were quite short of judges, and asked me if I would judge for the day (no special training needed!). He also threw in the fact that the show vehicles were admitted as invitation-only, and he was extending such an invitation to my Isetta.

The show was scheduled for October 1, and checking my calendar, I noted that I had no conflicts, so I told Dennis I was in. Dennis’s only other request was that I arrive early that day for a judges’ meeting, and to be assigned to a team.

The day turned out to be cool and overcast, but we were thankfully spared the wet stuff, which counted for a lot, given that I was dressed in the de rigueur judge’s outfit of navy blazer, white shirt, chinos, and loafers (boater’s hats were optional). Dennis was running the judges’ meeting, and we were all put into teams of two. My judging partner was…. Dennis’s wife Ann Marie! I was happy to be with someone I knew, and the judging was quite informal anyway. There was a wonderful and eclectic selection of vehicles on the lawn, but to be blunt, the caliber of vehicles didn’t strike me as what I would expect to find at an “invitation only” concours. I did enjoy myself, in large part because the Nashes are a wonderful couple, and as dedicated to the old car hobby as any married pair I’ve ever met.

An elegant Rolls-Royce in some unusual colors

 

A decidedly non-original ’40 Ford

 

A personal favorite, the Lancia Fulvia coupe

 

Jaguar XKE Series III roadster

 

Award-winning Pontiac Grand Prix (even w/misaligned headlight doors)

 

I don’t believe that the Monmouth Concours continued much past 2012, if it even made it that far. As well-intentioned as the show organizers were, they learned how difficult it is to put on a top-notch fling, especially with the calendar becoming more and more crowded with collector car type events every weekend from April through October.

 

POSTSCRIPT: FALL HERSHEY

The following weekend was Hershey, and of course I was there. Wandering the aisles during the Saturday car show, I spotted this forlorn BMW out for judging:

This was the germination of an idea – could I, would I, consider putting my Isetta on display at Hershey? Stay tuned for the answer!

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.