As an automotive writer, I want to completely absorb the culture behind the most wonderful creation we know as the automobile. However, as an online automotive writer, annual trips to Geneva, Los Angeles, Daytona Beach or Le Mans is not something I can easily bankroll or have bankrolled for me. For this reason, my only chances to fully immerse myself in motoring culture have to come from my home in Canada. A welcoming relief from what is a trying, normal winter, the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow was something I eagerly awaited. Occurring between the North American International Auto Show and the Geneva Motor Show, the Canadian International AutoShow continues a long tradition of giving drivers of a northern country with some needed motorized excitement coming from something other than a snowmobile or snowplow. Since November, I was checking in with the website for updates on the show as well as prepared for my media credentials for the preview.
Coming out of media day with a wealth of great pictures and information on modern vehicles, I arrive at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre contemplating an ongoing issue when I write a recap wanting this to appear like the show of shows. The Canadian International AutoShow is rarely the scene for world premiere vehicles but always present a spectacle. When I attended media day, highlights to the day included the appearance of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne. Marchionne was bravely attempting to stay on a positive message after major business news indicated his auto company was demanding $700 millions in aid to have a multi-billion dollar invest in existing Canadian plants. On a lighter note, Honda’s presentation of the Fit included Canadian IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe. As much as the media day at the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow is about cars, it’s also about corporate messages they want to have resonate on Twitter, Facebook or where ever favourable means of communications between customers.
If car manufacturers wanted to send a joint message on media day at the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow, it was the striding for new plateaus even if it means abandoning ideals. After an extended absence in an official capacity, Porsche claimed their own floor space in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre showing off the Macan, a plug-in hybrid Porsche Panamera E Hybrid and Porsche 911 GT3 as part of their bold return. The 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck and the all-new Ford Mustang were shown on a largely blue coloured floor for the blue oval. The Kia K900, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, EcoBoost powered 2015 Lincoln Navigator, BMW i3 and the Audi A3 e-tron is a short list of production or soon-to-be production vehicles making its way to the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow. Announced for the Canadian market but excluded from the line-up in the US, the Nissan Micra is a subcompact with a budget-minded starting price just under $10,000 (a largely unheard of amount in 2014). A 13% sales tax in my home province as well as the typical freight charges will greatly defeat the monumental price point of the Micra but Nissan has provided some potential enticement to frugal consumers. Automakers also presented a number of concept vehicles in Canada that have already made high-profile appearances at other shows. The Infiniti Q30 Concept, Nissan Sport Sedan Concept, Jaguar C-X17 crossover concept and the radical Toyota FV2 were among creations displaying leaps in automotive design.
It has proven most enticing to attend an auto show with the presence of a couple hundred fellow media members than several thousand spectators. However, this year was the first time since 2009 that I visited the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto on the public days. Wanting to avoid the guaranteed crowds for weekends and Family Day (coinciding with the United States’ President’s Day Monday), I chose Wednesday believing it would be less attended. What I did not count on was the obvious attraction the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow was to schools and students. It was not so long ago that I was part of those field trips and I remembered my enthusiasm around any car-related event. I must say it was refreshing to see younger students still emotionally invested in automobiles. Between insurance, fuel, parking and the initial price of a vehicle, any belief car ownership is not an attractive to the latest generation could be misplaced.
The fascinating observation I made attending on the public day at the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow is what vehicles are drawing big crowds. Needless to say, the 2015 Ford Mustang and the new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 found never-ending admiration from fans. I thought it was so curious during the media day presentation for each vehicle brand how some of the products that were showstoppers were largely ignored in favour of what is hip for 2014. Cars like the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and the Audi RS7 Sportback were lit up by flashbulbs in 2013 only to receive an occasion shot from the press for the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow. Maybe greater exposure to those vehicles for many media members has rendered them familiar. This was not the case on the public day when several show goers waited patiently to sit inside a white Corvette Stingray Convertible.
Special exhibits such as the high-priced Auto Exotica display saw the McLaren P1 and the all-new vehicles from Maserati proving alluring. For Canadian motorsport junkies, recent Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Ron Fellows was honoured by a small tribute of his race cars including the Ferrari 333 SP he drove with Rob Morgan for a 1997 win at Mosport (now known as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park). NASCAR fans can observe a 2010 Nationwide Series Chevrolet Impala SS that Fellows piloted for JR Motorsports. On one floor of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, history of the automobile was showcased with Cruise National vintage cars contending for a prestigious gold metal. A Muscle Car Alley had numerous Mopar products on display including a 1970 Plymouth Superbird wearing Richard Petty’s #43 scheme. One floor down, the not-so-distant future of cars were presented in AutoConnect Showcase including GM’s LTE 4G connectivity and a Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive simulator. It was a bit of a thin display but a brand ambassador demonstrating the MINI Connected provided some amusing dance move in accompaniment to the sound system.
By the way, you know you are at a Canadian car show when one of the vehicle brand’s pavilion dedicates its big screen to share the final minutes of a major Olympic hockey game. During the closing moments of the Canada-Latvia quarterfinals in ice hockey in Sochi, BMW collected a large audience by broadcasting the live proceedings on a large screen overtop of their Active Tourer Outdoor concept car. The narrow victory brought a delighted cheer from the BMW floor but attention quickly shifted back to the cars.
It my overall message isn’t entirely clear regarding the 2014 Canadian International Auto Show, I had a great time. About the only compliant I would have was the lack of seating in the food court area during the public exhibition day. If a person would pay over $4 for a hot dog, $7 for a slice with pizza with pop and chips or indulge in the rich offerings with some local food trucks, the least that could be expected is room for enough chairs and tables. Since food was not allowed in the exhibition areas, I found needed to find a spot beside the wall on carpeted floor to have my lunch (and I wasn‘t the only one).
Every year when I visit the 2014 Canadian International Auto Show, it provides me with much-needed stamina between Christmas and spring that drives me out of winter. Recognizing I can be slow on occasions across the calendar, 2014 has started on media day and I am now ready to embrace this New Year.
Information and photo source: Canadian International AutoShow, Chris Nagy