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Auto Show Dispatch | Mark Krotov

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article provides a detailed account of the author's experience at the 2023 New York International Auto Show, offering insights into the state of the automotive industry, the rise of electric vehicles, and the broader societal implications of car culture.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] The Buick Display

1. What was the author's impression of the Buick display at the auto show?

  • The Buick display was located in a dim and lonely corner of the exhibit hall, featuring a single, "sickly orange" Buick Envista crossover SUV.
  • The author found the Buick display to be unimpressive, with no persuasive elements or attempts to engage attendees.

2. What did the author think about the Envista's design and market potential?

  • The author felt the Envista had a "cheap-feeling" design and limited rear-seat headroom, suggesting it had limited market potential.

3. How did the author compare the Buick display to other brands at the show?

  • The author noted that the Buick display was "Buick-like", implying it lacked the energy and engagement of other brands' displays.

[02] Trends in the Automotive Industry

1. What trends did the author observe in the automotive industry at the auto show?

  • The author noticed a trend of "decrossoverification", with small and small-adjacent SUVs becoming lower, more compact, and more sedan-like.
  • The author also observed a decline in the presence of major automotive brands at the show, with several notable absences.

2. How did the author connect the decline of automotive enthusiasm to the high quality of modern cars?

  • The author suggested that the "often-noted decline of auto enthusiasm" may be a consequence of the current era of "unprecedentedly high automotive quality", as there is less need for enthusiasts to bond over the idiosyncrasies and problems of older vehicles.

3. What was the author's perspective on the role of Tesla in the industry?

  • The author found it "wonderful" not to have to actively think about Tesla at the show, but noted that other brands were clearly aware of and responding to Tesla's influence.

[03] The Presence and Displays of Different Automotive Brands

1. How did the author describe the displays and presence of various luxury automotive brands at the show?

  • The author was skeptical of the purpose of Japanese luxury divisions like Acura and Infiniti, finding their displays to be overly elaborate attempts to sell rebadged mainstream models.
  • In contrast, the author was impressed by the "swagger and individuation" of the Genesis brand, which presented itself in a more refined and elegant manner.

2. What did the author think about the displays and marketing efforts of other mainstream brands at the show?

  • The author was intrigued by the creative and engaging displays of brands like Toyota and Nissan, which featured interactive elements and unique design touches.
  • The author was also impressed by the "slickest" and most appealing product presentation from Hyundai, which the author saw as the "star of the show".

[04] The Rise of Electric Vehicles

1. How did the author describe the industry's approach to electrification?

  • The author noted a "disorienting sense of inevitability" around the industry's discussion of electrification, in contrast to the author's own experience of seeing earlier electric car efforts fail to take off.
  • The author admired Hyundai's "earnest commitment to electrification" and Polestar's more overt embrace of the environmental and political implications of electric vehicles.

2. What concerns did the author raise about the current state of the electric vehicle market?

  • The author relayed a hedge fund manager's perspective that the current electric vehicle market is struggling due to factors like the reduction of EV credits, the persistent price premium, and low gas prices.

[05] Safety and Regulation in the Automotive Industry

1. What were the key points raised by the NTSB chair during the World Traffic Safety Symposium?

  • The NTSB chair discussed several recent tragic car crashes, highlighting how existing safety technologies could have prevented these incidents.
  • The author was troubled by the "passivity" of the NTSB chair's remarks, feeling that the responsibility for addressing the safety crisis was placed too heavily on the car companies.

2. How did the author connect the safety issues to broader societal and infrastructural problems?

  • The author argued that the country's "racist spatial self-destruction" through the development of the highway system is a root cause of the safety crisis, with the design of roads and lack of enforcement contributing to the problem.
  • The author was critical of the disparities in safety features between luxury and lower-trim vehicles, seeing it as a reflection of broader societal inequalities.

[06] The Broader Implications of Car Culture

1. What insights did the author share about the societal and environmental impacts of car culture?

  • The author expressed disgust and despair at the industry's role in "destroying and destabilizing this country and our planet and millions of its inhabitants".
  • The author connected the desire for large, imposing vehicles to a need for "status", "height", and "walling oneself off from the world", seeing it as a reflection of deeper social and psychological factors.

2. How did the author's final reflections on the Hummer EV tie into these broader themes?

  • The author noted the Hummer EV's massive scale and terrible sight lines, suggesting that the Hummer has become a symbol of American military power and the destruction it has wrought around the world.
  • The author's final thoughts connected the contrasting visions of technological progress and the persistent realities of violence and inequality in the automotive industry and society at large.
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