Unexpected and crazy things can happen at auto shows.
For instance, once in Geneva I found myself wide-eyed, standing this close to the pop singer Pink, whose performance bordered on, well. … Let’s just say that she can sing the doors off a Ferrari, dresses with flair, and is extremely flexible. Extremely. Her wicked show knocked the breath from most of the paunchy, middle-aged and excruciatingly dull car journos around me who had never heard her. They’re all still stuck in the Madonna age. Anyway, Pink’s sexy show was unexpected.
And there was the time a sheik offered former General Motors of Canada president Maureen Kempston Darkes a suitcase filled with $10-million in cold cash. It was in Dubai at the auto show and Darkes was there in her then-role as group vice-president of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. After taking the wraps off the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept car, a representative of the still-anonymous sheik approached Darkes – who famously advises budding corporate leaders to “get out of your comfort zone” – with the suitcase and an offer: $10-million (U.S.) for the one-of-a-kind concept.
“At the time, my inclination was to take the money and call Detroit to order 50 more Sixteens. It would have been great to make a business of it and at the company could have used the money,” Darkes told me of the sheik and his offer. “Unfortunately, Ed Welburn (design director at GM) wouldn’t allow it – the sale of 50 concept cars.” Darkes also mentioned that the offer definitely took her from her comfort zone.
As for crazy, I’ve seen car companies drop pickups out of the ceiling at auto shows, and I’ve seen them drive an entire herd of cattle down the street outside, just to promote updated sheetmetal and powertrains. In the case of the cattle drive, the longhorns left an odorous calling card behind, and also scared the %$#@ out of the Chrysler execs standing just to one side, uncomfortably dressed in never-before-worn cowpoke garb. City slickers.
I can’t promise you live steers, raunchy (but in a good way) singers or flying pickups at this year’s 2013 Canadian International Auto Show. But I can guarantee 40 Canadian firsts – the premieres of 40 models never seen before in Canada. I’ll also swear that this show will have 125 exhibitors and over the 500,000 square feet of space at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (North and South), you will find about 1,000 cars. Together, with the exhibits around them, the cars are valued at nearly $100-million. I’d also bet some 300,000 visitors will take in the show that runs from today to Feb. 24.
Here’s an A-to-T rundown of vehicles to take note of at this year’s Toronto auto show. And you never know, Pink, a rich sheik and the herd may just show up to amuse you.
Audi Canada hit a sales milestone in 2012: sales of 20,000. Audi’s showroom action is being driven by new models and one to eyeball, for certain, is the updated 2014 R8 super sports car. To keep the aluminum super car fresh and interesting, there is now an S tronic version added to the line and the range-topper is the new R8 V-10 plus. High drool factor, there. But I’d suggest that real shoppers have a look at the Q5 small SUV which is being offered with a hybrid powertrain. The Q5 has been a huge winner for Audi.
The M6 Gran Coupe is a four-door coupe with zesty performance. BMW says you can load up four adults, but those in back will need to be short-ish. What matters most is what BMW says is the most powerful engine ever fitted to an M production car: a 4.4-litre M TwinPower Turbo V-8 with 560 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, mated to a seven-speed M-Double Clutch Transmission. If your income is in the stratosphere, you might want to take in BMW’s 7-Series Individual Limited Edition – an example of the sort of personalized BMW you can buy. Next door to BMW’s stand you’ll find the limited production and fast Mini John Cooper Works GP. We get just 50 of them in Canada. Mini says this is the fastest production car the brand has ever offered.
The 2013 SRT Viper will make you weep. It’s a two-seat supercar that, unlike past Vipers, won’t make you suffer as the trade-off for hot performance. Dodge is also touting the 2013 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty pickup with best-in-class 13,608 kg trailer towing capacity and an upgraded 6.7-litre Cummins Turbo Diesel engine (850 lb-ft of torque). But the star of Chrysler’s Canada stand is the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. In a conference call with analysts and journalists, CEO Sergio Marchionne pointed to updates to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. They are an example of the “staggering” development costs Chrysler faces as it rebuilds its lineup in the wake of the 2009 bankruptcy in the U.S. The star of the Grand Cherokee makeover: a new 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V-6 engine, plus a new eight-speed automatic transmission for all powertrains. The diesel comes courtesy of Chrysler parent Fiat of Italy.