AutoMatters: 2012 LA Auto Show

00938-20121128-29 LA Auto Show Press Days-1of2By Jan R. Wagner

The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, in the LA Convention Center, presents an excellent opportunity for you to see, experience and compare the latest automobiles from around the world, in one place and without any sales pressure.

This year’s show brought to mind the great LA Auto Shows from years past. The excitement returned, with creative, interactive exhibits and entertainment ranging from high-energy dancers at the VW exhibit to the USC Marching Band over at the Mitsubishi Press conference.

The variety of fuel-efficient vehicles and powertrains on display had never been greater. Included were high mileage gas vehicles – some offering stop/start technology for additional fuel savings, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, clean diesels, natural gas vehicles and all-electrics. There was even a diesel race engine, from Mazda.

When choosing one of these types of fuel-efficient vehicles, it is not a matter of one size fits all. You should give serious consideration to the kind of driving you usually do. For example, if your driving consists mostly of short trips around town, then an all-electric vehicle might be the perfect choice for you. However, if you do a lot of out-of-town driving, as I do when covering events for AutoMatters, then you probably will want to get an efficient gas vehicle or a plug-in hybrid, since those can quickly and easily be refueled at the pump.

The new Ford Fusion won the Green Car of the Year Award, but I was especially interested in the new Ford C-MAX Energi – a plug-in hybrid with loads of room, combined with incredible fuel economy and state-of-the-art, on-board electronics. Yes, green cars are going to get better and better, but it’s like with computers – if you’re not in the game, at some point you’ll probably want to get off of the sidelines and buy something. I went from driving an aging compact station wagon that got fuel mileage in the mid-20s to a new Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, that gets over 50 MPG consistently. That really helps with the transportation budget and it makes going to the Magic Kingdom (Disneyland and California Adventure) a much, much easier decision.

FIAT continues to be on a roll, adding a Cabriolet to their performance leader, the 500 Abarth. It was one of nearly 50 debuts at the LA Auto Show.

Porsche announced the world premiere of a beautiful new Cayman sportscar. In keeping with Porsche tradition, this car looks, at first glance, pretty much like its predecessor, but looks can be deceiving. This Cayman is longer, lower, lighter, faster, more efficient and more powerful.

Bentley presented several drop-dead gorgeous cars, including the Bentley Continental GT3 racecar and the ultra-luxurious Bentley Mulsanne.

Jaguar had a really cool, interactive, high-tech exhibit where you could open the doors, drop the top, check out the trunk space and even start the engine of a virtual new Jaguar, all by using hand gestures.

Downstairs in Kentia Hall, along with many customized vehicles, were vendors offering automotive accessories, car care products and gadgets for sale.

At the end of a day at the auto show, great nightlife is within easy walking distance of the LA Convention Center. Right next-door is the Staples Center. Also nearby is the popular “LA Live” entertainment complex, with restaurants, clubs and even a seasonal, outdoor ice rink.

After the first of the two auto show Press days, I attended the open house for the new Honda R&D Americas, where I initiated a fascinating, lively discussion with a young Honda designer. I began by asking him why we have been stuck with wheeled vehicles for so long, when the technology surely exists to develop other, better means of transportation (perhaps think along the lines of “Beam me up, Scotty!”). He welcomed my challenge, assuring me that at Honda they are, indeed, thinking way out of the box and are working on developing exciting new concepts for how we might get around well into the future. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

The next road trip for AutoMatters will take me to the Progressive International Motorcycle Show at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Locally, mark your calendar for Dec. 27 – 30. That is when the San Diego International Auto Show will be returning to the San Diego Convention Center. It’s always a great show, with plenty to see and do, and opportunities to drive. For complete information, visit

That’s it for this installment of AutoMatters. I’d like to hear from you, so please send me an email with your questions and suggestions. My email address is

Copyright © 2012 Jan R. Wagner – #262 AutoMatters