Chicago 2016: Playing Catch Up

2017 Chevrolet Trax - All Photos by Michael Gatch/Mike Gatch Photography

2017 Chevrolet Trax – All Photos by Michael Gatch/Mike Gatch Photography

After seven Media Days, The Chicago Auto Show still serves up good opportunities to catch debuts of new products, watch revisions of current ones and catch up on vehicles seen at prior auto shows. The latter is important, since it seemed that everyone else had their chance to put their paws on it while I note some interest on said vehicle.

What happened inside McCormick Place? Here’s my take on this year’s Chicago Auto Show…rather my picks of the show.

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Chicago 2016: Three Key Debuts

2017 Kia Niro - All photos by Michael Gatch/Mike Gatch Photography

2017 Kia Niro – All photos by Michael Gatch/Mike Gatch Photography

Do driverless cars dream of sport utility vehicles?

Last month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit was filled with technologies of the future. Automakers showed us new safety technologies that if given free reign could drive a car unaided by its human occupant. The 2016 Chicago Auto Show is the alarm clock that rips you from that dream. Instead of the promise of the future Chicago is firmly grounded in the present. SUVs and trucks are what Americans crave and the Windy City is full of them.

Car preferences have always reflected the time period they exist in. The streamlined designs of the 1950s were a representation of the newly minted interstate highway system. Today, in a world of crumbling infrastructure SUVs and crossovers make more sense than ever. Americans are rugged individualists whether they live in a cabin in the woods or a three bedroom townhouse in the suburbs. Some want the freedom to go anywhere, do anything and pack enough snacks to keep them and their kids satiated. Some want to crest dunes and crawl rocks. Others just want to have a worry free commute while getting 50 miles per gallon. The Chicago Auto Show has something to fill all these niches.

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Chicago 2016: Team V&R is a GO!

A scene from the 2015 Chicago Auto Show - Photo by Randy Stern

A scene from the 2015 Chicago Auto Show – Photo by Randy Stern

For the sixth year in-a-row, Victory & Reseda will be on the floor of the Chicago Auto Show. And, we are definitely excited.

How so? The coverage will be different, thanks to some help. Here’s how…

First of all, I will be there for Thursday’s media preview and Friday’s social media days. I will be joined at McCormick Place by Northwest Indiana-based photographer Mike Gatch. He has done plenty of automotive photographer over the past several years with work stretching all over the Midwest and beyond. We met in the Twin Cities, when he was photographing the car scene and individual automobiles. His biggest work was photographing last year’s Central Crown rally between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

Our staff writer, Tyler Lipa, will also cover the show remotely from his secret bunker in Central Indiana. Lipa has covered Chicago before for other outlets, so he is familiar with how things are on the floor. He will be watching the debuts, especially of sustainable vehicles.

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V&R@5: Five Favorite Destinations

Photo by Randy Stern

Photo by Randy Stern

“I’ve been to many places and seen many faces…”

To achieve maximum value in this work, you have to be where the story takes you. It could be an auto show, a media drive event, a meeting or a place to stretch out your sea legs. These places represent the combination of work, discovery, experience and enjoyment.

In celebration of V&R’s Fifth Anniversary, we are listing Five Favorites of various related items. This round, we are listing Five Favorite Destinations. These are places visited while doing the work of this website. They could include places where auto shows, media drive events and media association meetings took place. They could also include places where road trips happen with vehicles in review.

These locales do not reflect the event or story itself. They are indeed a part of it.

Don’t take my travel advice here. These are places where I roamed during the V&R Era.

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Commentary: Car Enthusiasm from a Bus Driver’s Point of View

Where bus driving happens - All Photos by Tyler Lipa

Where bus driving happens – All Photos by Tyler Lipa

What if I told you that bus drivers had a secret to tell all the car enthusiasts out there?

I should know, because when Iā€™m not writing about automotive subjects for Victory & Reseda, I work as a city bus driver for the Indiana University Campus Bus service in Bloomington, IN. For those of you who are curious, my bus is a 35-foot 2015 Gillig Low Floor powered by an 8.9 liter Cummins ISL in-line six-cylinder diesel engine. Our fleet also features 40-foot 1999 and 2005 Gillig Phantoms.

We run 18 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. It’s a stressful job.

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Historiography: We Used To Call Them “Foreign”

An example of a "foreign car" - All Photos by Randy Stern

An example of a “foreign car” – All Photos by Randy Stern

Being a kid in the 1970s does have its advantages.

For example, automobiles. By 1970, the car was considered a means of transportation that expanded to employing fun into people’s lives. We soon figured out that family transportation went beyond just big station wagons and comfortable sedans. Volkswagen lead the charge for people to start thinking small. Soon, manufacturers from across both oceans started sending true alternatives to the big American car. By the end of the 1960s, VW, Toyota and Datsun got Americans to consider vehicles not made in this country.

That list would continue with veteran makes, such as Volvo, Saab, Jaguar, MG, Triumph, Opel, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Renault and Peugeot. Funny how some of these names still exist on these shores today.

The American market had seen some interesting vehicles from abroad since the end of World War II, including the names already mentioned here. Most of these nameplates were disappearing by the Age of Aquarius. Continue reading

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Commentary: “I Have (Not) Seen The Mountain Top”

Who's this old fart? Photo by Victory & Reseda

Who’s this old fart? Photo by Victory & Reseda

At my age, birthdays are really no big deal anymore…

Recently, I was looking back through the postings on V&R to find some patterns of the stories told on here. I was looking at postings related to my birthday (I turn 52 today) and found myself reflective and aspirational. Some emotional health professionals call this a “mid-life crisis.”

Maybe, they’re right.

Part of a so-called “mid-life crisis” is the marking of the birthdate. Sometimes, I would rather spend the day alone, doing what I want to do ā€“ except go to work in order to pay the bills ā€“ and quietly marking the day as it is. Yet, social media has changed the way we see birthdays. They instigate your friends, colleagues, contacts and foes to wish you a Happy one. With so many people watching you these days, it becomes distracting when your mobile device blips a notification of someone wishing you well.

Perhaps it is the new reality. Driven by mobile devices and social media, our lives have been transformed at any age. We’re apt to share our lives. The extent of that sharing is debatable.

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V&R@5: Five Favorite Hotels

Photo by Randy Stern

Photo by Randy Stern

When you are working, you need a home away from home.

Such a place should always be affordable to the budget, but full of value. That would mean a comfortable bed, a good place to work, reliable and fast wi-fi connections, places to relax and good food available within walking distance.

Good service is always welcomed. If it came with the person behind the desk or the turn down service, you appreciate being welcomed so you can work and relax while you are there.

It should also be an address to welcome friends…even if those friends just happen to be your colleagues working the same event as you are.

These Five Favorites for V&R’s Fifth Anniversary include some of the finest hotels V&R enjoyed while on travel. These were places where even for a single night I enjoyed a fine rest, respite and energy to work at an event or on an extended drive with one of the vehicles in for review.

These accommodations have one thing in common ā€“ service levels and comfort that were above standard for the time spent there. Which of these hotels made the cut?

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Commentary: Scion 2002-2016

Photo by Randy Stern

Photo by Randy Stern

We probably saw this one coming.

The story broke this week regarding the closing of Toyota’s Scion brand by one of my colleagues. I held back some form of reaction until I received confirmation from Toyota Motor Sales USA.

That confirmation came in an e-mail from Toyota’s communications team. It was not the kind of news I wanted to read or analyze. But, there are people in my industry that could say it was bound to happen.

Scion was a brand that had good intentions from the beginning. Toyota had a problem with engaging the youth market, but they needed the right products in doing so. Instead of selling them as Toyotas, they created a new brand. The idea of simplifying the car buying process with no-haggle pricing, special credit terms and specific support mechanisms through the service and parts departments was not exactly new. Yet, Scion wanted a specific demographic to enjoy these benefits.

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Of Practicality, Capability and Luxury in the Northern Climes

2016 Acura MDX - All Photos by Randy Stern

2016 Acura MDX – All Photos by Randy Stern

The last time I drove the Acura MDX, we were in the middle of the so-called Winter Vortex. That winter of 2014 brought dumpings of snow and a temperature drop that made things a bit challenging for life to exist.

Oh yes, we Minnesotans know all about the cold. We face it head on. We prepare for it. We have enough layers to keep us going, even we are driving with the heat on full blast.

Maybe so. Then again, I am not a Minnesota native.

My body adapted over time to deal with the subarctic temperatures and the physical workouts with the snow shovel. It helps to live with a North Dakota native who knows how worse it can get out there.

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