Quickies: From the 45th Twin Cities Auto Show

All Photos by Randy Stern

So, the 45th Twin Cities Auto Show…how was it?

In my opinion, it is much better than before. Perhaps the best that I attended since 2005. I saw more engagement with two interactive ride-along events from Jeep and Mitsubishi, the new Luxury Ballroom and Acceleration Alley, and other expanded exhibits across the floor.

There are a few nitpicks, but it is best to not go into them. They’re just from my own perspective in terms of logistics and a few experience-based concerns.

For another positive point is the expanded Ride & Drive offerings at our show. Last year, we saw only a few. Continue reading

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On the Dial: Songs About Radio

2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo 7
What’s behind that screen – and map – is a song about the radio… – Photo by Randy Stern

Radio can be a lonely business. Or, it can be collaborative with a great engineer and other staff to support you on the road.

Having done some radio as a guest, I understand how that side of the speaker is a challenge to deliver a great shift or program for the listener’s edification. Even with the ability to do live radio from a home studio, technology does not fully cover the breadth of what truly happens to deliver programming.

So, why is radio so romanticized?

If you look at how popular culture portrays radio, we might get an idea of how the gap between art and reality presents a picture that is somewhat distorted. The truth, there is some truth to the art presenting radio and the work that goes into broadcasting.

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The Heirloom Mk II: The Spark (Parts 3 and 4)

Miller Park 5
All Photos by Randy Stern

Baseball has always been about the journey around the bases.

My journey may be one of bandwagonism. One can call it as such. I believe it is a journey to find the right team to call one’s own.

Being a fan of a singular team may have been bred from birth or from some event that kept that relationship alive. Mine has always been about searching at the right moment for that one team to get behind and hope for a long-term fandom of it.

Sometimes it works that way. Others, not so much.

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Quickies: What Fred Diaz Will Be Working With at Mitsubishi

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SEL Touring – All Photos by Randy Stern

No, sorry, Mitsubishi is not on its deathbed. Far from it.

There are two reasons why. One, Fred Diaz is taking over as the head of its USA operations. As of April 1, the Texas-born-and-bred Truckmaster General will shift from Nissan’s North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee to Mitsubishi’s Cypress, California center.

Since witnessing Diaz at work, I have absolute confidence that he will spur on further growth in a brand that still has the hearts of enthusiasts and a small core of owners. Diaz will be in the mix of a program that Renault Mitsubishi Nissan has undertaken for 2022 to further streamline operations and product development that will include a lot of cross-cooperation for technology and engineering across all three members of the Alliance.

If it means a complete overhaul of the Mitsubishi lineup, so be it. I have a feeling Diaz will facilitate the next generation SUV and small car products. Could we see an expanded lineup featuring larger, more capable SUVs, a pickup truck, and other sedans/hatchbacks? Not sure what the future will hold, but I have a feeling we’ll see some exciting stuff coming from Diaz’s team running up to 2022 and beyond.

The second reason is the 2018 Eclipse Cross compact SUV. Continue reading

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The Heirloom Mk II: The Spark (Parts 1 and 2)

The Heirloom 2011 Preview
An unholy trinity? All Photos by Randy Stern

Often at times when I write about sports-related subject matter, I’m always drawn back to my roots. You live long enough to retain vivid memories of important days that shaped the positive parts of your life and it becomes more than points on a map. Those memories become part of your history, rich in the moments you embody as you walk through life.

Every time I write about the game of baseball, a sea of memories floods in. It is quite hard to decipher which memories to express for a particular piece. You want to write about a single moment, yet a thousand other moments come to mind. The essay becomes a jumbled mess of facts without any focus.

As I stared at the screen wondering what I should write, I had an epiphany. It came in a very simple question.

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Commentary: Are You Ready for the Twin Cities Auto Show?

Me, being interviewed for Univision Minnesota at the 2016 Twin Cities Auto Show – Photo from the Victory & Reseda archives

Chicago was a memory. Twin Cities is on the clock.

Auto shows used to be a big thing for me. While I go to them to do work, I used to think that work was fun. Not anymore.

It’s work. Mining stories for content. Finding meaning in the event. Coordinating write-ups, photography, videos, and driving social media to all content. Then, there’s the physical aspect of being there – walking, running, talking, taking photographs, absorbing information, and so forth…

Not that I’m complaining. Yet, I feel like I am. There is a reason why this perception is somewhat real.

We have been accused of being jaded once we reach a certain point in our career. Frustration is a factor. The routine and the grind of it is another. Once you become jaded to the point of being numb to any news story or vehicle launch – you might as well change careers.

What I want is to make this work fun. It is work, after all. But, why can’t it be fun again?

Specifically, why can’t auto shows be fun again?

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Twin Cities 2009: The Greater Minneapolis/St. Paul International Auto Show vs. The Recession

2010 Kia Soul
2010 Kia Soul – Minneapolis, Minn. Photo by Randy Stern

Should we continue to excuse the current economic climate for anything pertaining to the automobile industry?

I’m sure we all have an opinion about this. The facts are staggering with auto sales down as high as 50% and more for some manufacturers. Companies are struggling to gain traction as reorganization filings begin to add up on some of the smaller firms. Larger firms are trying to be creative to hedge against the disaster created by the greedy tards running the banks, Ponzi schemes and anything else tied to the economic engines running this planet.

One needed to walk into the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend to see what’s happening currently to the automotive world.

The Greater Minneapolis/St. Paul International Auto Show used to have more space and more exhibitors. Noticeably absent were Mitsubishi, Maserati, Bentley and Suzuki from the convention hall’s floor. Rooms full of customized vans, SUVs and such from local leaderships, including the significantly reduced Denny Hecker chain, were also absent. For some vendors, you had to go upstairs to find them in years past. Not this year.

When I arrived at the convention center, with downtown Minneapolis teeming from the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball tournament played at the Metrodome and the girl’s high school basketball championship at the Target Center, it would be ideal for the auto show to ignite some attendance and interest in what’s new on the horizon.

If you were like, you would be disappointed by some of the details.

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Twin Cities 2007: Just Another Minneapolis Auto Show

TCAS_08R8 2
2008 Audi R8. Photo by Randy Stern

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something…else.

Where do I begin with my brief visit to the Auto Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center this evening? How about…something old? There are plenty of familiar vehicles on the floor I hate to be jaded, but I begin to feel that way when I see a multitude of vehicles, I’ve driven, sat in or averted my face. However, Chrysler rolled out some vintage vehicles to help point folks toward contemporary versions of these old flashy ladies.

What about something new? There’s plenty of that to report! Where to start…ah…you can check out at the Audi R8! I did not expect Audi’s attempt to undercut its Lamborghini cousins to show up in good ol’ Minnesota. Maybe it’s there because no one seems to find where the Maseratis are on the floor. The Saturn Astra showed up at the right time! They look like it will lead the charge for the Opelization of GM’s cool brand. I do need some wheel time in one when they come out. The new VUE is there as the Green Line. Score one for GM! Over a few paces was the Pontiac G8. When was the last time you saw a Holden in Minnesota? It’s hot, folks! Add the revised MINI Cooper…Oh My God! It’s actually roomier than the first generation! Not to mention the top line of the windshield is higher! I can see traffic lights above me! Oh, but, snap! The Volvo C30 is also utterly amazing for an upscale city car! The room, the outward vision…the all glass hatchback! *sigh*

OK, something borrowed…the new Ford Taurus! I wrote about this…and, now, seeing it up close confirmed everything I wrote about it.

Lastly, something green! After driving the new Ford Escape, I simply fell in love with the Mercury Mariner Hybrid. Not that I would turn my nose at the Escape Hybrid, but I happen to like some of the Mercury’s details better. Did I miss the new Mazda Tribute by chance? Maybe it was hidden from those CX-7s and CX-9s. I would’ve loved to see if they rolled out a Tribute Hybrid.

As for some other things, I finally sat in a Toyota Yaris Liftback. I am truly amazed at the room and can confirm that it is indeed a lower income person’s MINI Cooper. However, the MINI drives much, much better than the Yaris! Despite my complaints last year about the Honda Fit, if I sat in the Sport model, then I can say that the Fit does indeed fit!

Now, if you obey the R8 above and follow it to the Minneapolis Convention Center, it will let you see its interior! But…wait! The R8 looks quite upset…you better be nice to him!

The show runs through this weekend.

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Twin Cities 2006: Wasn’t I Glad I Made It To The Auto Show This Year?

Photo by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

I was a bit hesitant about attending this year’s Auto Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Now, why would an automobile enthusiast become hesitant to attend their local auto show?

Personally, I have not owned a car in 13 years. There’s always a desire, but this desire is being explored a bit. If you consider the rising cost of automobile ownership and the instability of gas pump prices, my hesitation could be justified. Certainly, car sharing programs and the occasional rental car may fill that void as a money saving way to evade the trappings of car ownership.

However, I love cars and the Auto Show always gives a good sampling of what is out on the local market. That alone made the decision to attend this year’s Auto Show a good one.

When I was en route to the Convention Center, I presented myself with a question: if I were in the market for a new car, what would I consider? The fact that I live in an urban setting, a small, entry-level car would make sense. Something that would be maneuverable in city traffic with a roomy driver’s area and ample cargo space for groceries and the occasional IKEA run. The only drawback with these cars would be in regards to performance in winter weather. Considering the amount of snow the Twin Cities got this week, any car would get stuck in the snow…especially a small one.

The perfect urban vehicle, at least from my experience is BMW’s own MINI Cooper. As desirable as the MINI would be, the $19,000 price tag would be out of my price range. Besides, the windshield-upper-edge-to-eye-level issue would become a problem in the long run. In lieu of the MINI, there are worthy alternatives that will save me thousands of dollars instantly.

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Commentary: Seven Years of Good Luck

Photo by Randy Stern

Rarely do I especially talk about my work in some Twin Cities-based lifestyle magazine.

This year marks my seventh year with Lavender Magazine. It is my other primary outlet for my work these days, with over 17,000 copies in print distributed across parts of five states, around 11,000 subscribers using the magazine’s app on their devices, and about 50,000-plus hits on their website monthly. No matter how you interpret these numbers, they represent a steady and loyal readership representing the LGBT community and beyond.

Recent changes at Lavender have solidified my continued involvement as a contributing writer. The automotive content in Lavender continues to be a keystone column in most of the issues throughout its editorial year. The column attracts a lot of web readers monthly, as well as creating sparks of conversations to those who actually read it.

The biggest change is the Managing Editor of the magazine. Continue reading

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