Commentary: Sage Lessons from the Twin Cities Auto Show

A Maser and a Bentley
Photo by Randy Stern

It has been quiet on here…

In part, I ended up with a major "come down" from the Twin Cities Auto Show. Being it has been a busy three months with plenty of firsts, the energy spent over three days at the Minneapolis Convention Center began to take its toll.

Obviously, it meant practically zero yield on any work for Victory & Reseda and my other outlets.

True. I have not worked on any content this week. There had been some work on future content, but not anything for the immediate reading cycle.

There are plenty of factors as to why this has been this way. Some of these factors are not for public consumption. Yet, there are others I am willing to discuss on here.

Coming off of Monday's Media event, I felt a huge boulder lifted from my shoulders. Mentally, I wrapped up my auto show circuit coverage. Unfortunately, I was not completely finished. There were four passes left in my possession that needs to be in the hands of those who could use them.

However a friend came in from out of town and asked me to take him to the Twin Cities Auto Show this past Saturday. I figured that I was not working the floor and would do so leisurely. Actually, it became a quick run. That, I was happy with accomplishing!

By the time I took my out-of-town friend back to where he was staying, that proverbial boulder completely rolled off. I was happy for that.

So, there will be no run to New York this year for what could be the most important auto show of 2013. There will be no international junkets to Bangkok, Shanghai or anywhere else some intro of some significance should pop up. I would most likely not entertain a trip to Saint Cloud for the dealer-run auto show up there next month.

However, I am transitioning to vehicle reviews. One should be published this coming week. However, there are a string of others being queued up through May. That is actually a very good thing considering how much you love the vehicle reviews on here.

There are other stories I already entertained as an output from the Twin Cities Auto Show. One such story was pursued last week from a tip of a contact at the local American Lung Association chapter. Through their program, called Clean Air Choice, they are promoting the use of zero emissions and alternative fuel vehicles to help clean up the air in the region. I attended a meeting of electric vehicle and extended range electric vehicle owners at the Saint Paul Lung Association office. What I got a bit of an education on automotive enthusiasm.

Electric vehicles require more care and feeding than their petroleum fueled brethren. They would require being charged to fulfill a round trip to the workplace. While some firms are stepping up to bridge their employees who own EV/EREVs, others are finding challenges between property ownership, electrical infrastructure and a lack of awareness by co-workers, management and auxiliary staff about the needs of EV/EREV drivers. From what I gathered, there are a lot of workplaces in this region is truly equipped to handle even a single EV/EREV on their property.

Then, there is Tesla. The most talked about vehicle of the past several months, the Model S, is poised to be a part of an expansion for Elon Musk's company. One of the roadblocks has been the retailing and servicing of their products even when they are situated hours away from the selling store. A bill in the state legislature preventing corporate-owned retail operations to operate in Minnesota actually died in committee. From what was understood, there are plans for Tesla to open a retail storefront and at least one service center in the Twin Cities.

To support the idea of a Tesla operation in the Twin Cities, seven Model S hatchbacks showed up at the meeting. Having only seen one drive around The Cities, to see seven in one spot is amazing. All of the owners purchased their vehicles online and took delivery at their doorstep. Each owner told a story about their Model S – something you certainly find amongst early adopters of rare vehicles or certain halo vehicles.

Having dealt with various groups of automotive enthusiasts, I was amazed on how deep these Tesla Model S owners were in their love of the brand and the product. It is as I was talking to perhaps a group of Viper owners…or, any specific model inducing high levels of enthusiasm. Just hearing them share both praises and problems, even tips on how to install a bank of LED lights inside the rear cargo hold, made me consider how much this would create a fledgling carmmunity around Motor Trend's reigning Car of the Year.

This is not to discount the local owners of the Nissan Leaf. The key to a good carmmunity is the sharing of intelligence. If someone brings up an issue on how to manage the auto timer on the charging system, other Leaf owners would chime on places to research solutions from forums to contacting Nissan directly. You can see a form of kinship amongst the Tesla and Leaf owners that would lead to perhaps unifying to raise the bar on EV/EREV ownership.

There was a bit a downer at the end of the evening. I climbed back into my petrol-fueled V6-powered luxury mid-sized sedan I was reviewing that week and headed home. I knew I scratched the surface on this story, but I began questioning whether it was worth pursuing. If I wanted to drive the Leaf or the Tesla, I would have to go to Chicago to do so. That also includes Mitsubishi's MiEV. At least one of the Model S owners offered up a follow up in case I was interested.

There are other potential stories coming from this past week that I have yet to hear about. I would not hold a candle to any immediate response or follow up. Yet, being seen as a viable member of the media covering a specific topic certainly helps raise the relevance factor for this site and the other outlets I work with.

Admittedly, this was going to be a negative piece reflecting on some of the disappointments I experienced at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I wanted to express some frustration on various fronts that would involve plenty of venting on topics that would appear to be borderline bitterness. Alas, no. Something turned things around for me on Monday that perhaps helped in ensuring a level of care in the coverage of my local show.

I also learned to pick my coverage points. Not everything that was on the schedule is to be covered by me. V&R and Lavender has specific readerships to feed – not every story opportunity will fit for these outlets.

This should also go for any future story coverage. Understanding what you want from this site and at my other outlets helps guide what can be executed and achieved for the purpose of publication.

The Twin Cities Auto Show certainly served up plenty of lessons in this business for me. They only serve to scratch the surface on how to gain more traction in doing this work.

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