Auto show offers latest models and releases
BY STEVEN MARK / firstname.lastname@example.org
Electricity will be in the air when the First Hawaiian International Auto Show roars into the Hawai’i Convention Center this weekend.
FIRST HAWAIIAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW
Where: Hawai’i Convention Center, 1801 Kalakaua Ave.
When: Noon-10 p.m. today, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $6-$80 (children free)
Info: motortrendautoshows.com/honolulu or 943-3500
But don’t worry — the only shock you’ll get will be from seeing so many new cars and the latest automotive technology all in one place.
“The basic idea is cars, technology and fun,” said Mike Niethammer, owner of King Windward Nissan and president of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association, which along with First Hawaiian Bank is a major backer of the show. (The Star-Advertiser is also a sponsor.)
I got a brief experience with all three themes when I took a quick spin in a Ferrari, courtesy of JN Exotics. Visitors to the car show will get to test drive some of the vehicles, including models from Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, Lexus, Scion and Subaru on a course around the convention center.
Hybrids, electrics and other alternative-fuel vehicles, the latest in gas-powered vehicles and the hottest exotic cars will be on display, featured on the glitzy, turntable display stations one might expect to see at car shows in Detroit or New York.
The show, held annually except for one year since 1978, has evolved into one of the top auto shows in the country, said Dave Rolf, executive director of the dealers association. It’s organized by Motor Trend, which publishes the well-known auto magazine and coordinates about 20 shows around the country.
The timing of the show presents a rare opportunity to car lovers and those in the market for new cars.
Automakers usually release new models in the fall, and shows held during the year-end holidays usually feature those cars. Hawaii’s show, held in the spring, allows car enthusiasts to see not only current-year models, but new releases planned for the fall, Rolf said. This year’s show, for example, will feature 2014 models of the Chevrolet Impala, Mazda 6 and Subaru Forester, among others.
“The people who come to our show get to see models that are in preproduction but aren’t even on showroom floors yet,” Rolf said.
This year’s show once again has electric and hybrid vehicles as a focus. Hawaii, with its relatively short driving distances, has become a testing ground for the vehicles.
“The big thing with the Hawaii show is getting these alternative-fuel vehicles and getting them on display,” said Shaun Foley of Motor Trend. “Each year we’re trying to pull more and more.”
Hawaii’s auto show should help drive some of the discussion over how to develop sales, simply by virtue of the isles’ location between the Americas and Asia.
“It pulls a big chunk of interest from all over the world,” Foley said.
In some quarters, alternative-fuel vehicles are under a shadow (a recent brouhaha erupted over a test drive of a Tesla by a New York Times reporter who allegedly went off the agreed-upon course and skewed the mileage results), but many leaders of local dealerships remain bullish on the vehicles.
Niethammer and Stan Masamitsu of the Tony Group drive alternative-fuel vehicles on their commutes.
“We have a large shipment for the Nissan Leaf, and many of them are presold,” Niethammer said, adding that Tesla, Mitsubishi and Infiniti are coming out with new alternative-fuel vehicles.
Masamitsu said his Leaf has worked well in his two-vehicle household because he plans his driving routines carefully. “I think it’s a great second car,” he said. “As much as I like to sell these cars, I don’t know if I would have it as my only car.”
Hawaii’s car show is also unusual in that it features so many exotic cars. Many cities that host Motor Trend shows don’t have the full range of exotic car dealerships, whereas JN Exotics represents Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, Lotus and Audi and will be sending models of each to the show. That’s about $3 million in cars.
“These cars are a dream,” olf said. “They’re beautiful from 360 degrees around, every angle.”
Ferrari Test Drive
One early morning along Sandy Beach last week, I enjoyed the beauty of a sweet baby-blue “California” Ferrari for an Auto Show photo shoot, courtesy of JN Exotic’s Sergio De Oliveira. The Ferrari’s gentle arcs and curves got plenty of oohs and aahs, which quickly changed to “wows” when I climbed in and revved up the 465-horsepower engine.
Tooling along the stretch of Kalanianaole Highway toward the Makapuu Lighthouse, the engine purred like a kitten, blowing us past the traffic light and toward the curve that wraps around the Hawaii Kai Golf Course. I resorted to my old driving technique, stepping lightly on the brake and coasting through the turn with my foot ready on the brake.
The car stuck to the road without a hint of looseness in the steering, but the deceleration was almost uncomfortably noticeable.
It was, as De Oliveira said, as if the car “was asking for more.”
So on the way back, I asked for more and received it. De Oliveira let me take it through the curves beyond Halona Blowhole, winding smoothly through the turns. I felt stuck to the road, and reluctantly turned back at the next lookout point.
Getting stuck behind a Toyota Prius on the way back to Sandy’s seemed like a cruel joke.
– Steven Mark