Canadian International Auto Show High-Low

As I didn’t manage to post a good auto show review from Detroit, I’d thought I’d head over to the Toronto Convention Centre to check out the rides at the Canadian International Auto Show. I should start off by saying that this event is really more of a local dealer show than a major car happening. Without a real automotive industry in this country I guess it’s all that we can expect. However, it does give Torontonians a chance to see the latest and upcoming hardware and even look at a few recent (as in 1 to 2 years old) prototype vehicles.

There were some standouts for me. The Infiniti Essense concept was superb. Its graceful shapes and unique bulging beltline stopped many visitors for a closer look. As well, the Lincoln Concept C was a great vision for an upscale small car. Its futuristic interior in white with polished aluminum accents was beautiful. On the other hand the much anticipated Honda CR-Z hybrid sportscar disappointed. Somehow, the body just doesn’t hang together well and I find the front overhang makes the car look heavy. The forms seem mismatched. There are organic bits mixed with tighter tense lines. The mashup doesn’t play very well.

Two vehicles though illustrate how to and how not to dream up cars. The Volkwagen Up Lite concept was my favourite vehicle in the show. This concept for an ultra-high mileage automobile is functional and also very sophisticated. The simple shape has aerodynamics in mind yet it doesn’t bore the viewer as many low air drag vehicles do. There is no homage to ugly anatomical aero-shapes. The lines are crisp and they interrupt the two box design in the right places. I love how they tapered the roofline for low drag not only in the side elevation but the plan view also.

From the sublime we travel to the ridiculous. When I mentioned in the first paragraph that Canada doesn’t have a real car industry I meant it. Tucked away in a corner of the show was some good ole CanCon. The Plethore is Canada’s Supercar that begs the question, why do we need a supercar? While car companies around the world are trying to reduce fuel consumption, this Quebec-based enterprise is trying to take on the Bugatti Veyron. This car was the opposite of the Up Lite not only in purpose but in looks. It truly is a plethora of design details. I see styling hints from Ferrari, McLaren and Peugeot and this mélange is not pretty. The front view looks like a cartoon villain saying “can I look meaner”. It’s really too bad that all this great engineering went into a fuel burner that few people can own rather than an intelligent transportation solution that this over-polluted planet is in dire need of.

Photo: VW Up Lite


Year of the Tiger

Happy Year of the Tiger. Chinese New Year was celebrated this past weekend. In honour of this day, I’d like to ask readers to ponder something. During the recent Climate Summit in Copenhagen, China was listed as a developing nation while Canada took its seat among the developed nations.

What is the barometer used to measure who is developed and who is developing? Actually, it might be more appropriate to use a stopwatch or a speedometer. China will have 42 high speed rail lines by 2012, that’s in two years my friends. Canada on the other hand has 0 right now and probably will have 0 in 2012. The bullet trains running right now can average speeds of 345 kmh (215 mph). The journey from the southern coastal manufacturing region of Guangzhou to Wuhan inland can be accomplished in just over three hours. That distance? 1064 kliometers or 664 miles.

Yes, I heard the debates before on this. But Canada doesn’t have the population or the money to support this...blah, blah, blah. There is enough traffic in Canada’s highly populated Windsor to Quebec City corridor to justify a high speed rail line. Think of the jobs that could be created and the emissions saved with a modern electric railway. Bombardier has the technology to build these and yet it’s the other countries that buy their spanking new train sets while we trudge along in ancient hardware.

So the argument is how can a country with nothing close to this achievement be given a place on the developed list? Alright, I know there is more to a country than high speed trains but China is riding a huge wave of diversified economic development. They are no longer the country that just fills Walmart’s shelves. They are pursuing great innovations in green technology by building solar panels and wind turbines. Yes Mr. McGuinty they foster their own companies to build these not farm out the work to Samsung. China erected one of the world’s great sport venues with the Bird's Nest during the Beijing Olympics having the vision to hold an international competition and draw in the world’s great architects. At the North American International Automobile Show, I looked over their BYD (Build Your Dream) cars. Not too shabby. And they are one of many car companies poised to enter the world market. They are not just capable of making things but completely competent in designing them. And they will get better and better at this…remember Japan anyone? Their great industry began by outsourcing design to Europeans but quickly developed their own amazing creative talent pool.

I would encourage Canadians to get out of neutral and join the fast train before the tiger’s tail disappears into the distance.