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Detroit Auto Show: The Real "Vibe" (And I'm Not Talking Cars)

Monday, 14 Jan 2008 | 11:35 AM ET

There are orange cars here at the North American International Auto Showin Detroit (man, that’s a long name for an event). Apparently orange is a hot color. There are a lot of other bold colors as well. Colleague Phil Lebeau has been telling you all about the cars, but I thought I’d tell you about the vibe. Not the Pontiac Vibe, but the “vibe” vibe.

First, a shout out to Detroit. I have never been treated better anywhere in the world. Every single local I’ve come into contact with has been friendly and helpful. There was one awkward moment, when we had dinner in a very nice restaurant, and one of the cameramen discovered a screw in his salad. A screw! Of course! They make cars here! Maybe the kitchen was right next to the GM assembly line! The waiter admitted, “Oh, that’s the second time that’s happened tonight.” THE SECOND TIME! He apologized and comped the guy’s meal.

But back to the vibe. I went to the GM Style Show Saturday night, which beats the pants off any Oscar party or CES event I’ve ever been to. It was part Grammys, part Victoria’s Secret Fashion show, part celebrity red carpet, and part car show. I’m told the event cost GM $5 million dollars, the price of a couple of Super Bowl ads. They ought to televise the Style Show. That might sell cars. (You’ll see my story on the show in our prime time special tonight at 9p Eastern.)

One interesting note from the style show. Hometown boy Kid Rock, who is very proud of Detroit's working class, said during his set onstage, "We don't buy s--t, we build it." Which I think he meant as a compliment, except part of the car industry's problem has been the impression that they build exactly what Kid Rock said.

On the floor of the actual auto show, it’s like a car version of Disney’sEpcot Center. You have the American carmakers, with a variety of increasingly muscular models. You have the Japanese, who exude efficiency, functionality, and world dominance. You have the Italians, in overdrive style-wise. And then you have the Germans, who are very techno-Teutonic. At the BMW booth, while introducing the new concept X6 hybrid, dancers appeared.

Watching them reminded me of Mike Myers playing Dieter on “Saturday Night Live” saying, “Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance.” I thought, at first, it might be a joke. It was not. The dancers then separated to reveal a woman in white who, after a few karate moves, leaned back to lift her leg straight up in the air in a split… except her head was away from us, meaning her...private parts…were facing the audience. She was clothed, but that area of her body was pretty much staring us in the face for about five seconds before she lowered her leg. That sells cars?

As for all the orange cars, or the neon blue cars, or the metallic green cars, I know they’re choosing paint colors these days based on the latest fashions. But buying a car isn’t like buying a new outfit. I can’t help wondering if some young guy is going to say to himself later, “What was I thinking getting an orange car?” But then maybe that’s the point! Carmakers want you to change out the way fashionistas do.

Fake Jane
CNBC.com photo composite
Fake Jane

FAKE JANE ON THE AUTO SHOW
Kim Cattrall was at the Mercedes party Saturday night, and she made a very important point to this Fake Reporter. She said auto shows “are a good place to meet men.” She said there were 30 men to every woman there, so “there’s not a lot of competition.” Kim, honey, I’m booking a flight now. Order me a Manhattan.

Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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