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2006 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS)
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Click here to open the slideshowIntroduction
Clowns, breaking glass, marching bands and a snow storm inside. Not the usual description for an international auto show is it? The Detroit weather was unseasonably mild and snow-free the past few days during the Press Preview of the North American International Auto Show.

Day 1
As usual Ford opened up the hectic press conference schedule on Sunday in Cobo Arena with a production car and their largest truck concept to date. Carroll Shelby was chauffeured onto the stage in the new Mustang GT500 Convertible making 475 horsepower for less than $45,000 USD, followed by the massive F-250 Super Chief Concept that barely fit in the confines of our camera lenses. Lexus followed with the elegant LS 460 in standard and long wheelbase versions. Infiniti’s Coupe Concept hinted at the revised G35 coupe due later this year.

Chrysler Group traditionally launches concepts at their first conference of the show but unfortunately the early release of the press images prevented a complete surprise of the retro Dodge Challenger and Chrysler Imperial concepts. To finish the day, the retro theme continued on the Lamborghini stand with the return of the louver-back Miura.

Day 2
Monday’s long day began with Ford’s Lincoln brand taking the wraps off the LS Concept shortly followed by Nissan’s Xbox 360 equipped Urge Concept. BMW brought some North American debuts in the M6, Z4 M Roadster and Z4 Coupe Concept. Chrysler continued their high-impact premieres with an extravagant introduction of the new Jeep Wrangler. Group executive vice president of global sales, marketing and service Joe Eberhardt announced “A few years ago we brought the Wrangler in, and now we’re taking it out, outside to the streets that is.” Chrysler COO Tom Lasorda jumped into the Wrangler on stage and proceeded out of Cobo Hall into the concourse, through the front glass windows and onto Washington Boulevard. The off-road ability of the Wrangler was then tested as it climbed two flights of steps in front of the Ponchartrain Hotel and then finally a steep ‘Jeep Mountain’ where it will stay for the remainder of the show.

At the opposite end of the show floor, General Motors treated the press to a parade of classic Camaros leading up to the much-anticipated release of the new Camaro Concept. In a much tamer presentation Ferrari showcased the magnificent Enzo-derived FXX to the media, but will sadly be removed before the public enter the show floor on Saturday.
Mitsubishi debuted the production-ready Eclipse Spyder and the CT-Miev Concept. A box lunch accompanied the attended press into Cobo Arena for Ford’s Premier Automotive Group presentation. Volvo began with the C30 Design Concept and the production C70. Jaguar offered the XK Convertible, and Aston Martin finished with the stunning four-door Rapide Concept.

Toyota started the afternoon schedule in the Riverview ballroom with the spacious F3R minivan concept and production FJ Cruiser. MINI unveiled another ‘Traveller’ concept with a clearly North American focus featuring alpine skis and winter equipment storage compartments. Acura, Kia and Subaru closed out the day with Concepts of their own.

Day 3
There was a buzz flowing through the thick media crowd Tuesday morning as Chrysler once again promised to excite. Actor David Spade had some suggestions for marketing the new Caliber crossover since it is priced $400 less than the current Neon. The dramatic clown troop “Slava Snow” produced some laughter in preparation for what would be the loudest and most exciting moment of the past three days of events. The North American manufacturers are notorious for blowing away the media with extreme stunts during their press conferences, and this year Chrysler finished with a blizzard to do exactly that. Colossal amounts of confetti began blasting out from the opening stage doors as if an intense northern blizzard was pounding us. As the ‘snow’ began to clear, what appeared on stage was the first Chrysler brand SUV; the Aspen.

Conclusion
All in all this year, the excitement didn’t so much come from the vehicles, as it did from the production of the actual press conferences. The retro theme dominated the hybrid focus of past years, and new exhibits from GM and Ford helped to keep the overall feel of the 18th annual Detroit Auto Show fresh.

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Report by and images by Rob Clements and Wouter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com.