Monday morning began early: 5:30 breakfast in the Westin Atrium with 120 of my new best friends. We hopped on one of four large buses bound for Cobo Hall, the site of the NAIAS in the heart of Detroit. Ford’s big Press Conference was scheduled for 8:10. Morning traffic was heavy and I’m certain some folks were sweating bullets wondering if they would get us to the arena on time. We arrived at Cobo Hall around 8:00, showed our media badges and photo ids, received wrist bands, and were shooed down a long temporary (heated, carpeted, and chandeliered) tunnel to nearby Joe Louis Arena for the Press Conference. With gates closing right before us, we managed to find an entrance to the arena still open (sort of) and found some open seats as Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company kicked off the day.
And what a kick-off it was – the introduction of the 2015 F-150! Loud music, flashing lights, and then out comes the new pick-up truck, busting onto the stage like the Kool-Aid Man through a wall. We were invited onto the stage afterwards for a close-up look and it does look beautiful. (As an aside, I felt great representing HuntingLife.com in my jeans and Western shirt amidst a sea of white collared, grey-haired suits. Just saying!!)
From there, we headed back to Cobo Ballroom, known for the moment as “Behind the Blue Oval,” a room dressed up and set aside for Ford press. Imagine a time-out room, but in the best of ways. A place to sit down, organize thoughts, tweet up pictures, quench your thirst, whet your appetite on any variety of snacks (does a conveyor belt stocked with candy bars sound like a good idea? Yes, it does.), not to mention a place to meet up with CEO Alan Mulally, COO Mark Fields, a panel of Ford Racing legends, and learn about the Ford Design process and overall trends in the automotive industry.
And that was just the time-out room. The main event held in Cobo Hall itself was the raison d’être. NAIAS proper. A huge space dedicated to such automotive greats as Ford, Chevrolet, GM, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Mini, Tesla, smart car, and Bentley to name a few. We had the opportunity to look at, sit in, and drool over such cars and trucks as the Ford F series trucks, the 50th anniversary Mustang (yes, it’s been that long!!), the all-new 2015 Corvette Z06, even a Chevy Silverado that gets 100 mpg thanks to former GM Exec Bob Lutz’s involvement with Via Motors. For those of us passionate about the outdoors, there was the latest version of the Dodge Ram 1500 Mossy Oak Edition with its intuitively functional RamBox Cargo Management System (basically a lock-box for your rifles, shotguns, and fishing rods) and Toyota’s bad boy, the Made in America Bass Pro Shops Tundra.
Afternoon breakout sessions included a Q&A with Ford CEO Alan Mulally and COO Mark Fields. These intimate conversations allowed us to talk one-on-one with the big guys about a range of topics such as fuel economy in heavy duty vehicles and sports cars, Ford’s integration of consumer electronics into their vehicles, and even the possibility (none) of reintroducing the Ford Ranger into the U.S. market. (“Ranger is the number one truck in the world, but in the U.S., the F-series is the truck of choice,” – Alan Mulally.)
Later in the afternoon, Ford Racing icons and legends sat down to share their insights into, well, Ford and racing. Jamie Allison, Director of Ford Racing, introduced the panel which included father-son Cup champions Ned and Dale Jarrett, drag racer and Funny Car champion driver John Force, 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski, Freestyle Motocross rider Brian Deegan, and others. They spoke of pursing education, taking risks, and working hard in the field of racing and in life. It was fun to see such a diverse group of men in terms of age, background, approachability, and interest interact with each other and with us.
The evening was capped off with a twenty minute viewing of scenes from the 2014 Need For Speed movie set to hit theaters on March 14. Director Scott Waugh and actor Scott Mescudi introduced the film and talked of their relationships with cars and Ford in particular. It so happens that the new Ford Mustang makes its big-screen debut in Need For Speed. Having racked up some serious footage (more than 3,200 appearances) in such films as Smoky and the Bandit, Goldfinger, Gone in Sixty Seconds, and Bullitt, the Mustang (in this case, the yet-to-be-released 2015 Ford Mustang) makes a cameo appearance alongside the Mustang Shelby GT500, the car-star of the movie. So what should you expect from Need For Speed? A whole lot of what you’d expect: car chases, aggressive engines, and some really fun footage made even more amazing due to the film’s complete absence of computer generated imagery or CGI – the driving is all-real. I don’t get out to the movies often, but I now feel compelled to go, just to hear the growl of the Mustang’s powerful engine!!
That capped off an exciting DAY 1 at NAIAS. A day of debuts, to be sure. As the bus made its way back to the hotel, I stared out into the night and thought about all that was yet to come. A short ride out to Dearborn, Michigan, world headquarters of Ford Motor Company, a test drive in one of the F-150 trucks, a visit to Ford’s Truck Assembly Plant, and some serious breakout sessions conducted by leaders in the automotive and green energy fields.
Come on back to HuntingLife.com tomorrow to find out about all this and more when I share DAY 2. (Teaser: watch out for black ice!)