At the Chicago Auto Show, Selling

By February 6, 2008General

challenger2.jpgBeing normally submerged in Washington policymaking, it’s a welcome break to get out to the world of business reality, that is, where companies sell things to people. And that’s what the Chicago Auto Show 2008 is all about — making your products attractive to the buying public. (Yes, yes…Well, duh. But stay inside the Beltway for too long, and dullness starts to set in.)

So when Dodge today unveiled the Challenger — a world premiere, or “reveal” in auto show parlance — it was quite a show, with nary a word about the policy issues that dominate Capitol Hill discussions. The Challenger is a new generation muscle car, harkening back to the classic Challenger that hit the American roads from 1970-75. Testimonials in the preview film raved about its power, its roar, its coolness. Important facts: It goes to 0 to 100 to 0 in less than 17 seconds. On hand for the show, Paul Teutel Sr. and Teutel Jr. of American Chopper. A fog machine was deployed.

Jim Press, Chrysler’s vice chairman and president, in introducing the car made sure to emphasize that the Challenger is just one of a full range of vehicles. You’ve got the vegetables — family cars — the meat and potatoes — Dodge trucks — and the dessert, the Challenger. And isn’t it sweet. (Oh.)

And this show, like others, places a big premium on fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility.

Thing is, auto companies, like everybody else, have to make products that people want to buy — vehicles that meet people’s needs. In Washington, members of Congress and their staffs can eschew that responsibility, even though they are through their policymaking effectively designing cars. So their dictates lead to vehicles no one wants.

Would be a good thing for some Inside the Beltway folks to meet a Challenger buyer. Or, heck, drive one themselves.

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