January 14, 2014 at 9:48 am

Neal Rubin

This week, it's all car talk

Dumb questions, smart answers and a unique Smart take center stage at the auto show

The Smart Coupe ED Jeremy Scott Special Edition gets 76 miles to a charge and costs $43,690. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

After only one day of press previews at the North American International Auto Show, I suspect Iíve heard the dumbest question Iíll run into all week, or possible even all year.

Iíve also heard the best answer, and OK, neither was actually delivered at the auto show. But thatís where I heard them, which is one of the beauties of the event: If itís car-related, people are talking about it.

Iíve also determined how many Ford Fusions you could buy for the price of a Bentley Mulsanne, and identified the one car in the $50,000-or-less category that a sensible person is least likely to purchase. It canít fly, but it has wings.

In case youíre the sort who takes consumer advice from entertainers, I concede that Rihanna said a few months ago that she wanted one of the winged cars. But itís unclear whether she followed through, and considering who she used to date, I rest my case.

The dumb question was reported by Marco Carnevale of General Motors, who works in connectivity ó as in, interacting with your vehicle ó and just returned from the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

His colleague, Mark Frye, was also at the electronics show, where he met people who did not realize Chevrolet was part of GM. Thatís a bit alarming. Also alarming: according to Frye, ďOne guy was mad because the OnStar logo changed.Ē

But it was Carnevale who had the most peculiar exchange. Someone asked him, ďWhatís GMís position on electronic dance music?Ē

Um ... upright?

Not locked in

Base price on a Bentley Mulsanne is $301,900. That gets you a 505-horsepower engine and quilted leather seats the cow was honored to provide.

According to a product specialist with an iPad and a British accent, the pearly silver model on display comes in at $389,819.

Ken Butman and his sons, vice presidents Tom and Nick, were admiring the car from the inside. Theyíre the second- and third-generation operators of Gene Butman Ford in Ypsilanti.

To give you a sense of how much better cars are now than they used to be, says Ken, 65, ďas far as warranty work, we donít do one-tenth of what we used to do.Ē

To give you a sense of how much $389,819 will buy if you donít spend it on a Bentley, Nick, 29, figured out you could bring home 18 Ĺ Ford Fusions instead. (Where that half a Fusion is concerned, itís your choice whether youíd like the front or back.)

To give you a sense of what the Butman name means in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, Tom, 26, was asked in second grade if he wanted to be a car dealer.

ďI donít know,Ē he said, locking up the prize for best answer nearly two decades down the road. ďIím in second grade.Ē

Let's dance!

Like the Bentley, the Smart Coupe ED Jeremy Scott Special Edition has quilted leather seats. Other than the number of tires, youíd be hard-pressed to find any other similarities between the two.

The adorable, all-electric Smart is 106 inches long, rocks 47 horsepower, and gets 76 miles to a charge. Its base price is $25,000, not much for an electric car, but a lot for two seats and a bumpy ride.

Motor Trend gave it a thumbs-up, but that was before fashion designer Jeremy Scott decked out the interior and attached Fiberglas wings with red-topped tips above the taillights.

That inflates the price to $43,690, and suddenly the Smart isnít so adorable anymore.

Scott says he can ďwell imagine my friends and cool people all over the worldĒ loving the car.

And after they park, they can all enjoy some electronic dance music.

nrubin@detroitnews.com
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@nealrubin_dn