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 I’ve heard the dumbest question I’ll run into all week, or possible even all year.

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

I’ve 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 can’t fly, but it has wings.

In case you’re 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 it’s 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 — as in, interacting with your vehicle — 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. That’s a bit alarming. Also alarming: according to Frye, “One guy was mad because the OnStar logo changed.”

But it was Carnevale who had the most peculiar exchange. Someone asked him, “What’s GM’s position on electronic dance music?”

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. They’re 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, “as far as warranty work, we don’t do one-tenth of what we used to do.”

To give you a sense of how much $389,819 will buy if you don’t spend it on a Bentley, Nick, 29, figured out you could bring home 18 ½ Ford Fusions instead. (Where that half a Fusion is concerned, it’s your choice whether you’d 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.

“I don’t know,” he said, locking up the prize for best answer nearly two decades down the road. “I’m in second grade.”

Let's dance!

Like the Bentley, the Smart Coupe ED Jeremy Scott Special Edition has quilted leather seats. Other than the number of tires, you’d 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 isn’t so adorable anymore.

Scott says he can “well imagine my friends and cool people all over the world” loving the car.

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

nrubin@detroitnews.com
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