Detroit auto show opens to the public

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

The doors at Cobo Center opened to the public for the first time at this year’s North American International Auto Show Saturday.

With its cacophony of sounds, bright lights bouncing of gleaming cars, and the enticing smells that come with the annual automotive extravaganza can be a little overwhelming. But for many of those making their way through the doors Saturday, this isn’t their first rodeo.

Ryan Disher, and auto show pro at age 11, waits his turn to cozy up to a gray Mercedes E-class sedan for quick photo. This is his third year coming up to Detroit from Toledo with his uncle, Robert Leroux.

Leroux uses the auto show as something like research — taking in all of the new styles and features offered up each year to help him figure out what his next car should be. Last year’s work resulted in the recent lease of a 2015 Honda Accord.

With Ryan looking so at home next to the Mercedes, with its $50,000 to $60,000 price tag, the question must be asked: is the E-class in Leroux’s future?

“Ha, I don’t think so,” he said, factoring in the price. “But it’d be nice.”

Nearby, Chris Gardner and his 11-year-old son, Cooper, are making the rounds as they do every year. Their interest lies more with the concept cars — those futuristic and flashy prototypes that tend to draw the most oohs and aahs from the auto show.

The elder Gardner knows full well he won’t be seeing the concept cars out on the roads any time soon, but the Lansing resident has an eye for the small design details they come with.

“The designers wind up taking a couple cues from them and working them into the production vehicles,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cooper has decided his favorite attraction is no car at all, but a Ducati XDiavel S motorcycle.

Other attractions drawing crowds early on Saturday were a BMW i8 hybrid with the looks of a race car.

Several displays over, a member of Cobo’s cleaning crew, charged with dusting vehicles and removing fingerprints, has the look of someone not quite used to having an audience for her work. The reason she’s drawing such a crowd may have something to do with the white Audi R8 model she’s touching up — a vehicle that goes for somewhere around $120,000.

At the Hyundai display, children are lining up to slide into a simulated race car and take on their friends in a Playstation game of Grand Turismo 6.

Ada Pena is another auto show regular. The Detroit resident’s arrival marks the seventh-straight year she’s come downtown for the event. She’ll typically check out the latest models of her own car to see what changes have been made. This year, that means taking a look at the newest Dodge Grand Caravan.

Of course that means she’s forced to come face to face with the harsh reality faced by every car buyer: the minute you drive it off the lot, you no longer have the latest, greatest edition.

“That part of it is a little depressing,” she said.

The North American International Auto Show runs through Saturday, Jan. 23, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. On Sunday, Jan. 24, hours will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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