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The Truck And Electric Car Show

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Trucks, SUVs, and Electric Vehicles Dominate The LA Auto Show

The LA Auto Show is shrinking... But, not all was lost. Galpin Motors had a collection of classics that included the VW bus from the Scooby-Doo comic strip and a Batmobile. And actor Kevin Hart had a roomful of resto-mods. Other than that it's mostly a world of SUVs and EVs.

By Brian Kennedy

Mon, Nov 27, 2023 06:55 PM PST

Featured Image: The Mister Cartoon Ice Cream Truck (image by R. Nakano).

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2023 Los Angeles Auto Show

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Wanna see the new cars out there? Don’t go to the LA Auto Show expecting that as an outcome. If you like SUVs and their various derivatives, or anything electric, you’re in luck. And let’s face it—if the market didn’t demand that kind of conveyance, the manufacturers would offer something else. But it’s a truck and electric world, and an electric truck world, that’s today’s automotive reality. So if you go to this show looking for an actual new car to buy, you’re not going to find a lot to peruse. I’ll explain below, but I’ll admit this right now: these opinions are merely my own. You may not share them, and you probably don’t.

But if that’s true, then whatever minutes you lose of your one and only lifetime while reading me tell you that cars should come back and electrics should go away are on you. You won’t get this time back. On the other hand, maybe you’re one of those people who live to be annoyed. We’re going to get along fine in that case. Please, read on.

Everywhere you look in the two massive halls which house the LA show, trucks and SUVs rule. For instance, Chevy apparently makes little more than monster trucks. Wait, that’s not fair. They also showed one Camaro, a special issue called the Panther. They also had three Corvettes, including an electric. And they featured a family sedan, the Malibu. Actually, they stuck a Chevy Malibu in a back corner behind something else where it was barely noticed. Mostly, Chevrolet featured trucks.

As for cars, or mini-wagons, they had the Bolt EV. There may have been others, but my view was blocked by the massive front ends and slab sides of their trucks. Who needs these? Oh, yeah, moms in my neighborhood, who drive them around to yoga after dropping off their kids, who live four blocks from their school. But that’s a different rant.

image of a huge camper at the LA Auto Show
OVR had trucks galore at its LA Auto Show OVRLAND OUTPOST display (image by R Nakano).

Ford, a slight exception to this all-trucks rule, is showing four or five Mustangs. Two are standard-issue coupe and convertible models. One is the circa-$60 grand “Dark Horse” Edition. I thought the horse head emblem distinctly resembled a steer’s head, the kind you’d see on a bar-b-cue restaurant’s sign.

The final Mustang on show is a GTD, about which LA car has offered coverage in an earlier story. This is a $300,000 monster that is inspired by the GT3 pure race car. The GTD (GT Daytona, the racing class represented) will have 800-plus horsepower, and it looks every bit the race car, with functional and adjustable aerodynamics and carbon-fiber bodywork. It’s essentially hand built by Multimatic in Canada, the same people who built the recent Ford GT. That, too, is going to set you back nearly half a million bucks. American. Anyway good for Ford to showcase these iconic coupes. But they sell exactly zero cars aside from the Mustang. Imagine that.

This is why everywhere you looked, you saw Broncos. So many Broncos. There were two-doors and four-doors. Special editions. Mud-splattered examples that had been off-road, or looked like it. Lots and lots of models and configurations. Special editions, for example.

Persuaded that maybe this little truck is one I could live with, I looked for a Bronco online, and guess what? I saw language like, “High demand,” “Limited inventory,” blah blah blah. So you produce a great-looking car (I mean, truck) and then can’t make enough of them. Hmmm. Original Mustang, anyone?

Broncos at the 2023 LA Auto show
The Ford Bronco may have been the most abundantly displayed vehicle at the LA Auto Show. Above: Broncos at the Galpin Auto Sports exhibit (image by R. Nakano).

Dodge had cars. Oh, wait. They didn’t. In fact, they weren’t there. I was hoping to see that new Hornet they’ve been advertising. Or maybe that’s Plymouth. Which of those name plates survives again? To say that another way, what happened to the Demon, the Hellcat, and the “Yes it’s got a Hemi in it” Challenger? Gone, gone, and gone. So for you muscle car types, these really were the good old days, this last 10-15 years, when any old V8 was a 385-410 hp savage.

Moving on, Nissan was replete with lots of trucks, but they didn’t fool me. I found their Sentra and Stanza, both nice-looking cars, though displayed in non-sexy colors. Don’t they want people to fall in love with these machines? When they introduced the new Sentra in 2019 at this show, it was bedecked in orange paint and looked very cool.

Anyway, forget those people-movers. The real highlight of the Nissan display is the new Z, shown in a color resembling the hero orange of the heritage edition Datsun 240Z released in 1970. The new car also has suspiciously familiar body lines down the sides, especially the rear flanks, and in the hood and front fender area. In fact, this shadow car is probably more like its classic predecessor than most others save the one that started it all, the New Beetle of 1997-2011. Or was that the Ford Thunderbird of 2001-05?

A Nissan 230Z at the LA Auto Show
Hidden behind all the trucks and SUVs at the Nissan display was the beautiful new Z. Above: the mid-$60K Nismo version (image by R. Nakano).

So should you get one? Heck yeah, though a quick look on Nissan USA’s website showed just one $42K Sport model available along with several $55K Performance models and a few mid-$60K Nismo offerings. In other words, this ain’t no budget sportscar. (Even if dealers don’t upcharge them, which the greedy fools will very likely do. When will they learn that short-term gouged profits mean long-term loss of face? Hello, Toyota dealer in my neighborhood? And yours.)

Two other cars that caught my attention were the twin Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. The Subaru was shown amongst, again, a forest of trucks and one WRX. Where were the other sedans the company makes? Does the standard Legacy not still exist? But back to the sportscars. I almost bought a prior-generation BRZ, but my test drive was a disappointing combination of an old-fashioned interior and dog-slow acceleration. The new car is supposed to be more satisfying mechanically. But the looks—ugh. Not ugly, but the prior car was one that I once read was the very living proof that there’s no excuse to make an ugly car. That thing was like a tiny Ferrari. No more. Now, the BRZ/86 a reminder of the 1990s Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Speaking of Mitsubishi, where were they? Absent, along with some companies already mentioned as well as Volvo, Buick, Mazda, and perhaps others that placed out of sight and out of mind.

A VW ID.Buzz shown at the LA Auto Show
The Volkswagen ID.Buzz is one bit of good-looking sheet metal, even though it’s not a car and it’s propelled by electric current (image by R. Nakano)

One bit of good-looking sheet metal, though an electric, was the VW ID.Buzz. It’s got that 1960s VW bus look all figured out, but even thinking of it not as a cool silhouette car but just on its own shows it to be handsome, with nicely patterned interior fabric and loads of space for three rows of passengers. Why would you not want to drive one of these instead of a, oh oops, I almost said a Chevy Suburban? And don’t give me that “the Suburban runs on gas” nonsense. But wait — I just made an argument for an electric car. Good thing nobody’s still reading this.

Thinking it through, I realize that there were some Honda cars, and some Acuras. These included the future Prelude, a hybrid. It looks good enough that I can almost forgive it the dual-power thing. The Civic was also there, and perhaps some other four-doors. Hard to believe how overshadowed they were with all of this trucky stuff, though.

But wait. Not all was lost. Galpin Motors had a collection of classics that included the VW bus from the Scooby-Doo comic strip and a Batmobile. And actor Kevin Hart had a roomful of resto-mods, mostly 1960s cars including a Mustang convertible and a Pontiac GTO. Right, and a 1950s Corvette. He also served delicious snacks and drinks, so thanks for that, and thanks to him for celebrating the car. The two-door, coupe styled, old-school car.

About The Author

Brian Kennedy's profile picture

Brian Kennedy

Brian Kennedy always wanted a ’66 Mustang. 10 years ago, he bought one – and he’s been restoring it ever since. Brian extended his passion for cars by covering events for magazines like Grassroots Motorsports, Sportscar, and Victory Lane – e.g., events in Cart, Pro Rally, Formula Atlantic, the SCCA Runoffs, Trans Am, SVRA, VSCDA, and VARA. He’s also profiled a number of cars and interviewed a number of personalities – among them: Gene Felton (IMSA), Hurley Haywood, Jerry Seinfeld, and Nigel Olsson.

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