This week a number of family travel bloggers were invited to the Washington Auto Show press preview. It was a smart move on the show’s part- the perception may be that such an event may appeal only to boys and their toys. Two days at the show dispelled the notion that the Auto Show is only for gearheads- in fact I’d compare the Washington Auto Show more to the Travel Show at the Convention Center than to Motor and Trend. Here’s what I learned that will affect the way we travel:
The calculation between “road trip” and “flight” is changing rapidly.
I used to put six hours as my limit for a comfortable road trip with young kids in the car. At six hours I found the misery formula (discomfort/cost) tilted towards flying, especially if you could use short haul miles such as Avios. However, the cost is going down due to both efficiency and plug-in technology (+the temporary gas price reprieve) while the comfort level goes up.
Many cars I saw even in the $20-25K range had comfort features such as back seat USB ports, individual climate control and back seats comfortable enough for a long haul. A perfect example is the Honda HR-V. This “baby CR-V” wins my award for cutest debut- we drive a CR-V but I would have seriously considered the HR-V if it were out last year. Here’s a Periscope Video of the HR-V. The base model is only $19K and at $25K I’d happily drive the fully loaded model cross country.
The Minivan is back in a big way.
As a Gen Xer I was around for the 1st minivans which looked like this:
Images of wood paneling still dance in my head with the mention of the word “minivan”. I’ve since learned that younger Moms don’t have the same bias and many minivans represent at the carpool line. While I did see some vehicles I still wouldn’t be caught dead in, I have to give it up to the new Chrysler Pacifica which much more resembles an SUV than the old Town and Country.
Technology is moving faster than security and regulations than keep up.
“Connected Car” was one of the buzzwords of the media preview (“green” was the other one) but my takeaway was the cautionary tone taken by some of the experts. A roundtable with manufacturers, tech folks, and the FTC was especially telling. Many of the cars on the Auto Show floor boast either Apple or Google connectivity, which I’m sure will be convenient. However, an important question is unanswered: “Who owns your data?”. Think about it- if Google targets ads based on where you go on the web, what’s to stop ads from being targeted to where you drive? It’s already happening now with map software, but sticking it on your dashboard adds another level of complexity.
One statement stuck out: “Americans are numb to the risks of cyber-security in cars but will wake up quickly when a hacked car drives into a school.” Wait. WHAT? As exciting as a self-driving car sounds I’ll definitely be thinking twice about security before handing over the steering wheel.
The Car Companies are aware of the sharing economy and eager to keep their products relevant.
GM just put $500 million into Lyft for good reason: if millennials aren’t buying new cars at least they can ride in them. I’d expect this trend to continue.
A day at The Washington Auto Show if fun even for non-gearheads or car shoppers.
After #Snowzilla the Washington Auto Show will open Tuesday and stay open till the 31st so you still have plenty of time to visit. Beside the hundreds of new cars on display are events that are family friendly. Lego and PBS join the Simpsons for fun photo opps this weekend. Also fun is the Jeep obstacle course, Mustang Alley (takeaway: Mustangs of the 80s and 90s were terrible!) and the gallery of specially painted cars. My favorite was this hatchback with a print I’d match to my outfit anyday.
And, well, this:
What do you think of the trends I saw at the Washington Auto Show? I’d love your take in the comments.
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