In a vast ballroom at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, a Jerry Lee Lewis impersonator from the musical Million Dollar Quartet is doing his best to pump up the crowd. It’s 2 p.m. on an unusually warm and sunny Saturday in February, only about half the seats are filled, and truth be told, there is not a whole lot of shakin’ going on — more like a moderate amount of somewhat engaged sitting. But the fact that there’s a crowd here at all, and that it’s not completely unwilling to belt out a chorus when directed by the faux Lewis — or by the other rock ’n’ roll replicants on stage, who include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins – stands as a genuine accomplishment.

 

That’s because the crowd is made up of car salesmen, and… More…

Spend more than a day at the North American International Auto Show and you realize that there are many tricks to selling a car, and few involve the car. It can mean putting stuff on the roof, to convey a particular lifestyle through a kayak (Volkswagen), or a bike or snowboard (Suzuki). If you’re MINI, it’s a DJ and team of twenty-somethings who wear matching blue fleece jackets and tight blue jeans one day, and matching red sweatshirts and tight black pants the next. If you’re Ford, it’s the Ford VJ station, at which one can tape a video message to be displayed on a floor-to-ceiling screen. (“Does this have something to do with the technology in the cars?” I asked. “Nope,” an eager VJ told me. “It’s just for fun!”) Toyota has a game stage where you can win M&Ms for answering questions about watershed moments in Toyota history,… More…