The Proud Home of American Car Culture

Pure Michigan's George Zimmermann offers a preview of some of the highlights found at the 2011 North American International Auto Show, which opens this Saturday, January 15 and runs through January 23rd.

Michigan’s car culture obviously is much more than merely part of what we market about the state to attract visitors to Michigan. Sure, we have phenomenal auto-related heritage and events, all over the state, year-round. They include everything from the amazing collection of historic vehicles on display at The Henry Ford, to NASCAR racing at Michigan International Speedway, from auto baron’s homes as museums to former and current production facilities now open to the public from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula. Spring, summer and fall are loaded with car shows, car auctions and numerous cruises, including a personal favorite, the Woodward Dream Cruise.

It is the auto industry which created modern Michigan. The innovation and growth of this industry, its good times and bad times, have had profound effects on the development, wealth, and vitality of Michigan and continue to do so today. We are, and will be the epicenter of the U.S. auto industry and have been for a century! It is our story, our history, and our DNA.

As someone who grew up during Detroit’s muscle car era – my first car was a used 1966 GTO (maroon coupe with white interior, 389 V8, four-barrel Holley carburetor, four-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter, and yes, I wish I still had it!) – cars have always been about more than transportation. Beyond getting us to our job or school or to visit grandma; for many of us they are equal parts joy, art, magic and dreams.

George Zimmermann, at the North American International Auto Show

That’s why each year, right after the holidays, one of the pleasures of Pure Michigan in January for me is the North American International Auto Show, often referred to as the Detroit Auto Show, and this year is no exception. Cobo Center in downtown Detroit is full of all things automotive, everything from concept cars and previews of 2012 models to simulators where you can test your skill on an electronic “race track”.

The public days open Saturday, January 15th, and as always, there’s a lot to see. Electric and hybrid vehicles are very prominent at this year’s show, and you can get a close up look at vehicles like the new Chevy Volt and Ford’s new electric offerings. You can also see how both home and public charging stations will work as electric vehicles take to the road. You can even ride in electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles down in Michigan Hall, in the lower level of Cobo, plus find out about a wide variety of other alternative-energy products and services now offered in Michigan.

Muscle car fans will find new versions of cherished classics including the new Camaro convertible, the Boss 302 Mustang and the Dodge Challenger, plus some actual classic vehicles including a 1953 Corvette and the black 1965 Lincoln Continental convertible used in the opening sequence of the television series “Entourage”. Porsche is back at the show after an absence of several years, and the yellow Ferrari on display likely would draw the attention of the Ford police vehicles also on display, were they all out in the real world. And in a place where the cars are wiped down constantly to keep them looking perfect, I love the fact that Dodge is showing one of its off-road Ram trucks covered in mud, as if it just came back from an afternoon of “summer Michigan muddin”!

So, if high octane runs in your veins or you just enjoy the latest technological marvels from the automotive world, a trip to the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is a must before it closes on Sunday, January 23rd. Check out our photo galleries for more images (and temptations) of what you will experience this year at America’s greatest auto show!

George and Boots

George and Boots

George is the vice president for Travel Michigan at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. He lives in Okemos with his wife, Carol, and Boots, the family dog. When he’s not working, George enjoys sailing and classic cars.