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Fear, Loathing, and Greenwashing at the Denver Auto Show

As I entered the exhibition space for the Denver Auto Show, I recalled a quote from Hunter S Thompson when entering an-antidrug conference in Las Vegas “If the Pigs were gathering in Vegas for a top-level Drug Conference, we felt the drug culture should be represented.” Approaching the entrance to the show, I adopted that attitude, but with a sense of compromise that Thompson didn’t necessarily have during his time as a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970’s.

Entering the Denver Auto Show

The show was primarily on the second floor of the Convention Center, where I had seen the Oddities Exhibition back in October. When I first entered the hall I was overwhelmed: Vehicles from major dealers and companies throughout the front range were represented, and people could get in and out of the vehicles to test out the “feel” of them.

My first major stop was the Forney Transportation Museum Booth. Located just south of 70, The Forney Transportation Museum houses everything from steam engines to bicycles. I asked the two men behind the desk how conservation worked in regard to the older cars, and awed at some of the living history in front of me.

As I moved south past the section that Nissan was hosting, I came across a merch booth advertising itself as the “mancave” With various car decals and flags along with tin signs, it played deeply into the stereotypes that masculine men like three things: beer, cars, and “girls”.

Despite this section of the showroom being mainly occupied by men, the rest of the show floor was fairly diverse: Families, single dads, and people of all races and backgrounds were represented, a testament to the car dependency in Colorado and this company writ large.

After leaving the mancave, I thought to myself “I still haven’t seen any comically large vehicles yet”. That changed as I headed west towards the test drive track.

Myself, a 6’1″ person, in front of a giant Jacked Chevy

This particular behemoth behind me was a testament to the increasing size of trucks over the past 40 years with the decreasing size of where you would store groceries/supplies from errands/etc.

To give another angle of this monster vehicle, find the water bottle that I got into the show near the bottom wheel of the car. The one thing that gave me hope, however, is that most people walked up to the vehicle and laughed or gawked at how comically large it was. In a generation. though, it could be a standard, one of my biggest fears.

As I was in the midst of completing my loop. I took a gander of the EV test drive track. This particular section of the floor was dedicated to EV’s and preaching the “Good Word” of them.

This section of the floor also had the one E-Bike for the entire floor. I talked to the owner of the bike, with him feeling like the odd booth out of the rest of the convention. Apparently, the model was merely $899, though it would not qualify under the E-Bike rebate since the company is based out of Arizona.

The last major place I went to at the show was the Toyota presentation stage. With the two hosts having the charisma and acting abilities of middle school drama students, they went through a jeremiad highlighting Toyota’s commitments to manufacturing in the USA, sponsorship of the US delegation to the Olympics, and the highlighting of multiple new additions to their fleet. The one that really gave me a small glimmer of hope was the C+Pod, a car that is fairly big in Europe but has not penetrated the American market as of this writing. The mobility devices displayed were also a welcome addition to the ever increasing sized vehicles that are typical to car manufacturers. That being said, like the EV trend, it gave off this feeling of greenwashing to me, or pretending to be environmentally friendly while polluting and causing ecological damge.

The Toyota C+Pod

Final Impressions

As even the head of the Colorado Automobile Association gets more bearish on car usage in the long term, the Denver Show felt like an alternate world, where the single occupancy vehicle is a necessity to be a full fledged member of society. When I was walking back home, I noticed that, even though the convention stressed that the parking nearby would be difficult, lots merely 10 minute walking distance from the convention center were half full around 12:30, during peak hours for the show.

Between the half full lots, the convention floor roughly the size of a mid sized show, and the exclusion of several popular brands including Tesla and Subaru, the show felt half baked even on its own merits. Judging from someone who exists within the transit world, it seems like its fading into irrelevancy as a show, though time and the actions of our leaders will ultimately be the signal of the relevance of cars in Denver and Colorado as a whole.