2012 Washington Auto Show Report

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As you might expect, the 2012 Washington Auto Show was dominated by political speeches and public policy debate. Plenty of cars and trucks were on the show floor, but most of the announcements were clearly targeted at future technology and responsible urban driving. Naturally, none of this was nourishing to any attendee who actually likes cars and pickups, but it is what it is.

Much of the underlying mood at the 2012 show was colored by the recent discussions on Capitol Hill, where various representatives asked GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson about the investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into the Chevy Volt and fire that started as a result of some improper storage of a crash tested vehicle. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spent much of his time on the show floor complimenting manufacturers for doing a great job "getting back to work," and he defended his agency's taking almost six months to investigate why the batteries in the Volt they crash-tested caught fire. 

If you've never been to Washington, D.C., it is an amazing place to visit, but there is a strong sense that this is a very insulated town with some unusual priorities. In the several days we spent moving around town, we saw only one Ford SVT Raptor, no Ram Power Wagons, and more eight-lug Chevy Suburbans (big black ones with private drivers behind the wheel) around this town than we've ever seen in one place. Finally, for a town with a lot of great public transportation, there is always a lot of traffic. 

Still, we noticed a few interesting things at the show floor. There was no real truck news, as most of the emphasis in Washington is squarely focused on electric and hybrid cars. It was nice to see quite a few full-size pickups on the show floor during the media preview (even Detroit waited until the public days to roll out most of the full-size pickups), but as far as announcements and commentary were concerned, it was like anything with a bed was invisible. 

Below are some of our observations and quick news items we gleaned form walking the show floor. As more full-electric and hybrid-drive technologies get into pickup trucks, we're pretty sure politicians will try to jump on the bandwagon and take some kind of credit for it and, as a result, make a speech about it.  

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Washington is a great place to get manufacturers, politicians and government agency officials together on one stage. This panel included representatives from NHTSA, J.D. Power and Associates, the EPA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Natural Resources Defense Council, auto manufacturers and the White House. But without a unified energy policy (with understandable goals), you needed three hands to count the number of "top priorities" mentioned by the various speakers. 

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Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, spent some time talking with us about the possibility of the Amarok coming to the U.S. Before you get your hopes up, Browning was quite clear: "Too many issues are conspiring against us. Basically, we have a B-segment vehicle that would have to be priced at C-segment prices, and I can't see that ever making sense to us," He said. "We would have to make such a huge investment to get the costs down, and the segment would have to show signs of much more growth before we could put it ahead of our other priorities. It doesn't fit right now."

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It's always fun to sticker shop. What stopped us about his one was the familiar fuel economy numbers, which are right around what used to be your average V-8 full-size pickup-truck mileage numbers. Of course, this extended-wheelbase Rolls-Royce Ghost costs well over $300,000 and is equipped with a 6.6-liter V-12 that makes 563 horsepower and about 575 pounds-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm.

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This is a fully reconditioned (except with dual tailpipes) 1938 Chevy pickup with a 235-hp inline-six under the hood and a four-speed automatic transmission. The truck stood out like a beautiful sore thumb at the show, stuffed way in back with a bunch of other classic cars and muscle cars all owned by Flemings Ultimate Garage of Rockville, Md. Most of the cars on display were for sale. This one was listed for just under $30,000.

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This is called the Greenspeed Truck, and it's reported to be the world's fastest truck fueled by vegetable oil. The 1998 Chevrolet S-10 is the brainchild of a Boise State University cub that raised more than $125,000 to build the racetruck. The team shattered the previous speed record of 98 mph, set by the Southern California Timing Association, with a run of 155 mph. A 1993 5.9-liter Cummins powers the truck, and it is reported to make over 700 hp. The team hopes to break the record again this summer by pushing speeds at or above 200 mph. 

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Not much was going on at Chevy's booth. GM North America President Mark Reuss announced a new ecological initiative (learn more about it from our friends at KickingTires here) that will have every GM vehicle sold in the U.S. equipped with a sticker that says where all the building materials came from and how much should be recycled after it has completed its lifecycle. What did catch our eye was a familiar Howie Long video with chief engineer Rick Spina about the Chevy Silverado HD (and Ford Super Duty) frame flex.

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Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon talks about how important it is to get more electric vehicles on the road so that we don't have to lean on foreign oil. Now if people would just start buying them, half the probem would be solved. Of course, infrastructure would need a big boost, too.

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LaHood drew the biggest crowd of the day. Most of his speech was about how proud he was of the various automakers coming back from the brink of destruction to show off so many high-mileage vehicles that would help improve our national security by reducing our dependence on foriegn oil. He also went to great lengths to express his displeasure with some members of Congress who had just hammered the head of NHTSA, David Strictland. Some members of congress believed it was odd that NHTSA waited until it completed its five-month investigation to announce there was a problem at all with the Volt's battery, whereas other safety issues -- such as Toyota's unintended-acceleration problems and the ensuing investigation -- were reported to Congress immediately. In the end, GM improved a structural support around the battery, and LaHood supported Strictland's position that they are satisfied that the fix helps make Volts quite safe.  


Should have showed up with my truck so you'd have something to report on since I am only 40 miles away

GO BSU and team Greenspeed!

I don't think they are going to have an issue hitting 200mph with 700hp and the aerodynmaics down.

GM problems NOT reported right away?

GM is in bed with the federal government, CONFLICT OF INTEREST...

GM is like the federal government, a bunch of CLOWNS that cannot even balance a budget and with the case of GM, begging for their welfare check!

Ray LaHood is a CLOWN!

That is the deadest looking car show I've ever seen.

Where's all the people?!?!

The only clown I see here is you oxi!

@oxi GM problems NOT reported right away? The volt fire deal has been public for the pass 3 months or so, if you get out of your taco you would of known too lol

I would have to agree with oxi that it's a bit funny that the Toyota recalls were front page news for months and the similar nonsense Volt issue was kept pretty well hidden. It's to attack your own product...

@toycrusher84 A Lot of people have noticed that double standard. It appers the Volt has a long way to go before it gets the maturity of the Prius, which now has a 'family" of vehicles.
Prius sells well in NA, but insignificant here in Australia.

Now if these tools in DC could only get us to buy these scam vehicles we don't want!

Where are we going to plug in on a road trip? How much more time will it add? How do we dispose of the toxic batteries when they're spent? What new crisis will that create for the environment that's worse than what we have now?

Let us not forget; it's been reported (ABCNews) that both Nissan and GM advise owners to consult an electrician and their local utility before charging, or installing one of their suggested chargers in your home.....
What impact will more cars plugged into the power grid have on this already stressed and outdated infrastructure?
What will be the financial impact on peoples budget if the demand increases to the point it drives the cost up significantly, or the regime of crackpots pushes their proposed 'Cap & Tax' legislation down our throats like they did health care?

These vehicles are far from developed as they need to be, and are probably only suited for the limited sales they currently have at best. We would be better suited to encourage people to merely downsize their vehicle choices and to drill for the oil we already have but aren't allowed to drill for because the environ"mental"ists don't want us to.


the BIG difference between the Volt Recalls, and the Toyyota recalls, is that Toyota makes more cars in one hour than the General makes Volts in a year!!! so the scale is way in favor of Toyota!!

@johnny doe

The Volt fires occured in June and NHTSA failed to inform the White House until September. November happened before the public release of information related to Volt fires happened.


Does any1 know if the Volkswagen Armorak is coming to the US? I know many have said no, but I was in Dallas Texas today and I saw a white one. It looked great in person, kinda like a smaller 04-08 F150 with Volkswagen styling. I got exited when I saw it and tried to ask the guy some questions at 75mph on the highway but that didn't work out.

There isn't anything wrong with the Volt. It is the procedure of how the battery is handled after impact (or lack there of it). If you know anything about the chemistry of Lithium cells, you'd know how sensitive it is.

What a nice Chevy! I love those old Chevrolet trucks.. All the way from back then, heck, even back to the original 490 and up to the 90's or so. They had a good 80 year run. That was back when they still built them out of good steel even. No acorn dents, no standing on the bumper and seeing it bend. They're just made out of tinfoil anymore. Worthless for anything outside of sitting there. I have an old Cargo Chevy I'm restoring from the WW2 era and having a blast! I hope to have it up on Vehicles Of Victory soon if any of you are into Chevy war trucks.

@EagleXYZ I think Pricing appears to be an issue. They are like a slightly smaller F150. My Concern is still with that 2 Litre diesel. I cannot think what gas engine they could offer that with. The one they have already got is pretty anemic.

@fear the voices - more than 1/2 of GM hybrids are purchased by the USA government. They also buy around 40% of Ford's hybrids.

I love that '38 Chevy. looks like a good deal for 30K.

The Greenspeed truck is cool. Does it race from MacDonalds to MacDonalds?

"What did catch our eye was a familiar Howie Long video"

It's good to see GM is putting Howie Long to good use. He is the greatest Chevy spokesperson of all time! Which would you rather have: a heated steering wheel or 25 mpg? In Howie we trust.


How about both?...Oh wait...GM can't deleiver that...Thanks anyway though.


So your a closet communist looking for handouts and bailouts!

Since when did you lose faith in a free market system? Was it after you supported comunist ideals like bailouts of private businesses?

@johnny doe,

So why did it take 6 months for the NHTSA to come public again?

You are in denial of the TRUTH...

GM loses. Again.

oxi cause gm hasn't bombed us like japan and has far less problem then toyota junk.

A small like 1 liter diesel engine to charge car batteries and run vehicle if batteries are low makes the most sense. But sense isn't politically correct when your trying to fleece the public from all their $$$. The govt and oil companies dont want us to get good mileage. How can an engine (diesel) with half the displacement be as poweful as gas engines and use half the fuel of an equivalent gas engine be harmful to the environment? Think about it, if we could drive all the fuel efficient diesels like the rest of the world our oil consumption would be almost cut in half and vehicles last twice to 3x as long. Gas in south america is like .30 cents a gallon, because that is all it really costs to produce gas. Again were getting fleeced. Dont buy any of this overpriced junk. My 40 year newer truck gets only 15% better mileage than my 1970 gms did with same size engine. And this new pos gets dented if you stare at it long enough since a beer can is structurally stronger !! we are going backwards as a civilization. Oh it does have 3 more speeds in the transmission. if my old gmc had that 6 spd trans it would whip the new truck in mileage i bet !

@cmon thats because all the tree huggers crying so now we have stupid emissions junk that robs power and kills mpg's . if you read back on the 100 years of chevy the 1930s (i think it was 1930s) chevy truck got 25mpg going cross country. Thank you're local tree huggers next time you see them for that

I like the pictures of the 38 Chevy truck. Neat old truck. That 98 S-10 is similar to my 99 extended cab Pewter color. Glad to see what they can do with vegetable oil.

@Bob, Howie sucks and I'd rather have the heated steering wheel and cooled seats in my Chevrolet thank you. You try doing construction in 20 below temps like we have in Iowa and you'll appreciate a warm steeling wheel when you get in your truck! You try doing construction when it's 100 degrees + humidity and you'll apreciate a cooled seat in the dog days of summer!! Those aren't stupid accessories for the pampered upperclass. These are working man options used as tools to make life a little easier for people busting our ass everyday.

How about get a real truck spokesman instead of some ex jock and give me my options in the new Silverado? Maybe I'd actually buy a new Chevy then instead of a Ford. And no GM, not a sissy Sierra, I don't want a GMC. I want a Chevy Silverado. I'll take the real mans truck please.

@ sethk Very good post. The truth hurts don't it!!!

@johnny doe,

Was that after or before we embargoed the entire Japan?

Hint: embargo is an act of war, so in reality the U.S. struck first against Japan and they simply responded to our first strike...

Read history and stop thinking the U.S. was so innocent and blind to an attack!

By the way, Toyota is a private company, what does this have to do with the Japanese government?

GM though is not, they were bailed out by the federal government thus became public... and they still owe us $$$ as taxpayers!

@SethK. I couldn't have said it better myself. Right on man...

@Robert Ryan

Their diesel IDK much about but at least if it hits the US, then that may open a market for midsize-compact trucks and diesels to. I don't know what's going on but I know what I saw in Dallas was an Armorak, so idk what to think of it.

@ EagleXYZ They have not been selling well here, pretty ordinary sales. They need a larger diesel option(general consensus of opinion), more variety in body styles , get rid of the anemic diesel and gas options, get the 8 speed automatic as quicky as possible. and reduce prices.

This is a odd topic are we really discussing who bombed who first? I dont think it matters who bombed who first because one country did a mass atack killing a lot of sailors (not good as I am a retired Sailor) the other country used 2 weapons of mass destruction (the only country to do so over a civilian population and then tells the rest of the world who can and cant have WMD). The 2nd and 3rd paragraphs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nucular_weapon.

The point of that I stated earlier was to put the WW2 thing to and end both countries are even so lets talk about pickups. I have been studying diesels and I think the U.S. needs to be more diesel friendly as that seems be the best option for 30 mpg and still maintain 1/2 ton capabilities. I think the diesel used here http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1111_mercedes_benz_s350_4matic_bluetec_first_test/ would be great for my Tundra or any other 1/2 ton pickup. I think the EPA should choose between the better mpg with diesels or the less mpg with gas and set their policies accordingly.

@oxi- Who cares? They should just have accepted our embargo and moved on.

@5.3 lol- Nucular huh... Never heard of it.

Odd how wars enter the picture, but if the USA were to follow Johnny Dose lead and not buy anything from former enemy states, who'd be left for the USA to trade with?

Canada - invaded by the USA 1812. No more oil, lumber etc.
Great Britain - no more warm beer, Aston Martin and James Bond.
Mexico - remember the Alamo?
WWII - that rules out the Germans and Italians - do you deport Chrysler?
WWI - those pesky Germans again.
Panama - no more marijauna or stuff through the Panama Canal
Japan - they were already mentioned
Vietnam - not sure what comes to the USA from them.
Middle East - bye bye oil
Russia - what do they export? Guantanamo bay detainee techniques?

I probably could come up with a bunch more but I think you get my point.

I think we'd all be further ahead if we shipped all the politicians to Guantanamo.

i was just jokeing yall don't take it to hard thats why i put lol

never mind wrong post i thought i put lol but i didn't either way i was joken take a chill pill

@Johnny doe- please take an english class

@anyone who uses text writing in blogs and such- Some of us folks that use a properly formatted words do not understand all the strange little abbreviations.

@ Lou Russia exports huge amounts of oil also...

Pearl Harbor is about the U.S. You don't see Americans commemorating battles that have nothing to do with the U.S. whether they happened 10 years ago or a 1000 years ago. Furthermore, WWII veterans are STILL ALIVE. Pearl Harbor might not matter as much once it's centuries past, but for now it's still close to home and it doesn't hurt to show our vets some respect. It doesn't matter if no one a thousand years from now will care, because we live NOW and not later.

People who dont know the facts of this history please be quiet... You should have learned that USA stopped trading with Japan due to their expansion into other nations for reason of "living space" and raw materials. We knew an attack would come, but we werent sure where. And as for the atom bombs, after the Potsdam Conference, Japan had the choice to surrender, but they didn't, which meant, either invasion = a lot of lives lost both sides, or atom bomb with less lives lost, take your pick.

Careless needle.
Harsh words spoken,
And trucks are broken.
Forceful ageing,
Help me my Silvy is fading.
Heaven's waiting,
It's time to move on.
Crossing that bridge in a 2014 Chevy Silverado,
With lessons I've learned.
Playing with fire,
And not getting burned with overheating steering wheels!!!!!
I may not want a heated wheel,
But time is the space between the 2012 and 2014 Silverado,
Please don't cry,
It's just another prayer for the dying Rams and dying Fords,
Life carries on.
2014 Chevy Silverado goes on.


I don't know what's got into me. It's just another prayer for the dying pickup trucks at pickuptrucks.com The 07 Silverado is gying. Getting ready for the new model.

If I ever meet Seal face-to-face in my life, I want to personally hand shake him and say thank you for all the classic moving songs he has produced and how we change and feel when listening to it.

Chevy is crossing that bridge with a 2014 Chevy Silverado and the lessons they've learned.

There is a laughter that we know.
Some people say yes to heated wheels while some say no.
2014 Silverado goes on.

Crossing that bridge with lessons Gary White has learned on the 07 Silverado.

Life carries onnnnnnnnnnn.
I don't know what's got into me.
I'm just pumped for the 2014 Chevy Silverado.


I'm dedicating Seal - 'Prayer for the Dying' to the 07 Silverado. It's time to move on. Crossing that bridge in a 2014 Silverado with lessons Garry White and Howie Long have learned!

What's the matter Bob, lost your meds again?

"I don't know what's got into me....I'm dedicating Seal - 'Prayer for the Dying' to the 07 Silverado. It's time to move on. Crossing that bridge in a 2014 Silverado with lessons Garry White and Howie Long have learned!"

Excellent choice. That's an amazing song, from an amazing singer for an amzing truck. I'm pretty pumped for the 2014s too.

I don't know what to make of the 2014 Silverado. I guess what is important is how much weight will be reduced and what the powertrain line up will be. The interior needs some major updating too. I'd guess those areas will see more drastic improvement over the exterior.

I've also read a new f150 will be available around that time. It's unbelievable how often Ford has been updating their line up lately.

The Ram is an "ok" truck. Sure it looks good and concerning the competition, its a closer to a bare bones truck. Fords success with the F150, i beleive, is due to the packaging. It seems they have a truck for every taste. Xl, XLT, STX, FX2, FX4, Raptor, Lariat, King Ranch, Harley Davidson, and Platinum. Plus Ford has introduced 4 new engines for the trucks. The book has yet to be written on these engines but so far so good. I understand the the next GMT platform may have a new engine lineup as well. Will it also carry some new features to give Ford a run for its money? I hope so.

I guess it depends on what your looking for. Even if they had to bring back names like Cheyenne, Scottsdale, etc. Maybe even some tech advances like EcoBoost but not exactly the same. Maybe im crazy.

Crazy? Maybe. I can see how you wouldn't want to say they shold bring back things like Cheyenne, Scottsdaleat. You would get jumped on. Let me handle this one. EcoBoosts and Platinums are for girlie men. Chevy has a different philosophy and will be going for what they call a "true truck" interior again. Garry White, lead engineer at GM, says if you don't use something daily, it doesn't belong on the truck. I agree.

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