This years marks the 100th anniversary of the LA Auto Show. The organizers of the show have also decided to move the show to early November to try and beat Detroit to the punch. In the past manufacturers had to decide if they wanted to send the hottest one-off cars to either Detroit or LA, unfortunately for West Coasters, Detroit usually won out.

Moving the show from January to November means no more overlap in scheduling, and the earlier date than Detroit means that some companies would rather unveil cars in LA rather having to wait for the big show in January. This also allows manufacturers to target a very specific audience, getting to their core consumer. California and specifically Southern California is a huge market for the European Manufacturers. I would imagine that LA and Orange County probably contain more exotics than several entire states combined.

Audi R8 Video

This year Audi chose LA to unveil the TT Roadster, the R8 was also in attendance, a few examples were on hand, but the focus of their press conference was most definitely the drop-top TT. The R8 was definitely more stunning and more significant. While some will argue this point, it is Audi's first venture into supercar territory. While the new TT is a nice car, I don't think it has the impact the original TT had and the R8 will definitely do more for Audi's big comeback in the US Market.

Volkswagen showed up with its new smaller SUV Concept, the unfortunately named Tiguan. Apparently they didn't learn their lesson about awkward names with the Touareg. The Tiguan is a nice entry into the small SUV class. The styling is great; this may be the first VW where the giant shield on the front really looks appropriate. The styling is aggressive enough to set it apart from all the cute-utes out there and really they have the same basic shape so it details that set them apart. Large fender flares and chunky unpainted rocker panels match textured lower bumpers. The interior is defintily flashier than what you will se in the production version, but I would imagine the layout will be similar. Anyone familiar with the VW family of cars will definitely feel right at home in the Tiguan. Perhaps the most exciting news surrounding the "Small Touareg" is the fact it will be powered by a Clean-TDI turbo-diesel engine from the new BLUETEC partnership between VW/Audi and Mercedes Benz. A fifty state turbo-diesel could really set this car apart in the category.

Volkswagen Tiguan Video

Volvo showed North America the all new C30 for the first time. A two door hatchback aimed squarely at the Volkswagen GTI and Audi A3. Volvo is looking at a younger target market with this car. It will be available with factory installed accessories to allow buyers to custom tailor their C30 to their lifestyle. Two C30s were on display, one was a very basic model while the other had a very attractive body kit, interior accessories and wheels that looked good enough to make people wonder if they were aftermarket. The car is a great example of what a practical, young, four seat cars can be. It will be powered by a turbo five cylinder that should give tuners plenty to work with, and the styling is different enough to make it stand out.

Volvo C30 Video
Volvo C70 Video

Aston Martin, Spyker, Lamborghini and Lotus also decided LA was the most appropriate show to bring out their new offerings. Aston Martin took the cover of their V8 Vantage Roadster early in the day long before the press conference. The car is as beautiful as every other Aston Martin car throughout the history of the automaker, but we will see how it sells compared to the more mainstream offerings from the likes of Porsche and Ferrari.

Aston Martin Vantage Roadster Video
Aston Martin Vantage Video

Spyker rolled out their new 185mph SSUV. It is hard to group this vehicle in with other sport utility vehicles, but it is off-road capable and seats four. The details on the car are amazing as with all Spykers. You can't find a detail on the car that doesn't look like it was pored over for hours. While from a distance most may pass this car off as awkward or worse, once you get up close the comes becomes more a piece of rolling sculpture.Lamborghini didn't surprise anyone by showing the new Spyder version of LP640 Murcielago. Last year it was decided that there wasn't a significant enough difference in performance between the Gallardo and its bigger stable-mate, hence the LP640. The LP640 Coupe is an absolute monster of a car; I expect the same experience out of the Spyder just with more sun. As usual the rest of Lambo's display was absolutely immaculate, almost entirely black letting the cars speak for themselves.

Spyker D12 Video
Spyker C8 Video

Like the LP640, the Lotus Exige S didn't catch anyone by surprise either. A supercharged evolution of the Exige and the Elise, if the car wasn't quite in supercar territory before, it certainly is now. Although 220bhp may not sound like much, those few horses are called upon to move less than one ton of car. If you are looking for the ultimate track-day or weekend toy at an almost affordable price then the Exige S may be just what you are looking for. For the more hardcore enthusiast who doesn't mind trailering the car to the track, Lotuse also showed the Exige Sport Cup. Stripping the weight down to 1800lbs and bumping horsepower up to 252, the Sport Cup may be the ultimate thrill ride.

Ferrari proudly unveiled the 599 GTB Fiorano to the North American Market. The 599 is considered a front-engine Ferrari by most, but technically it is mid-engine having the block set behind the front axle line. This gives the incredible balance and the ability to change directions very quickly. The 599 is equipped with Ferrari's most powerful V12 to date cranking out 620hp.

The sunny Southern California weather was perfect for the unveiling of Porsches latest iteration of the Targa. This 911 Targa is obviously based on the 997 chassis and looks to be as solid as the last version. Equipped with a glass roof that slides under the rear window the driver can enjoy the open air sensation of a convertible without having to deal with the noise, reduced chassis rigidity and buffeting found in most convertibles. Porsche also had the new 911 GT3 and Turbo on display. They chose to display both cars side by side which was an interesting choice. The jury is still out on which is the most popular at the show. The true enthusiast will go for the light-weight, Alcantera clad interior, normally aspirated detuned race car that is the GT3, while those more content with covering miles at an extremely high rate of speed while maintaining some level of comfort prefer the 911 Turbo.

We will see how the LA/Detroit competition plays out in the coming years. I hope that both shows maintain their popularity and auto manufacturers realize they can use both shows to play to their inherent strengths.

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By Michael Febbo
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