Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

Pay It Forward

How boring auto shows will be when Bob Lutz decides to retire once and for all.

At 77, he has grandfatherly charm and an uncanny ability to take a dark episode and make it less so.

The General Motors vice chairman was tapped at the last minute to give the keynote speech here in place of his former boss, Fritz Henderson, who finds himself joining Detroit’s swelling ranks of the unemployed after board members Tuesday give him the boot.

Hundreds of journalists pack the media conference room to hear Lutz’s take on the whole affair.

“I know all of you would like the true inside story of what transpired within GM yesterday, and I’m not going to give it to you,” he tells the crowd straight out.

“You’ll have to wait until I publish my next book.”

Giving the Finger

The future of vehicular mobility is here – and it doesn’t work.

While unveiling the Up! Lite concept car here, Volkswagen chief designer Klaus Bischoff attempts to show off the vehicle’s automatic grille that opens when needed.

After proudly announcing the feature, he steps back, pushes a button and voila! Nothing.

Laughing off the embarrassing situation, Bischoff turns to the concept’s motorized maintenance hatch lid. Another dud.

Instead of wowing the audience, Bischoff is left to use hand gestures to explain how the mechanisms would work.

Hurry Up and Wait

Visitors to this month’s Los Angeles auto show will find a heaping helping of eye candy at the BMW booth, in the form of a wildly painted, exceedingly sexy Vision EfficientDynamics 2+2 concept car with gullwing doors.

The plug-in hybrid, whose brooding headlamps bear a striking resemblance to the new Chevy Camaro, first appeared at the Frankfurt show in September.

Its only U.S. showing is here in Southern California, where offbeat cars are the norm. So visitors to Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January will be disappointed if they are hoping to see the futuristic car.

But have no fear, the BMW PR staff assures. “We have another surprise for Detroit,” Thomas Plucinsky, product and technology communications manager, tells us with a sly grin.

No More Flower Power

Don’t look now, but the Volkswagen New Beetle is being “out geeked” by Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric vehicle.

Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko tells reporters at the show the auto maker has inked a deal with retailer Best Buy that will see the delivery of four Japanese-spec EVs to be used by electronics supplier’s so-called Geek Squad, which provides at-home and online support for customers.

As proof, Mitsubishi shows off an i-MiEV here with a full Geek Squad paint job.