Mercedes Reaches New Heights

Nothing ever is good enough for Mercedes-Benz. Or so it would seem.

The auto maker chose the newly restored Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit to host a media preview of its E-Class sedan, SLR Stirling Moss edition roadster and BlueZero electric-drive concept car.

With an eye to accommodating car displays, the hotel incorporated in its design a bay door that provides access, using a scissor-lift, to a large second-floor hall.

But Mercedes snipped the scissor-lift idea, choosing instead to erect a wooden scaffold outside the stately 85-year-old edifice and one-time tallest hotel in the world.

Charged Atmosphere

That niche auto makers Tesla and Fisker are positioned across from each other on the show floor is both appropriate and ironic. Each is a pioneer in the field of electric-drive development. But until last month, sparks were flying between them.

A California judge ordered Tesla to reimburse Fisker for $1.1 million in legal costs to settle a lawsuit, in which Tesla claimed Fisker compromised its intellectual property. But the judge found no evidence of wrongdoing.

No appeal is planned because the ruling was the result of arbitration. Tesla spokeswoman Rachel Konrad says the auto maker will simply “move on.”

But don’t cry for Tesla. The auto maker got some juice this week with the announcement it will supply batteries for the Smart Fortwo EV.

O Sole Mio …

An internationally renowned designer blended in with a crowd of journalists at the Lamborghini stand, where models wearing large construction boots pranced around a Murcielago LP 640 and a Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder.

The designer, a household name whom we will not reveal, shook his head in bewilderment and sarcastically remarked: “Lamborghini and work boots. Oh, I get it!”

Motor Mouth

Racing legend and powertrain guru Gale Banks pokes fun at himself while delivering the keynote address at the Ward’s 10 Best Engines luncheon Wednesday a few blocks from the Detroit auto show.

“I’ve spent the last 50 years turning money into noise,” says Banks, adding he believes “all naturally aspirated engines are unfinished.”

When Chips Are Down, Hold Your Nose

Much has been made about the cloud hanging over this year’s Detroit auto show. But what’s that smell? A pungent odor assaults your nose near the Audi and Michelin stands. But it’s neither diesel fuel nor burning rubber.

Woodchips used to decorate a large faux forest on the lower level give off a sharp scent that approaches something between compost and parmesan cheese.

The forest surrounds a track, where journalists are invited to pilot – at a snail’s pace – the latest green vehicles ranging from a Tesla Roadster to a GMC Sierra hybrid pickup.

So much for zero emissions.

– compiled by Eric Mayne