It's not unusual to see PR folks crashing other auto makers' press conferences, but it is rare to see executives publicly keeping a watchful eye on the competition.

So we did a double-take when we saw Toyota U.S. Chairman Yoshi Inaba push past one of our editors with his handlers to get a closer look at the new Volkswagen Beetle GSR.

Tellingly, he gave up before the cover was removed from the car, perhaps realizing Toyota lacks a competitor to the turbocharged retro model.

Is That Egg on MAMA’s Face?

Auto writer Kirk Bell, the Chicago-based Midwest Automotive Media Assn.’s new president, wanted so badly for things to go smoothly at the breakfast hosted by his organization kicking off the 2013 Chicago auto show that he stayed up into the wee hours working on his speech.

The event began well, with Bell naming the new Ford Fusion as MAMA’s Family Vehicle of the Year, marking the third year the group has presented the award to an auto maker.

But during the keynote speech being given by Andy Goss, president of Jaguar Land Rover North America, Bell was mortified to learn a press release he’d issued earlier declared the Volkswagen Passat as Family Vehicle of the Year.

That’s what the headline read, while the text praised the Fusion for topping its closest rivals in this year’s competition. Last year’s winner was the Passat, and that headline from last year’s statement somehow made its way into the new press release.

Bell wrapped up the breakfast by apologizing for the misprint and promising a correct version would be forthcoming.

Ask Me Once, Ask Me Twice

Henrik Fisker was happy to talk about design, technology and his lifelong love of cars in his keynote speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, but not much more.

The co-founder, executive chairman and chief designer at Fisker Automotive spoke little of the financial shape of his company, which is struggling in the face of frozen loans from the U.S. government and quality woes for the dramatically styled but slow-selling but Karma, an electric-powered luxury sports car.

So when he stepped offstage and was swarmed by reporters, Fisker’s handlers aggressively whisked him away. As he walked the long haul out of McCormick Place, we asked a question that he was willing to answer: Was he flattered or disappointed that Auburn Hills, MI-based VLP purchased two Karmas and replaced the powertrains with supercharged Chevy Corvette V-8s?

The answer was brief, but Fisker seems OK with the project. “I think it’s normal that tuners or post-builders take cars, and we’re flattered they took our car because they think it’s a good design.”

He can’t be too upset. That’s two cars he likely wouldn’t sell otherwise.

Snow? No, No, No!

There are few guarantees in life, but it’s a safe bet that if there’s an auto show in Chicago in February, there’s going to be snow. And lots of it, with the weather forecast warning of possibly the worst storm of the season, dropping about a foot of the powered stuff.

Auto writers and auto executives at the show found themselves somewhat preoccupied with keeping a wary eye on their airline's website in hopes their flight wouldn't get the ax.

Perhaps the time is right for an official plea to the organizers of both the Chicago and Detroit shows to shift their annual events to spring, summer or fall – anything but winter, please.