Car show draws luxury lookie-loos – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Posted: Sunday, January 03, 2016

— They snapped selfies in front of the sleek silver Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrafoglio ($70,000), drooled over the built-to-order electric blue Acura NSX supercar ($200,000) and dreamed of themselves behind the wheel of a teal, convertible Kia A1A Optima concept car (literally priceless).

The San Diego International Auto Show drew thousands of luxury-vehicle lookie-loos to the San Diego Convention Center Saturday, the best-attended day of one of the largest expos of its kind in the country.

San Diego International Auto Show

When: Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: San Diego Convention Center, 111 W Harbor Dr., downtown San Diego

Cost: $12 ages 13 and older; $9 military (with ID) and seniors 62 and older ; children admitted free Sunday when accompanied by an adult.


At a time when more Americans are buying cars than ever — sales for 2015 were expected to be a record 17.5 million — the four-day show, which concludes Sunday, also brought out a sizable number of serious shoppers who tested out the seats, measured the trunks and, while not quite kicking the tires, gave the exhibit floor models a good once-over.

“This is the best way to look at a car without the pressure of a salesman on the lot,” said Lester Gipson, of Bonita, who is a Navy aviation ordnanceman at North Island.

Gipson, his wife Diane McQueen Gipson, also a Navy aviation ordnanceman, and their younger son Kaiden, 17, wanted to check out the Chevy trucks after seeing a commercial during the Rose Bowl Friday highlighting the automaker’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability. And the family was on its way to look at Kaiden’s “dream cars,” the Lexus G350 or a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

So what were the three of them doing sitting one-to-a-row in a Chrysler Town & Country mini-van?

“Oh, no, we’re just in it as a joke, we’re playing family road trip, (like the Griswolds) in ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation,’” a sheepish Diane McQueen Gipson told a reporter and photographer. “Couldn’t you please take our picture in front of a Lexus or a Mercedes?” she said with a laugh.

In car-conscious Southern California, striving for nice wheels is a way of life, so its not surprising that auto dealers put their spiffiest, splashiest models on display Saturday, from cherry red Camaros to a jet black Maserati.

In the Audi area, the focus was all on a $115,000 granite gray Audi S8.

“Look at that color. And that car has all sorts of go,” said Tony Hernandez, who was visiting San Diego with his husband, Tim Davis, from Concord, N.H., for the holidays.

Like many couples, they have differing views on vehicles.

Hernandez loves stylish cars: “Last time I went to a car show I wound up buying a Cadillac.”

Davis owns a practical Subaru Tribeca SUV: “I’ve got to drive the kids around with all their stuff. In the snow, in New Hampshire.”

And though the weather lately had been downright chilly for San Diegans, while they’re on vacation here without the kids, the New Englanders are doing it up in typical SoCal style.

“Everyone knows we’re tourists because we’re the only ones driving around in a BMW with the top down,” Davis said. “Whoo hoo, it’s 60 degrees!”

For some auto show attendees, the expo made for quality family time.

Waiting in line at Camp JeepCQ with his family to ride in a truck through an indoor obstacle course, Fernando Camacho of Chula Vista said he wasn’t in the market for a car, but thought coming to the convention center would be a fun way to spend the day with the kids, Sebastian, 7, and Natalia, 10. No fancy sportscar fantasies for him.

“I’m more realistic,” Camacho said, “I’d rather buy a house.”

It was a father and son day for the Lechners, Bob, 67, and Robert, 18, also of Chula Vista. Both car enthusiasts, they were checking out a burgundy electric Chevy Volt in the convention floor’s Eco Center for green cars.

Robert Lechner, a mechanical engineering student at San Diego State University, said he wasn’t a typical member of the millennial generation who might prefer to tap an app for an Uber car or a shared Car2Go.

“I like having my own car, something to call mine and something I can take care of,” he said. What he calls his own is a 1999 Pontiac Bonneville, the mention of which elicited a chuckle from his father.

“I said ‘I’ll buy you a $1,000 car for your first one. The next one you buy yourself,’” Bob Lechner said.

Among the more methodical shoppers were Catherine and Ismael Zepeda, who are both disabled and require their vehicles to be adapted.

The couple made their way through every exhibit that had an SUV, crossover or larger sedan, she in her wheelchair and he with forearm crutches. Last year, they chose a 2015 Honda Accord, modified with hand controls, for him. Now they were shopping for her.

Vehicle height and access were key and fuel efficiency was important, particularly since her Car-Top wheelchair carrier eats at her Toyota Camry’s mileage. But topping her list were looks.

“I’m not getting a van, I want something sportier,” she said. “With all of the technology today, there are so many modifications they can make that were unheard of back in the day. I don’t have to get a van.”

The couple’s deliberate route ended in the Mobility Zone, a showcase for adaptive vehicles. Catherine Zepeda narrowed her search her two: the new Honda HR-V SUV and a Scion xB, which she called “cute.”

“Good looking” is what Don Allen, of Rolondo, called the Kia A1A concept car. As it went around a revolving platform, Allen took photos of the dramatic, ocean blue convertible named after Florida’s infamous Atlantic coast-hugging highway.

His ogling and snapshots, however, had nothing to do with it being the car of his dreams.

“It’s my sister’s birthday and she lives in Florida,” he said. “This is the kind of car she’d love and since I’m the cheap brother, I’m just going to send her a picture.”


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