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Trolling the LA Auto Show

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For those of us conflicted environmentalists who happen to have a weakness for the Fast and the Furious and totally love that just about every late model car can be seen on the streets of Los Angeles, the LA Auto Show is a sight to behold. Thus, a visit to some horrendous urban planning and design, i.e. the Convention Center, can be a hell of a good time for a naïve interloper/secret car enthusiast.

Sure it’s a "practical" event for those who are currently in the market for new set of wheels. But Kia, Schmia. It’s all about checking out the real car porn owned by the likes of P. Diddy and The Don, right? Not to mention manufacturers some of us have never even heard of.

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Crowds were gathered around the roped-off Ferrari and Maserati platforms in the Concourse Hall, and ardent oohs and ahs were heard at the Maybach super limo near the Mercedes exhibit. This stretch auto with perfectly pleated curtains and full-tilt recliner seats slightly resembles a hearse, but that didn’t stop auto show attendants from jockeying for position to get a good glimpse of the sample Maybach -- which costs roughly equivalent to a modestly pleasant single-family home in a second-tier American city. Take your pick.

The sea of shiny metal and chrome and smell of finely cured leather (a few exhibitors choose to lovingly drape entire hides on racks) prompts some folks to let their guard down. One gentleman greeted the BMW 645Ci in the same manner he might point out a particularly fine human specimen to his conquesting co-conspirators: "Oh yeah, there she is."

And for those who want to see tomorrow today, check out the BMW H2R Hydrogen prototype, complete with an outline of the engine sketched on the hood, as well as the freakishly round, wavy and imposing new Mitsubishi truck -- an example of Frank Gehry-inspired design gone awry.

For lovers of both oxymorons and race cars, the tricked out Volvos and Subarus on the floor are just for you.

Fortunately, the new hybrids appear to garner a fair amount of attention, especially the Lexus SUV and Honda Accord V6 hybrids. (The Toyota Highlander hybrid, however, sat somewhat quietly -- no lady with a mic on a revolving platform pointing out all its wondrous attributes.) The roster of willing buyers for these enviro-friendly autos in Los Angeles will undoubtedly turn into a multi-month wait.

But the ratio of fossil-fuel burning autos to hybrid vehicles speaks volumes. For example, look at the plethora of Toyota pick-ups versus the two Priuses on the floor. This disparity clearly demonstrates that the auto industry is merely paying lip service to environmental concerns.

Best example of pandering regional PR machinations at work while Washington remains firmly tucked in Detroit's pocket? (Which is to say nothing of the suffering city of Detroit itself.) Why the HUMMER H2H display, of course! Constituents can admire the looping promo video of the Governator shilling for hydrogen-fueled blue monster, or what GM describes as the HUMMER's "iconic design." We bolted for the door past the bloated Cadillacs before the nausea set in.

The LA Auto Show is open through January 16th.