Curbside Classic Visits The 2016 New York International Auto Show, Part 1

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Greetings everyone, and welcome to my coverage of New York’s biggest and brightest auto show. While the batteries of two cell phones were almost completely drained to bring you this visual tour, I can proudly announce that no Bothans died to bring you this information. My Star Wars reference period will end just as quickly as it began, but the real ride is just getting started. 

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Fooled you! My coverage starts with a completely different form of transportation, the subway. The construction of a new subway stop in New York is, perhaps not surprisingly, a rare occurrence.

Grand Central Terminal to Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Google Maps

My previous route to the Javits Center simply involved walking the roughly 1.5 mile distance from Grand Central Terminal. Compared to the taxi and the 7 line, going on foot takes about ten more minutes than whats displayed above. Not too much of a penalty if you want to soak in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple.

How was the actual trip? Just fine, and extremely convenient, as the stop is only a block or so away from the convention center. Although its not exactly fair to compare the brand new station to its much older counterparts, the Hudson Yards station has enough visual flair to separate it from the rest of the pack. The neighborhood around the Javits Center will certainly benefit from the expanded service while simultaneously making the Hell’s Kitchen of Marvel’s Daredevil seem even more ironic, as the crime-ridden streets in that fictional universe bear almost no resemblance to our reality.

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This year brings additional coverage of the auto show circuit to CC. Jim Klein published his take on the Denver Auto Show several weeks ago. I recommend checking his piece out before continuing with my coverage, in order to see how the same cars look with different eyes. Plus, his pictures are better.

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Shall we begin? Right after passing through the metal detectors, this Optima convertible sat with another Kia concept vehicle. The idea of a mid-size, four door convertible sounds a bit alluring, but if such a vehicle made it to production I have a hard time imagining many customers lining up to buy one.

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This tricked out Kia Forte Koup makes slightly more business sense, but a better idea involves raising the height of the four door hatchback several inches and fitting all-wheel-drive to the powertrain. Historians may look back on this period and determine that particular combination to be the first step in Subaru’s takeover of planet Earth, or at least the east coast. Kia could end that potential reign with the Coup d’etat, overthrowing the Crosstrek regime with a cheaper entry level 4×4, much to the delight of college professors and people with an Etsy account.

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The last and most logical of these Kia project vehicles: a Sorento doing its best impression of a Jeep with water fording capabilities.

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Is a Firebird/Trans Am cosmetic kit for a late model Camaro any less rational than a Kia off-roader? I’m not so sure, but I do respect the creators and their dedication to the retired nameplate.

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Smokey and the Bandit Firebird clone? Sure, why not?

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Ford stuck a Shelby GT-H up on the wall outside its section this year. I can only remember one instance where a vehicle other than a Mustang adorned that prime real estate, and that was last year with the Focus RS.

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Speaking of the RS, it was mixed in with all the other Ford vehicles this year. I’m still smitten with that blue. 

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Blue has certainly made a comeback over the last several years, and fortunately for car shoppers, Ford does not have a monopoly on producing attractive hues.

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Here’s another nice blue on the refreshed 2017 Escape. This new front end brings the Escape in line with the Edge, which sports a similar grille.

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Out back, the changes are a little more nuanced, with the hatch being sculpted slightly differently and the tail lights moving outwards and getting the LED treatment.

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Ford also performed minor plastic surgery on the Fusion for 2017. This refresh is even more subtle compared to the Escape, and its easy to understand why: the Fusion is a seriously good looking car even after four years on the market.

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Aside from the chrome strip across the trunk that extends into the taillights, the 2017 model remains largely identical to the 2016. I don’t really have a preference for one or the other, as the new strip looks fine but doesn’t really add anything more to the design.

Oddly enough, the updated Fusion simultaneously modernizes its established design while bringing it in line with the 2016 Taurus. You may be asking yourself why this new Taurus wasn’t in New York. The answer is both simple and complex: this is a sedan meant for the Chinese market. With sedans of all sizes declining in popularity on this side of the Pacific, the chances of this showing up in American showrooms are slim.

Then again we are getting this car – as the 2017 Lincoln Continental. I encourage you to come back to this video once you’ve seen my coverage of what Lincoln presented in New York. I think you’ll find many similarities between the two cars.

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To thoroughly thicken the plot, this car will soon be available – as the 2017 Ford Fusion. The Chinese market Taurus is based on the Ford CD4 platform, so technically we’re not missing out on anything, especially since the both cars offer the 2.0 and 2.7 liter EcoBoost engines. There is a chance Ford did a spectacular job on the stretched platform that truly differentiates it from its mid-size stablemate, but we’ll have to wait until reviews of the Continental appear later this year.

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To make matters even more complicated, Ford is now going to offer a trim level one step from the Titanium, which was previously the most luxurious trim on the Fusion. To my eyes, it looks like the Platinum trim only gives you more premium leather seating and door inserts, but hopefully there’s more to it than that. The conspiracy theorist inside me thinks Ford is hedging its bets against Lincoln by offering something like this, but the earliest we’d likely know for sure is around 2020 or so. Also of note: Ford got rid of the traditional floor shifter for a rotary dial setup.

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We’ll send off the Ford section with some shots of the GT350 and the Ford GT. You can never have enough GT pictures.

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Hyundai showed off the Ioniq lineup with three models: a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a fully electric version. Its sizing is very similar to the Elantra, but I’m not sure they share a common platform.

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The Ioniq borrows the dual glass setup from the Prius. Overall I’d say this is an attractive design.

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The interior quality of the Ioniq is definitely on par with the rest of the compact segment. I was a bit surprised to find two 12v power outlets up front, although these days most people are bringing at least one battery powered device into their car. Looks like you can power a GPS unit and a phone charger with no problem, but if you want to plug in an iPod, you’d better bring a long cord.

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I didn’t take any interior pictures of the hybrid or plug-in hybrid variants because I thought they were all the same, but a quick Google search shows a conventional shifter in all but the fully electric model, as shown above. Personally, I think gear shifting mechanisms need to be instantly intuitive, and it doesn’t look like that is the case here. A push button or rotary dial setup doesn’t need much explanation, and at least they usually order PRNDL sequentially. Here we have something akin to a video game controller. Hopefully the Ioniq can recognize when a gear is selected by mistake, as I could see that happening quite often with this layout.

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The new Elantra’s LED lights look pretty distinctive, hence the picture. And its another blue car!

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We’re not done with blue cars, not even close. I wouldn’t have shot this Charger if it was any other color, as there haven’t been any major changes this year.

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What has changed at FCA is their commitment to anything smaller than a full size sedan. The Dart and 200 are getting axed in the near future, but until then we’ll still see them at auto shows. Since a true performance Dart doesn’t exist, Dodge brought out this pathetic poser.

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I could understand FCA not wanting to develop a performance variant of the Dart, but to stick a fake hood scoop and vent on the thing is just sad. I guess in this case an SRT version would stand for “Seriously Rethink This.”

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Volkswagen isn’t exactly getting favorable press these days, but you wouldn’t know it from their setup at the Javits Center. Their vibrant displays always make trekking through their section a pleasant experience, and this year was no different.

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Volkswagen is noticeably absent from several segments in the American market. The Alltrak looks to rectify that somewhat, entering the entry level all-wheel-drive arena where Subaru shines. You won’t find this in showrooms until later this year, and I imagine many dealers aren’t too happy about that given their current diesel-free lineup.

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The BUDD-e concept also made an appearance as well, but no one really cared.

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To illustrate a bit of Volkswagen’s current plight in America, here is what my dad had to say about the Passat: “This looks like something I could have bought in 2003.” Ouch.

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Sometimes it takes a while to warm up to a design, and for me this was the case with the newest Malibu. Last year I thought it looked frumpy at best. This year I’ve changed my mind; this is one of the best looking mid-size sedans on the market right now. Like the Fusion and Mazda 6, the Malibu punches above its weight when it comes to styling.

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I definitely see elements of the Audi A7 from this vantage point.

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Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the interior. That’s mostly due to the low rent material quality above the HVAC controls. The removable tablet aesthetic isn’t a bad choice, but the acres of Fisher-Price grade plastic really don’t make a case for the Malibu, at least not at the trim level of this floor model.


I went to Chevy’s official site in order to find a more palatable interior for the Malibu. Much better.

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Its possible my negative impression of the interior began when I noticed this giant hole to left of the steering wheel, underneath the controls for the headlights. Did someone pilfer the cover as a memento? Or did an employee forget to replace the piece before the show started? Probably the latter; its clear the automakers limit what electronics come to life when attendees enter their vehicles. I’m guessing this missing panel is a result of whatever sorcery is necessary to make that happen.

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The second generation Cruze wasn’t at the show in 2015, but this year Chevy had an example for the public to check out. General Motors now has three very attractive sedans in its modern portfolio. The Cruz splits the difference between the Malibu and Impala, borrowing design elements from both. The striking blue is merely icing on the cake.

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The black plastic around the bumper reflectors is awkward, but it does little to detract from the attractive styling.

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Automakers generally tend to select the most well equipped models to display at the auto show, and its easy to see why. The Cruze RS easily outclassed the entry level Malibu that was nearby. I’d even go so far as to say that this interior compares favorably to the higher spec Malibu.

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The five door Cruze also made an appearance, but since its not on sale yet, it remains forbidden fruit.

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It may seem strange that the Trax is getting a facelift so soon after its introduction, but the little crossover has been on sale in other markets since 2013. The Trax now looks like its doing a very good impression of the Ford Escape, which to my eyes, is a good thing.

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Chevy doesn’t have a high performance version of the Spark or Cruze, but the Camaro ZL1 steals a bit of Ford’s thunder with over 50 more horsepower than a GT350.

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The Bolt may be the polar opposite of a Camaro, but that doesn’t mean its any less interesting. GM claims the Bolt will have a range of over 200 miles, making it competitive with the Model 3. Is this the beginning of a new rivalry? I’m going to wait until both hit the pavement. Elon Musk has to prove Tesla can become a mass market player, which has yet to be seen. 

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The Model 3 may have more sex appeal than the Bolt, but this quirky hatchback/crossover looks just fine.

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The Volt soldiers in all its plug-in EV glory.

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Minivans don’t exactly set the world on fire the way they used to, but Chrysler is hoping to change that with the brand new Pacifica. Sadly, that means the demise of both the Caravan and Town & Country vans, as the company feels those names are synonymous with terms such as “cheap” and “massive rebates.”  It should be interesting to see if Chrysler can pull it off.

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The Chrysler brand is in a bit of a crisis these days, with the 200 performing poorly in the midsize segment. The 300, itself getting a bit long in the tooth, is competing in a segment that is rapidly shrinking. The new van has a lot of weight on its shoulders. If the brand fails at some point in the near future though, don’t blame the Pacifica – this is one impressive minivan.

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A quick rest inside the cavernous interior of this family hauler told me all I needed to know about FCA’s newest Chrysler. The material quality is potentially class leading.

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Chrysler really wasn’t messing around with their presentation of the Pacifica. There were at least 3 on the showroom floor. This particular one had the car seat all buckled in and ready to haul a baby, or small animal.

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Bored, restless kids are obviously a huge problem on a long car trip. This optional setup aims to pacify the little critters with a version of Bingo I apparently missed out on as a child. Oh well.

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If you’re thinking this cutout of a Pacifica isn’t the real deal, you’re incorrect. I couldn’t believe it myself, but they did actually use a real sliver of minivan in this display. Actually, calling it a display is inaccurate – its an entrance to a play area for young padawans. This exhibit far surpassed anything I’ve seen at the show, past or present. Well done, Chrysler.

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Over at Nissan, the Altima sat in all its refreshed glory. Not that many people cared, as the GT-R attracted all the attention. Odd, given the design dates back to 2008.

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I’m not so sure about the new front end on the Altima, but Nissan deserves credit for making a window sticker readily available.

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I’m much more accepting of the interior. Lighter upholstery is making a comeback, and Nissan is doing its part to introduce some color schemes beside black. They even went all the way and made their center console beige too, which you’d don’t see too often.

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I’ve always viewed the Sentra as an also ran in the compact segment. Traditionally, the sedan has sold on price and space, not refinement or sportiness. This extensive refresh seems to rectify the Sentra’s various deficiencies with some pizzazz to boot. This is the only Nissan product that wears the new design scheme without looking garish.

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We saw some Kia concepts at the beginning of this post, but since these pictures mirror the route we took through the Javits Center, the actual Kia exhibit had to wait. The Telluride looks like it might compete with the likes of the Expedition and Suburban considering its rather brutish looks.

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The Telluride comes equipped with a 3.5 liter V-6 paired to an electric motor, good for 400 horsepower.

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I know the word Cadenza is used to describe a section of music, but to me it sounds like a piece of furniture you keep in your living room but seldom use. This sedan deserves a better name.

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Aside from the color, Kia’s Forte 5 door surprised me with its good looks. That is, everything except the red accent strip along the front. That needs to go.

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Heck, even the Rio looks good these days. Peter Schreyer is unquestionably one of the greatest automotive designers of all time.

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I was wondering why Honda brought the Clarity to New York, as its not in production and hasn’t been since 2014. According to Honda’s website a next generation fuel cell vehicle is in the works. This strikes me as a bit odd, given the status of fuel cell cars in general.

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When I was a student at SUNY Albany, Honda brought the concept version of the Clarity to campus. To this day I couldn’t tell you why; the car just sat on a walkway near the bus stop in a similar fashion to the way its presented in this picture.

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Compared to the Clarity, the Ridgeline makes a better case for its existence. Can Honda sell these to customers looking for something like an F-150? Or Colorado? I truly have no idea.

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I definitely get a chuckle out of the fake separation Honda stuck between the “cab” and the “bed” of the Ridgeline.

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Honda’s newest crossover, the HR-V, competes in the red-hot subcompact class, where the competition continues to grow. This is one of the better looking vehicles in the segment, and I’d go so far as to say that hatch area and light package almost make it look like an Acura.

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The interior is more of a mixed bag. Honda decided to forgo buttons in the center stack, which gives the car a more upscale experience at the expense of tactile feedback. Ford adapted the same trend before course correcting after receiving significant flak from customers and critics alike.

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Since subcompact crossovers are primarily entry level transportation, their interiors generally contain less premium materials. In the case of the HR-V, Honda chose not to skimp on the trim surrounding the door handle and lock, opting for soft fabric instead. A nice surprise, as other automakers usually adorn that section with hard plastic.

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Despite some surprising interior bits, Honda had to cut costs somewhere. That was clear upon touching the steering wheel, which has a very grainy, cheap texture to it.

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The HR-V gets another demerit in regards to the placement of its A/V ports. You’re looking at the area underneath the center console and directly below the instrument panel. While the addition of an HDMI port is a forward thinking feature, you really have to contort your body to get there, and I imagine its even more difficult when you’re buckled up. What makes matters worse is the lack of any type of cover to hide the ports, which means you’d have to disconnect your device and store it somewhere else to hide it from prying eyes.

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The Accord is definitely less controversial than the HR-V, and this light refresh makes it even more appealing. Aside from the snazzy LED tail lamps, I didn’t see any update to the interior.

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Our last Honda product is the brand new Civic. Honda really did a great job with this redesign, perhaps so good as to make it the standard by which future compacts will be judged. From this viewpoint a cursory glance could make you confuse the Civic with a Volvo.

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Alas, the design doesn’t translate to the coupe in a satisfying manner. I blame the area between the trunk lid and the bumper, its just too bulbous.

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Even though red makes the coupe more attractive, the sedan looks better.

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Inside, the Civic sports a new dash setup, a departure from the two tiered layout of years past. I find this design much more appealing, and I liked the colors and fonts of the digital readouts.

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The center stack is where the Civic really shines. Aside from the lack of buttons, this area is a no nonsense zone with a simple aesthetic. Except for the two columns that form the little storage area in front of the shifter, material quality was very good.

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The center storage area is larger than it looks from this angle. I’m thinking an iPad mini might even be able to fit inside without preventing the lid from closing.

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I snapped a shot of the rear seats in a coupe model because the two tone leather looked good, at least according to my sensibilities.

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Honda also had the Civic hatchback concept at the show. A smart move considering the percentage of shoppers who opt for a five door model when one is available. Note how the top picture shows the concept surrounded by people. Turns out the ramp guided you to a section where you were level with the car.

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From that vantage point, you could use those pod like devices to “shoot” a picture of yourself onto the screen above. Those little circles you see below the text are the photos, which moved around the display. When you actually got around to shooting your picture to the screen, the device itself smoked a bit, a pretty nifty sight to see, and you can see some coming out of the one on the left side of the picture. I’m assuming Honda feels that the new Civic helps make dreams come true, otherwise “Your dreams are our dreams” is not only creepy, but possibly alludes to the company being able to actually see your dreams and share them with companies that will then market the proper products to you while you read blog posts on the internet, similar to what you’re doing at this very moment.

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Now that I’ve flushed conjuring up wildly implausible scenarios from my system, its time to move on to Mazda. I only snapped about three shots in the Mazda section since there wasn’t any new or refreshed models to gawk at.


A quick visit to the official website for the auto show confirms my suspicion that I somehow completely missed the Miata hardtop, so I apologize for not having any pictures of the car to share. A hardtop is a wise choice for people in colder climates, but I’m curious how many people will actually pluck down their hard earned money for one.

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Since I have far more pictures this year compared to my 2015 visit, I’ve decided to split my coverage into several parts. This display was in the manufacturer’s section that will start off part two. Can you guess which one? Stay tuned for the answer and the additional coverage.