The first day Wayne Orr arrived at the North American International Auto Show, an estimated 125,000 people walked through the doors of the COBO Center in Detroit.
And the auto show was already five days into the nearly two-week long annual event that started Jan. 12 and runs through Sunday.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Orr talked about his initial reaction when he arrived at the COBO Center on Jan. 17.
“It was just wall-to-wall people,” he said. “It is every single vehicle that is out. You see all the latest Ferraris; Tesla is there. There are models you never heard of.
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“All the big ones are here – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Everybody is there.”
Orr works in the pre-delivery department at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo. He is in his 24th year there.
Each year of the annual North American International Auto Show, the plant in Claycomo sends one person to talk about the vehicles they build.
This year Orr, who lives in Smithville, got the nod. He left Kansas City on Jan. 16 and returns home today.
He said the COBO Center is three times bigger than Bartle Hall/Kansas City Convention Center.
“It is really big,” he said. “I am still in awe about how big this is. It is the second largest international auto show in the world. They expect over 800,000 people to come through the doors.”
Orr is there to talk to anybody who stops by his area about the Ford Transit van and the 2015 F-150 truck that will be produced at the Kansas City Assembly Plant.
Production of the Ford Transit van started last February.
“The F-150 side of the plant will be down about a month for retooling for the new F-150,” Orr said. “We will be up and running February 2nd.”
Kansas City and the Dearborn plant in Michigan are the only two places that are building the F-150.
“Everybody is excited to see the F-150,” Orr said. “Of course, there is a lot of hype with the new aluminum body. It was (here) last year at the show. But this year we have six models that they can actually climb into.”
Throughout the day, Orr talks to all kinds of people who drop by to learn about the F-150 and Transit van.
“Detroit is such a large center for automobiles in the United States that a lot of auto workers, engineers stop by,” Orr said.” I spoke with a lot of people who are interested in buying vehicles. They go to the show every few years, and anytime they are ready to buy a vehicle, they go to an auto show and that is why we put these shows on.”
At the Kansas City Assembly Plant, the excitement is just as high for the Ford Transit Van.
“We have several orders for fleet vehicles,” Orr said. “We added a second shift last month. We can’t build them fast enough right now.
“It is mostly a commercial vehicle. Eight out of 10 vehicles we make are box vans for plumbers or an electrician, construction work or delivery. Two out of the 10 are the passenger version of the Transit.”
For Orr, the last seven days have been an unbelievable experience for him.
“I meet people from around the world, and a lot of people I don’t understand,” he said “I am not very fluent in other languages. Because Detroit is so close to Canada, a lot of Canadians are down here. People who speak French are down here, and I wasn’t prepared for that.
“It is an unbelievable experience. If you are an auto enthusiast, the North American International Auto Show is definitely something you should see at least once.”
The lower gas prices over the last several months have injected new enthusiasm in the auto industry, and that definitely includes the Kansas City Assembly Plant.
“This is a great time for the Claycomo plant because the vehicles we build are bigger vehicles that may be on the lower side of gas mileage, so with gas prices being lower, it is only helping our business which helps the entire city of Kansas City,” Orr said.
If you have a story you would like to see in On the Move, email David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com.