April 28, 2013
The Barrington Concours d'Elegance, an annual showcase of collectible cars and motorcycles, will move to downtown Chicago in 2014 and be renamed the Chicago Concours, its new management told the Tribune.
The new owners are David Cooper, founder of Cooper Technica, a vintage car restoration and investment company in the West Loop, and Patty Dowd Schmitz, principal of Barrington-based Three Peaks Marketing Group.
Cooper and Schmitz said they are in talks with the Chicago Park District and hope to hold the event on Northerly Island in June 2014. The 2013 event will continue as planned in Barrington in July.
Cooper and Schmitz have formed a for-profit company, Chicago Concours Inc., to manage the event and a related charity, the Legends & Legacy Foundation, which is awaiting final Internal Revenue Service approval.
Schmitz previously ran the Barrington event as a contractor for the Barrington Area Conservation Trust, which co-founded the show with two other nonprofits in 2007.
"We have an agreement with the conservation trust that they will be our primary charity in 2013, and one of our charities during the next couple of years," Schmitz said.
She said she expects this year's event will attract 3,000 to 5,000 people. And Cooper said he expects the event to quickly grow — in both car entries and attendance — with a downtown location.
Pebble Beach, Calif., hosts the country's most prestigious concours d'elegance, a French phrase that means "competition of elegance."
Lutz shows off retooled Fisker
Retired General Motors Vice Chairman Robert Lutz spoke at Cooper Technica's West Loop garage Thursday, touting his upcoming book, "Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership," and his new car company, VL Automotive, which he launched this year with Detroit industrialist Gilbert Villarreal. ("V" is for Villarreal; "L" for Lutz.)
Lutz showed off the company's first car, a VL Destino, which is a modified Fisker Karma. Out went the hybrid-electric power system and in went a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 engine — for about twice the price of a Karma ($180,000 to $200,000).
"Gilbert kept bugging me, saying, 'You know what, I love the Fisker Karma. I think it's the most beautiful four-door sedan in the world,'" Lutz said. "And I said, 'I agree with you. I hate the grille, but other than that it's fine.' He said, 'We oughta put a Corvette drive-train in that thing and make a decent car out of it.' I said, 'I've spent 47 years in the auto industry. You don't just take stuff out and put other stuff in.'"
Lutz admitted it was "far easier" than he thought. And he said he's learned a lot about entrepreneurship from Villarreal in the process.
"The mistake that every new car company makes — is these people start from zero, and then they have a huge amount of investment and huge amount of engineering," Lutz said. "The whole thing takes three years to get the car to market and, in the case of Fisker, a very large central office organization."
Fisker has hired bankruptcy lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis.
Lutz said, in comparison, VL has needed a much smaller team of engineers to marry two finished products. He described Villarreal as the "master of lean." He doesn't buy new equipment, Lutz said. And he contracts out as much work as he can to avoid hiring. Lutz said it has been "a revelation" after years in corporate America to see how much can be done with so little.
Although Lutz is, in effect, dismantling an electric vehicle, he said that type of car is the future.
"Why isn't the future here today?" Lutz asked. "It was overhyped by the media to where people got the feeling five years ago that everybody's next car was going to be electric. As long as batteries don't have a reliable range of 300 or 400 miles, it's just not going to happen because people will have range anxiety."
The Chevrolet Volt solves the problem by switching to its internal combustion engine. And Tesla, he said, has solved the range problem — but at a $100,000-plus price tag.
"For battery-powered cars to take over, as ultimately they will, it's going to take battery breakthroughs," Lutz said, later adding, "Ten years out, a battery the size of the Chevy Volt's that on a good day will give you 40 miles will give you 400 miles."
In the meantime, Lutz said he anticipates some of VL's business will come from Karma owners who want to retrofit their cars.
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