The Grand Hotel is abuzz with activity. Legislatures, the Press, Lobbyists, and Captains of Industry and those that wish they were converged on Grand Hotel for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, some 1400 movers and shakers predicting and pontificating about the future of the great state of Michigan. Visionaries such as T. Boone Pickens, Founder and CEO of BP Capital Management, arguably the most successful energy oriented investment funds in the United States today. Mr. Pickens spoke eloquently about increasing the use of alternative energy in an effort to reduce the nations dependence on foreign oil.
Two shiny examples of Detroit’s commitment to the future were on display behind the Grand Hotel’s Theatre. An electric Ford Fusion and a Ford Escape hybrid plug in SUV. The Escape is capable of up to 120 miles per gallon and can be fully charged in 6 to 8 hours. With a range of over 1,000 miles per tank convention attendees were certainly taking notice. The future of the American Automobile Industry parked right here at historic Grand Hotel on an Island that banned the horseless carriage 112 years ago.
An additional irony not lost on me, as the hotel historian, was the fact that less than 100 feet from where these ground breaking vehicles were parked, just out of the way of the masses sat the hotel’s 1901 Studebaker fold away trap carriage. This fully restored carriage also has numerous features that were considered quite modern 100 years ago. Two of these features later became integrated into three distinctive automobile body styles, the roadster, the coupe and the two-door sedan. These features included a folding rumble seat and a forward tilting front seat enabling access to the rear passenger compartment. Studebaker was the largest carriage company in the world and the only American carriage company to successfully make the transition to the mass production of automobiles. Studebaker produced vehicles in one form or another from 1852 to 1963 in South Bend Indiana.
Detroit is making the transition to a whole new generation of vehicles and Grand Hotel still proudly stands to help showcase and once again bear witness to the future.