But all those flashy, glitzy efforts seemed to be upstaged, judging from the TV morning shows, by the 2014 Honda Odyssey. Why? Because it's equipped with an onboard vacuum cleaner designed by Shop-Vac.
Seriously, did an onboard vacuum really sex up the mundane minivan category?
Call me old school, but I have never wanted a vacuum for my car. The suburbs of Detroit and Ann Arbor are lousy with car washes and gas stations with more powerful vacs than the Odyssey Shop Vac, which handily sucks up Fruit Loops and other cereal.
Attention Mercedes Benz: If you are frustrated that your CLA45 got skunked by the Odyssey, perhaps you might consider building in a Dyson to the M-Class SUV. Or perhaps Dyson would be a better fit with Range Rover, owing to the common British parenting. Miele might be the better co-branding fit for Mercedes or BMW.
I informally polled some women I know on the show floor, single and married with children, and I was shocked to find out the Honda Shop-Vac was "all that." Wow, I thought. Is this not setting back women on some level that they are hot and bothered over a vacuum? But then our associate editor Pete Bigelow, with three kids under the age of five and a minivan owner, told me that he and his wife were "all over the Honda vacuum."
On one level I am disappointed that the Honda vacuum is such a hot buzz machine this week. But on the other hand, it is a salute to implementing the obvious and simple tech solution.
Of course, a vacuum cleaner aboard a minivan makes sense. This simple idea reminds me of the geniuses at Nissan who last year put the Easy-Fill Tire Pressure system. This system, proving wildly popular with customers, simply tells you which tire is low on your instrument cluster. When you refill at a common air machine at a service station, the horn beeps when you have reached the optimal air pressure. The idea cost nothing for Nissan (all they did was program the car's software) to implement, yet has been a bigger home run than gimmicks costing millions to develop.
I fear that when we go to review nominations for AOL Autos Tech of the Year Award, we will see on from Honda for the onboard vacuum rather than a new breakthrough on safety, fuel economy or smartphone connectivity. And we just may have to consider it.