Last weekend’s Silicon Valley International Motor Show featured the big guns of the auto industry and some surprising guests. 

The automobiles on display gave potential consumers the opportunity to sample hundreds of options without having to visit an auto mall. That seemed to be the main focus of the show, and it was a bit disappointing that dealerships and not actual manufacturers took up a large portion of the real estate at the Convention Center.

Although it was a delight to see a BMW M3, carbon-fiber roof, matte paint and all, available for purchase, it would have been more of an “Auto Show” if attendees could see some of the new BMW technology everyone’s been hearing about. Supposedly, the upcoming year will bring a 4-cylinder engine that can put out 240bhp at 5000rpm, a hybrid, a full electric and Advanced Diesel technology. Unfortunately, the Bavarian company did not ship any of their new toys.

Ford, too, neglected to deliver any showstoppers, even though the Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake has been on everyone’s mind (who wouldn’t want a 200-plus-mph Mustang). Ford did bring the 2012 Focus Electric, and stuck it between a 302 Boss Mustang and the Taurus SHO. The placement made Ford’s electric vehicle look like the quiet kid at the party. 

A surprising model on display was the new Coda electric. It’s a vehicle designed in California, partially assembled in China and brought to Benicia for final assembly. The Coda promises better range than the Nissan Leaf but it won’t be until early spring 2012 until the cars are delivered to Bay Area lots, and consumers can test those claims. 

The electric Fisker Karma supercar was also on display. The model created a bit of a stir after the SoCal company took federal stimulus dollars and decided to invest it in manufacturing in Finland.

The Karma is an impressive-looking car, the styling is very aggressive, and its roof has an imbedded solar array, but the company’s decision to use homegrown tax dollars to pay Finnish autoworkers does taint the otherwise handsome appearance of the vehicle. 

The show also featured a collection of fine machinery and a chance to see car models side by side, without the car-lot pressure. The functionality, comfort, safety and performance of cars has grown exponentially in the past century, and all major manufactures have an answer to anyone’s laundry list of features. 

In a way, this is great, but don’t you wish you could still get a Land Rover without leather appointments and a metal grille?