TAKE 5 Background

For more than 35 years BEN has led the way in turning cars into characters on screen through the power of popular entertainment. Recently, BEN’s Senior Manager of Client Service, Kristen Rubi, connected with LA ABC7’s Automotive Specialist, Dave Kunz to discuss American car culture, his favorite on-screen car moments, and the future of the automotive industry.

Why do you think Los Angeles plays such an outsized role in American car culture?

The weather is certainly a dominant factor. Hot rodding started here, and you could drive your cool custom car all year-round, while those in the Midwest and on the East Coast were parking them until March and driving their “winter beaters.” Also, the entertainment industry has certainly played a role. No wonder pretty much every automaker has located a design studio here over the decades. This is where things happen and trends start.

You grew up in the middle of that culture, and it’s clearly influenced you. Did you always want to be an auto reporter?

I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was in high school! I used to play with 8mm cameras, and I was obsessed with cars. If a guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do, I would have answered, “I’d like
a cool job where I get to play with all kinds of cars and make photos and videos. Can you send me on a path to do that?” I ended up working in broadcasting and have become LA’s only dedicated TV automotive reporter.

What are some of your favorite car moments on screen?

An early influence on me was Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt,” which I probably saw 20 times before anyone had even heard of home video. I’ve been the long-time owner of a 1968 Mustang very similar to the one he drove on the screen. As a kid, I’d drag my parents to any movie that promised a good car chase, from the various James Bond films to low-budget stuff that was advertised on local TV. As far as television goes, my heroes were Jim Rockford and Joe Mannix. They both solved cases while wearing dapper sport jackets and driving cool cars.

In-person auto shows are coming back, including the show in Los Angeles. What was it like returning to that environment?

I was among many who never thought the L.A. Auto Show would happen in 2021. It was good to return to
the LA Convention Center and get caught up with old acquaintances. After the media previews, I went back on opening day to talk to members of the public, and everyone seemed to share the same enthusiasm. One guy drove from north of Santa Barbara to see the new Z06 Corvette in person. Now THAT’S a car enthusiast!

The auto industry is undergoing a huge transformation with more EVs on the road and autonomous vehicles on the horizon. What changes are you most excited about?

My wife’s current daily driver is a Chevrolet Bolt EV, and we leased it in early 2020 after two Fiat 500e leases. We love having an EV in our household. She commutes in it during the week, and I get to drive it on the weekends. Over the past 10 years my neighborhood has gone from no electric cars at all to at least one on every block. I predict that in another 10 years most everyone will have some sort of electrified vehicle. As far as autonomy, many are already living with it at basic levels, even if they don’t really realize it.

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