The main floor of the New York International Auto Show was loud and crowded on Wednesday. But GM's stands, off in a separate wing, were relatively quiet. Photo credit: Rex Moore/The Motley Fool.

Walking around the New York International Auto Show during the media preview days last week, it was clear that some of the automakers regarded the show as an afterthought.

It's easy to figure out why. Events at the massive Auto China 2014 show in Beijing started late last week. 

The global automakers with a significant presence in China -- which is most of them -- chose to send many of their key debuts, and many top executives, to Beijing instead of New York.

Most automakers were able to split the difference well. Ford (NYSE:F) CEO Alan Mulally was in China, but his boss (Executive Chairman Bill Ford) and his next-in-command (Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields) were in New York, as were several other senior Ford executives. 

They weren't alone: Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, the CEO of Subaru's parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries (NASDAQOTH:FUJIY), came from Japan to present the 2015 Subaru Outback. Most of the other automakers had key senior executives in attendance.

General Motors (NYSE:GM) did hold a couple of private events in New York to show off new models, and CEO Mary Barra and North America chief Alan Batey appeared at an industry conference in New York the day before the show started.

But against the backdrop of a huge recall scandal, America's largest automaker was eerily quiet at the show itself.

GM is hunkered down in a big way
GM didn't have any huge announcements to make, but the General did have some new products to show off in New York. The refreshed 2015 Chevy Cruze, a new convertible version of the Corvette Z06, and the U.S. debut of the small Chevy Trax crossover were all worthy of note (and we've noted them elsewhere).

But while all those vehicles were on display at the show, GM didn't have anything to say about them at the show itself -- or about anything else. GM didn't have a single press conference at the New York International Auto Show. 

GM's Cadillac brand had a stand on the main show floor, among other luxury brands. But GM's other U.S. brands -- Chevrolet, GMC, and Buick -- were off in an entirely separate wing of the building, a long walk from the rest of the show. 

The main floor of the show was crowded with journalists and auto-industry professionals. But GM's stands in the North Wing were nearly deserted by comparison, at least when we (the Fool's John Rosevear and Rex Moore) visited.

It was almost as if GM had chosen to "quarantine" itself, as a few of the journalists at the show said. 

Clearly, GM was concerned that the show would end up getting focused on its recall woes. Given the barrage of tough questions that Barra faced at the off-site debut, that was a legitimate concern.

But at the same time, GM has products to launch and work to do, and it's unfortunate that the company chose -- that it felt it had to choose -- to largely withdraw from contact with the media at the show.

It was very strange. We shot this short video at the show to try to capture GM's isolation from the rest of the event. Here, you'll see how GM was separated from the rest of the industry at the show, and you'll hear John give some thoughts on why GM might have taken this approach. 

(One note: John identified Raj Nair as Ford's "design chief" in the video. That was a verbal typo: John meant to say "global product chief Raj Nair and design chief Moray Callum." Both were at the show on Wednesday, along with other Ford senior executives.)

What do you think? Was GM right to hunker down at the New York International Auto Show? Scroll down to leave a comment with your thoughts.

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John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.