Auto Shows of North America (ASNA) is a committee of Automotive Trade Association Executives. The Mission of ASNA is to be the industry resource for auto show information and education, and to provide a network for communication between show executives, manufacturers, other industry affiliates and media.
Role of Product Display Specialists changes over time, now important part of auto marketingAs much as the vehicles they work with have changed, so has the role of today’s product display specialists, the people that an increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable auto show attendee first goes to for answers.
Yet even though the training they receive on a vehicle might rival that of a sales representative, they’re not at the auto show to sell, says Geff Phillips, executive vice president at Gail & Rice, an agency that may have as many as 500 personnel on assignment during a busy season.
And that’s the point, says Phillips.
“Product display specialists are seen by the public as an unbiased information source,” he says. “One reason is that the typical show attendee comes to compare vehicles. They are self-directed and want to compare various vehicles, which means they need product information but without the pressure of a sales person.”
“They already do a lot of research before they come to the event,” says Riley, who hops from show to show from a base just outside Fort Worth, Texas. “Our role is to help them with additional information they may need.”
Riley’s “season” begins around August or September with a one-week trip to GM University in Auburn Hills (she currently works with the Chevrolet brand) where her and her colleagues are paid to learn the basics of the year’s new product line.
“We talk to GM reps and test drive the new products,” says Riley. “It’s very hands on.”
At Gail & Rice, which has been booking personnel for auto shows since it did for Chevrolet in 1954, the process of hiring a product display specialist is ongoing.
“We receive a lot of photos and resumes from individuals,” says Phillips, who says the company has weekly reviews of potential workers with a diverse background—even retired engineers are among the candidates Gail & Rice has hired.
“We look at the ability to present, but we’re also looking for a diverse group of people,” he says. “Whether it be ethnicity or age or other characteristics, we want the product display specialists to reflect the lifestyle of the vehicle and also the consumers themselves.” Or the needs of the consumer, which is one reason Gail & Rice will hire product display specialists conversant in languages other than English (Spanish, Japanese, and even American Sign Language are examples).
Many auto show organizers recognize the need for product display specialists to “recharge the batteries” in providing a break room, something people like Stacey Riley appreciate. “It’s nice to be able to step away from the floor for even a few minutes,” she says.
But beyond the “tired feet” syndrome, separating out “corporate approved” information from the multitude of other sources is also something the product display specialists work hard at doing.
And then there’s the inevitable inappropriate comments that are directed to them, although those are becoming fewer and fewer as product display specialists move to more “business attire” and away from the sequined gowns and lounge-wear that was prevalent in the early years. Those who do “step over the line” are at first gently dismissed, then addressed by other team members; if they persist, security is summoned.
In Europe, which is, after all an entirely different culture, professional models are often used as what might appear to be “accessories” to the vehicles, although the information booths are largely staffed by personnel with business attire.
Riley, a former model and actor who began working with Gail & Rice 15 years ago, agrees with Phillips that the industry has seen its share of changes.
“We used to be given a script and told to memorize it,” she says. “And we weren’t allowed to answer questions other than what was on the script.”
Today her role includes providing more in-depth knowledge. And sometimes, “unlearning” what a consumer thinks they already know.
“They may have heard something that has them believing a vehicle will be available sooner than it really is,” says Riley. “Or they may have read something else from some other source. Our role is to give them the most current information possible.”
Even then, there’s the inevitable “stupid questions” that product display specialists find themselves fielding. Number one on the list: “Do you come with the car?”
Czarnowski takes best in show at 2004 exhibitor showCzarnowski Exhibit Service Specialists was honored in March with the “best of show” award at the 2004 National Conference for Exhibit and Event Marketing in Las Vegas.
The company’s facilities in Chicago, Las Vegas, Atlanta, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles have more than 1 million square feet of manufacturing and storage space. It also provides show labor and support services in 35 cities nationwide.
Did any victory smell as sweet?Claims against the San Diego International Auto Show that organizers had violated the civil rights of men by giving away chocolates and roses to women on Valentine’s Day 2002 have been thrown out by a three-judge panel in the state’s 2nd Appellate District.
Los Angeles consumer attorney Morse Mehrban had also argued that the action broke California's unfair and illegal business practice law.
"It was nonsense," said Edward Gartenberg, a partner at Thelen Reid & Priest LLP representing Motor Trend Auto Shows Inc.,
a division of Primedia Inc.'s consumer automotive group.
Baltimore on a steady growth curve with new venueThree years into a new venue, the Baltimore 2004 Motor Trend International Auto Show continues to gain momentum, says Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association under which the event is organized.
“We’ve got a lot more concept cars,” says Kitzmiller, who adds that the 2004 event was no exception to earlier years.
Concept highlights this year included the Mustang GT Coupe, a vehicle inspired by the Mustang 1 concept of the 1960s that is said to embrace Ford’s design direction for the next-generation of Mustang. Beginning with a significantly modified Ford Thunderbird rear-wheel drive architecture, the concept accommodates a signature 400-horsepower Modular 4.6-liter V-8 engine.
Cadillac’s SRX Black Diamond concept is designed to bring the performance and utility of the SRX to the ski hill and other active lifestyle pursuits (although snow is clearly where it’s home). The vehicle, with a 330-horsepower 4.6-liter Northstar V-8, boasts an all-wheel drive system with 50/50 torque split—until, that is, the system senses slippage. Full-function traction control reduces slippage by applying brake pressure and managing engine torque when necessary.
Chevrolet Colorado XTREME, a 2WD version of the new truck, may hint at several appearance packages and attachments to come in production versions.
GMC Yukon AT4 marketers call the all-terrain truck a “ski SUV,” one notable feature being a modular pull-down sliding roof-rack system developed by SportRack. The vehicle also has a unique cargo system that can be slid over the vehicle’s tailgate glass, then pushed back onto the roof.
Kitzmiller says marketing this year’s show took a slightly different emphasis in that organizers used more television than they have in the past.
Another highlight of the show was the inaugural Charity Preview, which this year was held in support of the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. “We realize the importance of giving back to the community,” says Kitzmiller in announcing a $75,000 donation from the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association.
California show poised for growth in strong auto marketTo say there’s a “buzz” about the California International Auto Show (CIAS) would be an understatement, indeed.
“The stars do seem to be aligning for us,” says a smiling John Sackrison, executive director of the Orange County Auto Dealers Association and co-director of the CIAS. “We have a strategic plan, the support of two strong dealer associations, and a professional and experienced team of communicators which have committed to helping us get to ‘the next level.’”
For the CIAS, the “next level” means becoming an auto show of significance (in the eyes of manufacturers and press) with annual product introductions and industry announcements for the auto show season ahead.
“Among our strongest assets, we believe, are our show dates, and being located in the top automotive market in the country,” says Todd Leutheuser, executive director of the Southland Motor Car Dealers Association and co-director of the CIAS. “The auto show season starts here in Southern California, and we can help set the tone for the year ahead.”
And to help jump start the season and the rigorous schedule of 65 North American auto shows, the CIAS two years ago initiated a kickoff celebration at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Café Downtown Disney. The event, an “opening day,” of sorts, has since become a tradition for many, and has been attended by representatives of manufacturers, exhibit houses, automotive media, production companies, other auto show partners, and even executives from other auto shows. It’s also an opportunity for CIAS organizers to thank manufacturers and other industry guests for supporting the show.
One manufacturer which took full advantage of the uncluttered dates and enviable strong luxury market was Volkswagen of America, which used the CIAS as its North American launch point for the new luxury Phaeton.
“The California International Auto Show was the perfect locale for Volkswagen to launch its first entry in the luxury car segment,” says VW Auto Shows & Exhibit Manager Kyle Richard. “When we looked at the timing of the show, the fantastic venue, all located in our biggest market… it really was an easy decision.”
Another key events at the 2004 show was the West Coast Automotive Design Forum, a joint effort of the CIAS and the Motor Press Guild, one of the oldest motoring press organizations in the country. Facilitated by Detroit-based automotive journalist John McElroy, the event featured several design luminaries, including Henrik Fisker, Aston Martin design chief; Frank Saucedo, director of design for GM’s 5350 Studio; Tom Matano, former chief designer for Mazda and now director of design at Academy of Art College; Eddie Paul, noted car designer of the “Fast and Furious” movie franchise; and Jeff Teague, president of Teague Design, Inc.
“This was an important event for us,” says Sackrison. “We’re located in the midst of the world’s automotive design hub, and feel that the annual West Coast Automotive Design Forum, along with the CIAS/Motor Trend Design Contest, are features that will help our own development, but also provide excellent press opportunities for manufacturers.”
A new auto show attraction for the 2004 season was the first Ride and Drive event developed and hosted by the Skip Barber Racing School’s Special Projects Group. Both Ford Motor Company and Volvo Cars took advantage of the unique opportunity to have professional drivers guide consumers (auto show attendees) through high speed turns, hard braking and even potholes and speed bumps as they put vehicles through their paces (see upcoming feature on the Skip Barber program in The Auto Show Report.)
Both Sackrison and Leutheuser, along with the joint venture between their respective associations, are continuing to build awareness for not only the CIAS, but the surrounding area as a destination.
Consider the obvious: Disneyland is literally across the street from the Anaheim Convention Center and the show is also within easy reach of some of the finest Pacific Coast resorts in North America, including the Montage, Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis. Organizers hope these destinations will continue to make attending the first major market show of the season a natural fit in many schedules.
Both Sackrison and Leutheuser say the work to build momentum continues year-round beyond meetings with manufacturers.
“It’s also about partnering with local business and everyone associated with the automotive industry to build awareness and continue with the great things that are already being done,” says Sackrison, who was recently appointed to the advisory board of the Anaheim/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Southern California is a great destination,” he says, “and we’re in the number one automotive market in the country, if not the world. If we’re able to continue capitalizing on that fact, CIAS will continue to grow and our manufacturing partners will benefit even more than they do already.”
Tampa Bay maxes out display space with ‘sold out’ showIt may be one of the two nicest words an auto show organizer could hear.
For George Wilson III, executive director of the Tampa Bay International Auto Show (TBIAS), it’s also a reality, with every one of the 225,000 square feet available in the Tampa Convention Center taken up with a multitude of displays from more than 40 manufacturers.
Certainly, Wilson is happy.
But so is Ronald McDonald and the Ronald McDonald House Charities, the organization that the Greater Tampa Bay Automobile Dealers Association teamed up with in the form of discounted admission coupons. All tickets sold through the promotion went to assist the operation of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay.
The House is a “home away from home” for families who must travel outside their communities to seek medical attention for a child. As such, it provides a welcome refuge from the hospital for families of seriously ill children. The home-like atmosphere is made possible with comfortable beds, kitchen, laundry facilities and even toys for sibling children.
Tampa Bay area show attendees got a good look at the all-new Lamborghini Gallardo, fresh from its debut at the Geneva Motor Show, plus several additional models from the Italian maker.
In addition, several Maserati and Ferrari vehicles were also on hand to remind even those whose budgets might not accommodate the purchase that it never hurts to dream.
Not to be left out of the luxury category were Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Lotus.
Other show pleasers included appearances by Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Keenan McCardell and the team’s ever-popular cheerleading squad.
Military minded folks also had a treat at the Tampa Bay show: a special display by the Florida Army National Guard that featured a Hummer and PT tent.
And, of course, there was a “tip of the hat” to Corvette, with a special display honoring the 50th anniversary of the landmark sports vehicle.
All in all, George Wilson says, the 2004 show was one of the smoothest he’s experienced.
“We had a very good collection of exhibits and a wide variety of makes,” says Wilson. “We were very pleased indeed.”
‘Focal points’ and e-tickets set the Toronto show apartTom Tonks, general manager of the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS), says a series of “focal points” is what distinguishes his event from most others in North America.
“Certainly, we have our share of vehicle introductions,” says Tonks, who also manages the hosting Toronto Automobile Dealers Association. Those included some 54 Canadian premiers and three North American debuts, including the Nissan X-Trail SUV which won’t be sold at all in the U.S. “But we also have a number of focal points that set us apart.”
Those special areas include a portion of the total 850,000 square feet of exhibit space devoted to Classics, Sport Compacts, Light Trucks, and Design Studio.
In Classics, Tonks pointed to an “incredibly diverse” Mustang display that honored the 40th anniversary of the Ford vehicle. The “show within the show” also included a number of classic muscle cars along with those of local clubs keen on displaying their vehicles.
“These were real 100 pointers,” says Tonks referring to a collection of vehicles that included a nice selection of Shelby Mustang and other variations of the brand.
“It was a very interesting display that showed the different solutions to a series of challenges that were set up,” says Tonks.
One of only two internationally-sanctioned OICA events in North America, the Toronto show is the largest consumer show of any kind in Canada (by both size and attendance). More than 1,000 vehicles from 150 exhibitors were on display.
Yet another focal point was headlined the “Sport Compact Revolution,” which refers to the growing “tuner” category. A 70,000 square foot display at SkyDome stadium (adjacent to the main Toronto Convention Centre venue) featured some 80 vehicles and an aftermarket services area.
But as popular as the focal points were to a record-breaking Toronto crowd, so was the general display area.
“We had some incredible cars here, including the BMW 6 Series convertible,” says Tonks. Other notable exhibitors included Mercedes Benz, with its McLaren SLR vehicle, first seen just months ago at the Frankfurt International Motor Show.
Even so, one of the most popular features of the CIAS had nothing to do with any of the vehicles. Tonks is referring to a growing “e-ticket” phenomenon that he expects will eventually account for one-quarter of all ticket sales.
“It’s a convenience to the public and eventually, as more and more use the feature, it will become much cheaper for us to do the ticketing,” says Tonks.
New ‘luxury loft' has show patrons looking upWhile Ruth Lemmon acknowledges the 2004 West Virginia International Auto Show was “extremely well received,” the executive vice president of the West Virginia Automobile and Truck Dealers Association says some of the vehicles shown reached new heights—quite literally.
Show organizers reserved the new space for the latest models from some of the world’s most opulent brands, among them Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volvo.
That addition gave the show a total of 110,000 square feet at the Charleston Civic Center and likely contributed at least in part to an upsurge in attendance—9 percent higher than last year.
“We’re very happy with that,” says Lemmon. “Each year it continues to grow.”
Also flying high (over the crowds and more particularly the Chrysler exhibit) was a “flying” PT Cruiser, a helium-filled, radio-controlled three-quarter size replica of Chrysler’s successful retro-vehicle.
Highlights of the show included three concepts from DaimlerChrysler—the Chrysler 300C; Jeep Compass and Dodge Magnum. Each of the vehicles is likely to make it into the automaker’s lineup, the leap from concept to production becoming increasingly popular at DCX.
In addition to the concepts, several 2005 models were on display for those who “just can’t wait” for the showroom tour. They included the Ford Freestyle, Ford Mustang GT and Buick Terraza.
Add to that line up the 2004 models getting rave reviews—the Dodge SRT-10, Porsche Cayenne, Nissan Pathfinder Armada, BMW 5 Series and Toyota Prius—and it was clear why the West Virginia show drew the crowds.
“It’s one of the things that helps us every year,” says Lemmon.
Crowds were also treated to a 40th anniversary celebration of the Mustang, made possible by the area’s International Late Model Mustang Club.
In addition to the Mustang display, Smith Company Motor Cars showcased a muscle car exhibit featuring high-performance cars from the 1960s.
Looking to pull some strings? How about tractors?
Larry Koester certainly is. The winner of the 2001 National Tractor Pullers Association Grand National Mini-Modified Championship, Koester was on hand to sign autographs and greet fans at the show. A spokesperson (and supporter) of the Make-A-Wish Foundation since losing both his legs in a farming accident in 1986, Koester earned his first tractor pulling championship in 1997.
Credits/Contacts:Automotive Trade Association Executives
8400 Westpark Drive
McLean, VA 22102
703.556.8581 - fax
Don McNeeley, ATAE President
Jennifer Lindsey, ATAE Executive Director
Rod Alberts, ASNA Chairman
The Auto Show Report
J.D. Booth, staff reporter
Elizabeth Katz, staff reporter
Auto Shows of North America Show DirectoryAlbany
Albany Auto Show
11/3/2017 - 11/5/2017
Salt Lake City