The Washington State Auto Dealers Association has merged with the Seattle-area Puget Sound Automobile Dealers Association, in the process,
taking over ownership of the Seattle International Auto Show. A merger of the two associations took place Feb. 17. As part of the new agreement,
Motor Trend Auto Shows will assume management of the show. ATAE Vicki Giles Fabre, who heads the Washington State Auto Dealers Association, will
head the combined organization. The move follows the retirement of Jim Hammond, who headed the Puget Sound Automobile Dealers Association.
Nissan has said there will be more than 1,000 new supplier jobs at a $160 million supplier park project it is creating in Smyrna, Tenn. Nissan is building a 1.5 million-square-foot integrated logistics center on its campus. The facility, which will be used for inbound production parts as well as outbound returnable containers, is expected to be completed in late 2016. While the new jobs will be with various suppliers, Nissan already employs more than 8,600 area workers. The company says domestic production now accounts for 85 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S.
A slumping in worldwide metal prices hasn't affected aluminum, which thanks to use in vehicles such as Ford's F-150, is continuing to drive demand. Fuel efficiency requirements are key, writes Firat Kayakiran of Bloomberg Business, citing U.S. government fuel efficiency targets of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, almost double that of 2011. In the meantime, copper prices are down 13 percent this year and iron ore has slipped 11 percent. Aluminum has gained 1.1 percent in the same period. Producers such as Alcoa Inc. and Rio Tinto Group predict demand will continue to rise over the next few years as the metal grows in importance to carmakers.
Economic and political turmoil in Russia have resulted in General Motors’ decision to close a factory in St. Petersburg. The automaker has also said it will stop selling its Opel brand and most mainstream Chevrolets by the end of 2015. The move doesn't necessarily mean the end of GM's business in Russia, with demand for Cadillac luxury models still intact. A few "iconic" Chevrolet models (Corvette, Camaro, Tahoe) will also continue to be sold. The move, said GM President Dan Ammann, is consistent with "a global strategy to ensure long-term sustainability in markets where we operate." Ammann described Russia as a market with "very challenging long-term prospects."
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said "every major carmaker" is now on board with the company's CarPlay standard for connecting with mobile devices in a vehicle. Several carmakers, including Volkswagen and GM's Chevrolet, have already announced support for the technology, which had previously been billed as "iOS for the car" before taking on the CarPlay moniker. Cook has said 40 new car models will be added to the list of "partners" in 2015. The aim of CarPlay is to provide direct access to iOS device functionality, control, and usage, with the system operating hand-in-hand with a vehicle's control system. In many cases, that system predominantly being QNX, now owned by BlackBerry.
Scott Vazin is Toyota's new vice president of Corporate and Regional Communications, having joined the automaker in late 2014. Vazin arrived from Volkswagen Group of America, where he was executive vice president for the VW Group and Brand Communications. His career history includes progressively challenging assignments at Nissan North America and Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America. Vazin said he hopes to help create an "optimal communications organization” at Toyota, which will have its new headquarters for North American operations in Plano, Texas, where Vazin will eventually be located.
, perhaps with the advantage of having several weeks behind him, began the conversation by referring to the week of this season's Buffalo Auto Show as "diabolical."
"It was the coldest February we've had in quite a while," said Barrett, who works with ATAE Paul Stasiak
as the show manager. "There were all kinds of weather advisories, driving advisories and we had everything from snow to freezing rain and sleet warnings."
But then Barrett, a veteran Buffalo resident, explained how attendance was actually up from last year.
'We tell people it's dry and 72 and perfectly lovely inside.'
-Trey Barrett, Buffalo Auto Show
"We had great attendance," he said, clearly making the point that when you know weather can be an issue, you plan for it.
"We tell people it's dry and 72 and perfectly lovely inside."
Another perennial challenge for the auto show is parking, even more so when snow is taking up valuable space around the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
So Barrett contracts a valet parking company to do the work.
"They worked their tail off but it's cheaper to valet than it is to worry about parking, which would otherwise be a reason for people to stay away. We basically try to remove that barrier with this service."
The festivities began with a Wednesday Charity Kick-Off Preview Party, hosted by the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association Charitable Foundation and Independent Health. Funds raised are in support of various local charities.
A theme of this year's auto show was Celebrating "One Buffalo" with notable past and present athletes appearing throughout the show. Those included players from the NHL Buffalo Sabres, NFL Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Bandits, a professional box lacrosse team.
"Buffalo being a professional sports town, this was something that went over very well," said Barrett.
But people are really at the show to discover what they can look forward to seeing in dealer showrooms and they weren't disappointed.
With a Ride and Drive opportunity from Toyota and Ford's F-150 Experience, a digital presentation by the automaker, Barrett and his team were able to organize a healthy list of features that kept the hall busy.
Those included a display by Kustom Workz Bike Alley
, a Wellness Corner, a Mobility Awareness display and even a GM Powertrain Engine Build/Tear Down demo, drawing attention to the importance of the Buffalo area (in the form of a factory in nearby Lockport).
The show even partnered with Canalside, which is at the heart of Buffalo's waterfront revitalization in the city's downtown corridor, with a $1 discount to "Ice at Canalside"
There was also a display of Compressed Natural Gas vehicle technologies as part of the show features.
And finally, an appearance by King Robota, an 8-foot "larger than life" display that was brought to the show by local Dodge dealers.
Profile: Buffalo Auto Show
Feb. 5-8, 2015
Buffalo Niagara Convention Center
110,000 square feet
$9, Adults; FREE, Children 4 and under. Presale: $8 Presale Discount Tickets and $27 Family 4 Pack available at Tops, Wegmans, NOCO and Dash's. $8 tickets also available at www.buffaloautoshow.com
Thursday-Saturday, 10 am-10 pm; Sunday, 10 am-7 pm.
Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association
ATAE Paul Stasiak
President, Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association
Trey Barrett, show manager
Weather, of course, is a factor in most northern cities that host an auto show.
Which means snow.
Or as Tina Cline
, who manages the Pennsylvania Auto Show for Motor Trend (and by extension the Harrisburg Automotive Trade Association and ATAE Ray Bromley
), said: "Of course. We always have snow."
'It's something that people were asking for, which we were able to accommodate by adding a separate hall.'
-Tina Cline, Pennsylvania Auto Show
Still, this season's show, which was about even from last year, continues to grow in the type of vehicles that are featured.
"Last year we added power sports as well as motorcycles, ATVs and boats," said Cline. "It's something that people were asking for, which we were able to accommodate by adding a separate hall."
The show, which is at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex, now has a luxury hall as well as one with certified pre-owned vehicles in addition to new cars and trucks.
This year's features included a three-hour concert with Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline tributes (the Fabulous Heartbreak Band).
On the vehicle side, Ford brought its Ride and Drive to the show.
There was also a display of custom vehicles and hot rods, brought to the show by Blue Moon Cruisers Rod & Custom Association
, based in Central Pennsylvania, and a second display from the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum
and the Elegance at Hershey.
Some 23 dealers (up from 17 last year) participated in a vehicle giveaway with a minimum value of $25,000.
And on Saturday, a "Stand At Attention" competition was held, featuring members from different branches of the military participating in support of Active Heroes
, a charitable organization that's building a military family retreat to support veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nearly $5,000 was raised for the cause.
Profile: Pennsylvania Auto & Boat Show
Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2015
Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex
305,848 square feet
Adults (13 and over), $10; Seniors (62 and over), $6; Military, $6; Children (7 to 12), $3; Children (6 and under), Free
Wed.-Thurs., 1 pm-9 pm; Fri.-Sat., 10 am-9 pm; Sun., 10 am-5 pm.
Motor Trend Auto Shows
ATAE Ray Bromley
Harrisburg Automotive Trade Association
A year after ATAE Scott Roth
at the Greater Louisville Automobile Dealers Association parted ways with a promoter who had essentially "co-branded" the event, the Louisville Auto Show is back.
And Roth couldn't be happier.
"Everything went very well," said Roth, who said the "new" show under the management of the dealer group saw dealers "rising to the opportunity."
What turned out to be something of an experiment with the promoter, whose emphasis is primarily on classic cars, came about as the result of an industry emphasis on "eyeballs."
'Almost every car we had was available to be test driven on the property,'
-ATAE Scott Roth, Louisville Auto Show
That lead to a multi-year deal that has now effectively ended.
Released from that relationship, Roth found himself running a show that he and his team could basically operate the way they wanted - with dealers rather than another show promoter benefiting from what was clearly an enthusiastic (and ready to buy) audience.
That included taking the traditional Ride and Drive to an entirely new level.
"Almost every car we had was available to be test driven on the property," said Roth of the Kentucky Exposition Center, also home of the Kentucky State Fair.
The Louisville Auto Show, which has a history of being a selling show, may eventually go back to that format, although this season's show did offer customers the opportunity to connect with salespeople who would follow up with them after the show ended.
Roth said having dealers involved in the auto show was key to the success of the event.
"Customers were qualified, interested and buying within 60 days of having attended the show," he added.
Although it's difficult if not impossible to make a year-over-year comparison on attendance (since this is the first year that the pure "auto show" is back), Roth was pleased with what he saw coming through the door.
Super Bowl Sunday, in particular, saw strong attendance, buoyed by drawings for big screen TVs.
"I heard people saying 'Super What?' so we knew we were on the right track," said Roth.
Profile: Louisville Auto Show
Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2015
Kentucky Exposition Center
105,000 square feet
Adults (13 and over), $7.50; Children (7 to 12), $5; Children (6 and under), Free
Friday, 3 pm-9 pm; Saturday, 10 am-9 pm; Sunday, 10 am-4 pm.
Greater Louisville Auto Dealers Association
ATAE Scott Roth
President and Secretary
Greater Louisville Auto Dealers Association
Sometimes it's the attendance. Sometimes it's the energy.
And sometimes it's both.
Such was the case at this season's Midlands International Auto Show, according to Tam Webb
, who works full-time on the show in her role with the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, and on behalf of ATAE Loy Todd Jr.
of the Nebraska New Car and Truck Dealers Association.
"Our attendance was up all four days," said Webb. "But it was the energy of the show that really stood out for us. You could see it just following people going from exhibit to exhibit. This was clearly a shopping experience for many who came to the show.
"They weren't just walking down the aisles. Many of them were actually waiting to talk with a product specialist with a sense of purpose,” she added.
'This was clearly a shopping experience for many who came to the show,'
-Tam Webb, Midlands International Auto Show
There is substantial evidence that fundamental economic improvements are also behind what was obviously a brighter show than even what some might expect for an area with very low unemployment.
"Gas prices were low in January and the weather was good, but sales have been up and people are more in a mind to buy cars," she said. "It felt different, more serious. People were purposeful."
As a relatively smaller market, Omaha is one where dealers and show organizers take more of a lead than might otherwise happen at a larger show.
"We have to create more of the show," said Webb. "This year, that included pulling together a very nice display of exotics."
Indeed, Webb said pulling those various show elements together is a key part of her job.
"I work with the manufacturers and try to find the newest product for the show, vehicles that are likely not yet at the dealers. That's what brings people to the show."
Webb also works hard at making sure she's able to create an auto show environment that will appeal to families and buyers (and ideally one and the same).
"We advertise a lot in the newspaper, of course," she added. "But we buy late news on TV stations as well and 'older demographic' radio stations."
Webb's point: "We're not just looking for bodies. We're looking for qualified families, people who are more likely to come to the show."
That strategy is one that Webb, through the dealer group, has used to market the Midlands International Auto Show.
"This is an event that's very much supported by the dealers. They pay on their own to be at the show and in return we do everything we can to support our dealers."
Being so tightly connected to the Omaha World-Herald certainly helps the cause.
"The relationship works out well for the dealer association," said Webb. "We're able to get extra space, sometimes after a call that could come at 2 p.m. that we need filler material. Often, they fill that space with auto show ads."
Profile: Midlands International Auto Show
Jan. 22-25, 2015
Century Link Center
194,000 square feet
$9, Adults; $6, Children (7-12) and Military (with ID), Seniors (65+), FREE 6 and younger
Thursday 11 am-9 pm; Friday & Saturday, 10 am-9 pm; Sunday, 10 am-5 pm
ATAE Loy Todd Jr.
Nebraska New Car and Truck Dealers Association
With all due respect to the popular television show, Mike Gempp
, director of the Philadelphia Auto Show, can attest that it's certainly not "Always Sunny" in the city of brotherly love.
Take last year for example. Please.
"We got beat up last year with snow," says Gempp. "This year we had a clear shot at the weather, which is the first time we've been able to say that in probably three years."
Gempp is grateful. "We had an occasional dusting and extremely cold temperatures. But we didn't have whiteouts and as a result we were able to achieve the second best attendance in our history."
'The floor was always crowded. There was never a time when a product specialist didn't have people to talk to,'
-Mike Gempp, Philadelphia Auto Show
Almost as significant as the clear weather, said Gempp, were the positive results from what is essentially a new way of working behind the scenes at the auto show, a move that began with a new management structure at an expanded Philadelphia Convention Center.
"Those changes paid off in a big way this year," said Gempp, referring to fundamental rules that resulted in much lower costs for setting up and dismantling the auto show.
"Exhibitors were allowed to do a lot more work," he said. "They didn't need to carry as many supervisors and that was all about the work rules."
A new customer satisfaction agreement was at the heart of that new atmosphere.
"Business at the convention center is good for everybody," said Gempp of the new attitude that now prevails.
With manufacturers and dealers ultimately taking advantage of those new work rules, Gempp is happy with the changes.
"Exhibitors and manufacturers will be coming back to Philadelphia and reinvesting that money. As they grow their presence it will be because they understand the workforce is more efficient and attitudes are improving. It's a more profitable environment."
Gempp's role in managing the show was to keep the lines of communication open between the dealer group and exhibitors.
"This hasn't been the easiest town to get things done, so people were excited to hear the news of the changes," he said.
Once again, Gempp and his team, including ATAE Kevin Mazzucola
, were able to fill the convention center, which underwent an expansion in 2012.
"We saw their best displays," said Gempp, adding that the expansion has meant being able to have all manufacturers on the same floor, a move he said has had a "huge impact" in the growth of the show.
One interesting feature at this year's show was a "Face Off" display of nearly 40 historical vehicles, half of them imports.
"The domestics won," said Gempp of the classic car feature.
Philadelphia was also one of the stops in the DUB Show Tour for 2015
, which took some 120,000 square feet of space, the largest seen in the city since 2009.
"The floor was always crowded. There was never a time when a product specialist didn't have people to talk to," said Gempp.
Profile: Philadelphia International Auto Show
Jan. 31-Feb. 8, 2015
Pennsylvania Convention Center
Over 650,000 square feet
$12, Adults; $9, Military; $6, Seniors (62+ weekdays only); $6, Children (7-12); FREE, Children 6 and under.
Saturdays, 9 am-10 pm; Sundays, 9 am-8 pm; Weekdays, Noon-10 pm
Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia
ATAE Kevin Mazzucola
Executive Director, Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia
Auto Show Director, Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia
ATAE Greg Remensperger
offered a succinct but appropriate description of this season's Portland International Auto Show.
"It was one of the best ever."
Digging a little deeper as far as the "why" the show was among the best in history, Remensperger was happy to elaborate.
"I'd call it the 'perfect storm' or the lack thereof," quipped Remensperger, who clearly recalls last year's weather events.
"We had decent weather and there was no snow on the mountain [Mt. Hood is nearby], so we didn't lose the skiing crowd."
'We started by identifying some of the audiences we wanted to reach, then targeted specific messages to those groups,'
-ATAE Greg Remensperger, Portland International Auto Show
But Remensperger also said last year's rather poor weather may have helped create a pent-up demand that was at least partly sated.
He also cited an exit survey showing the largest percentage of "intending to buy in the next six months" he's seen in recent history.
Show organizers took the job of recovering from last year's abysmal combination of snow and ice, which hadn't been seen in perhaps 20 years.
This year was also the second year of a "rebranded" Sneak Peak Charity Preview Party that raised nearly $300,000—topped up to $500,000 by the dealer group—in support of six local charities. Those charities include: Meals on Wheels
, Providence Medical Foundation
, Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland
, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation>, Victory Academy
(a school for autistic children), and the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon
This year's auto show also featured (for the first time) the DUB Show Tour as organizers partnered with the local 503 Motoring group (the area code for Portland) to show some outstanding exotics, including a few owned by NBA players.
Remensperger said marketing this year's event included expanding an existing strategy of targeting people ideally searching for a vehicle.
"We started by identifying some of the audiences we wanted to reach, then targeted specific messages to those groups," he added.
One of those groups is the Baby Boomers, which include big spenders when it comes to vehicles.
Even coming up against the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show, which was held the same weekend and draws a similar audience, didn't dampen things for Remensperger and the Portland show.
"We spoke to them and their attendance was strong as well," he added. "It seems that many of those attending that show also went to ours."
Profile: Portland International Auto Show
February 5-8, 2015
Oregon Convention Center
400,000 square feet
$12, Adults; $10, Seniors (62+) & Military with ID; $7, Children (7-12); FREE, Children under 6 accompanied with an adult; $30, Family Pass (includes two adults, two children, good for any single day).
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 am-10 pm; Sunday, 10 am-7 pm
Oregon Auto Dealers Association
From the perspective of ATAE Sean Brickell
, this year's Hampton Roads International Auto Show was what he might have expected.
And then some.
The event, which is self-produced through the Hampton Roads Automobile Dealers Association in Virginia Beach, Va., enjoyed a very healthy 16 percent increase in year-over-year attendance, perhaps in good part due to what Brickell categorized as a "very aggressive" ad campaign.
"Our media partner provides us with about $3.50 for every dollar spent," said Brickell.
Also helpful to driving attendance is a public relations campaign that included the local NBC affiliate. That station did a one-hour prime-time special (7 p.m. to 8 p.m., preempting network programming).
'Our media partner provides us with about $3.50 for every dollar spent,'
-ATAE Sean Brickell, Hampton Roads International Auto Show
"It was well-watched to say the least," said Brickell.
Another key initiative for the show was the VIP industry only "by invitation" event, including a silent auction that funds the dealer group's Youth Automotive Training program.
Between seven and nine students who are accepted into the program receive books and tuition for a two-year associates degree at either Tidewater Community College
or Thomas Nelson Community College
When they graduate, students typically have between five and 15 job offers from dealers.
"These are highly sought graduates," said Brickell. "In fact, as soon as they get accepted into the program, they're often courted by dealers who want to hire."
Those who receive the scholarships commit to working at a Hampton Roads dealer for two years following graduation.
A traditional part of the show that continued this year was a partnership with GEICO Insurance (which has a regional office in Virginia Beach). The well-known insurer, part of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, sponsors a display of "ultimate" vehicles that this year included one notable vehicle from each decade.
Other promotions designed to drive attendance included one with Intercom Radio that resulted in some 1,500 visitors lined up on Saturday morning before the doors opened.
This year's auto show was Hampton Roads' 103rd year since its inception, interrupted only by World War II.
In an area that has notable military presence, auto show organizers take advantage of that fact, including offering free admission and, to the first 1,200, a promotion that includes being able to get a $2 bill featuring Thomas Jefferson from the Ford exhibit.
It's a show that continues to expand, said Brickell. Next year, that growth will continue when the auto show takes over a 50,000-square-foot adjoining ballroom.
"This year we had to turn away more than 20 vendor requests. We just didn't have the room."
Profile: Hampton Roads International Auto Show
Jan. 9-11, 2015
Virginia Beach Convention Center
175,000 square feet
$10, Adults; Children (7-12); FREE
Friday and Saturday, 10 am-10 pm; Sunday, 10 am-6 pm
Hampton Roads Automobile Dealers Association
ATAE Sean Brickell
Executive Vice President, Hampton Roads Automobile Dealers Association
The nation's capital may not be everyone's favorite "center of activity" but when it comes to aligning with the setting of policy related to the automotive industry, ATAE John O'Donnell
of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association may beg to differ.
"We'll stop being the 'policy show' when Congress moves out of D.C.," said O'Donnell, whose dealer group runs the Washington Auto Show.
Indeed, this season's event deftly combined aspects of both policy and the natural attention a show brings to a community, even one as central to the very fabric of the United States.
'We'll stop being the 'policy show' when Congress moves out of D.C..'
-ATAE John O'Donnell, Washington Auto Show
That policy part came in the form of visits by four members of the president's cabinet: the secretaries of Energy, Transportation, Labor, and Justice (Attorney General Eric Holder).
This was the first auto show for O'Donnell, who following last year's show succeeded the retired Gerry Murphy
as head of the dealer group. Murphy now serves as a four-day-a-week general counsel for WANADA.
This was, O'Donnell said, a good first year to be at the helm.
"We had a number of good things happen for us," he added. Those positives included an inaugural VIP exotic event that featured six high-end manufacturers along with two notable chefs as well as a high-end clothier and jeweler.
Some 140 handpicked "high net-worth" individuals were invited and the event was covered by Washington Life
, one of the area's top socialite magazines.
"It's something we plan to do every year now," said O'Donnell of the event. "We positioned it so that other high net-worth people would hear about it and attend and it was an enormous success. Manufacturers want to return, sponsors want to return and so do guests and buyers."
O'Donnell said the jeweler sold his entire on-site inventory at the event.
For the second year, the U.S. General Services Administration, which is ultimately responsible for government purchases, held its annual fleet symposium, designating the Washington Auto Show as the only place where personnel and those permitted to travel, receive training and view product.
There are some 12,000 fleet buyers working at the GSA.
Also from an attendance standpoint, even a potential conflict with Super Bowl Sunday wasn't enough to dampen enthusiasm, said O'Donnell.
"Even at 3:30 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday people were buying tickets and coming into the show rather than exiting."
Profile: Washington Auto Show
Jan. 23-Feb. 1, 2015
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
725,000 square feet
$12, Adults, $5, Children (12 and under); FREE, under 5
Fri., Jan. 23, noon-10 pm; Saturday., Jan. 24, 10 am to 10 pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, 10-7 pm; Mon. through Thurs., Jan. 26-29, noon to 9 pm; Friday, Jan. 30, noon-10 pm; Sat., Jan. 31, 10 am-10 pm; Sun., Feb. 1, 10 am-6 pm.
Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association
Automotive Trade Association Executives
The Auto Show Report
8400 Westpark Drive
McLean, VA 22102
ATAE Executive Director