It was billed as one of the year's most talked about events and the Auto Shows of North America Summer Meeting, held in mid-July at the Dearborn Inn, located near the birthplace of the modern automobile, made good on that promise.
The two days devoted to discussions about the state of the industry brought together not only ATAEs with responsibility for auto shows in the U.S. and Canada but those who support those shows, including representatives from exhibit houses, decorators and experiential marketing firms.
But even before those talks took place, organizers took their message about auto shows as a premier marketing opportunity to the media, unveiling a study commissioned by ASNA last summer and conducted by Foresight Research
"'The Power of Auto Shows' provides unassailable evidence that auto shows, large or small, provide a way for consumers to spend hours of quality time with thousands of new vehicles," said ATAE Lou Vitantonio
, president of the Greater Cleveland New Car Dealers Association and the Cleveland Auto Show.
Vitantonio, who chairs the ASNA committee of ATAE, provided media with details of the study at a press conference in Detroit.
“Auto shows remain the most effective way to mass market new vehicles, which helps drive economies in North America.”
News of the study was widely reported throughout the week, said Joe Rohatynski
, who manages public relations and media outreach for ASNA.
"This is the kind of news to which media is very receptive," said Rohatynski. "We have a positive story to tell with auto shows, in large and smaller markets throughout the U.S. and Canada, the story being that shows help sell vehicles. With 'The Power of Auto Shows' study, we have conclusive, economic evidence that auto shows are worth the investment by dealer groups and manufacturers."
All ASNA members have been provided with detailed information about the study, including the basis for a press release that can be used in individual markets.
"This is not just a national news story," said Rohatynski. "It's very much a local one that every dealer group can use to underscore how important our business is to the livelihood of the communities where they live and work. It’s a good news story and media are receptive to sharing it with their audiences."
, publisher and editor of Automotive News
and the featured luncheon speaker on Wednesday, gave an overview of the industry in general, with an entertaining review of how the publication—a flagship of Crain Communications—continues to ride the latest wave of growth.
But he also made the point that all auto shows—even smaller regional shows—can use the news to generate local excitement.
"Journalists are there at every show, ready to capture news about what's happening. When you have new cars—and that's the case at every show—that's news that's worth sharing," said Stein.
Even the idea that auto show organizers can say "it's what was shown at (fill in the larger city)" is a news hook that local media will use to help fill the show venue.
Summer Meeting attendees heard lively panel discussions and had numerous opportunities to network among their colleagues.
Save the date: next year’s ASNA Summer Meeting will be held in Fairmont in Banff Springs, Alberta, Canada. mid July.
Best friends forever? That may be what the steel industry thought of the automotive industry. But that relationship may need some mending, says Wall Street Journal
after hearing from industry observers at this year's Management Briefing Seminars put on in August by the Center for Automotive
in Traverse City, Mich. The steel industry's message today is that steel—rather than aluminum or plastics—should be the material of choice for affordable weight
reduction on cars and trucks. Those vehicles need to get lighter to meet aggressive 2025 emissions standards, commonly known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy. It was also a
bit of a wake up call for steel producers. "We knew our story so well and assumed our customers also knew it so well," said Jody Hall
, vice president of the Steel Market Development Institute
. The biggest hit to steel as an automotive industry came when Ford transitioned the body panels on its best-selling F-150 pickup to aluminum. In the meantime, Alcoa, one of the industry's major players, says there will be several more vehicles on the market by 2021.
Audi's head of marketing and sales has predicted that by 2020, a full 50 percent of value creation in the automotive industry will be based on apps, software, electronic systems and digital services. Luca de Meo
made the prediction at an inaugural Asia version of the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler
echoed de Meo's prediction in an interview with Automotive News
. "Never before in nearly 130 years . . . has our industry changed as fast and as completely as now: How we engineer our cars, how we produce them, how we present a new model, where we sell it, who we sell our cars to and who we work with in the future."
A California electric utility is running an 18-month pilot with drivers of BMW's i3 hatchback electric to see if they'll be willing to modify their charging habits "on demand." Pacific Gas & Electric, which recruited about 100 owners from among about 400 applicants, will send a text message to drivers. One of those is Peter Berman
, a 70-year-old semi-retired psychologist who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. "This is the wave of the future," he said. "We can't continue to be dependent on gas and oil and coal for our energy use. I'm really curious as to how this is all going to unfold." The PG&E-BMW pilot is one of many that utilities worldwide are using to see what may happen if millions of electric vehicles start using city streets and highways, a possibility that power companies as both challenging and promising.
The CEO of Mobileye NV
, an Israeli company that makes autonomous driving technology it says will be in an as-yet-unidentified vehicle, is predicting the end of traffic accidents within 20 years. The pace of that change, Ziv Aviram
told Mideast-based Bloomberg News
editor Elliott Gotkine
, "will be according to what risk the automakers are willing to take." Mobileye says on its website that its technology is already available in vehicles made by Volvo, GM, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Opel, Citroen and Mitsubishi. Mobileye's approach seems to be different than that of Google, arguably the "big player" in autonomous technology, with the Israeli firm interpreting visual data much as a human would. Google on the other hand navigates largely by relying on vast amounts of stored data about the streets. Aviram told Bloomberg that automakers will be able to produce a driverless car as soon as 2021, with Mobileye technology and other sensors costing $1,000 or less.
A nearly 30 percent surge in the number of licensed drivers over the age of 65—an 8.2 million increase—may suggest the very old are particularly stubborn about pulling over. In fact, there are now 3.5 million U.S. drivers over 84, a 43 percent increase from a decade ago. Over that same 10-year period, the number of drivers under age 20 declined by 3 percent. The reality is that seniors have never been healthier or wealthier. And cars have never had more features that may help safeguard drivers with fuzzier vision, and slower reactions and stiffer necks, said an article by Kyle Stock
of Bloomberg News
A study released in August by Urban Science shows a current annualized U.S. sales rate of 17.1 million vehicles, which comes from a projected 945 units per dealership outlet. At the end of 2014, the average number of new-vehicle sales per dealership was 921 units, itself a 50-unit increase from 2013. Mitch Phillips
, global practice director at Detroit-based Urban Science
, told Nora Naughton
of Automotive News
that the basic trend among dealerships is "pretty much" status quo. "But if the forecast dips and the number of stores stays the same, we might see a plateau or downturn."
At least for the first half of 2015, Volkswagen appears to have surpassed Toyota as the world's leader in vehicle sales. The difference—5.04 for VW and 5.02 for Toyota—isn't exactly substantial, but numbers of vehicles aren't everything. "Toyota versus Volkswagen is going to be a very close race," Koji Endo
, an auto analyst with Advanced Research Japan
told a reporter. "These companies want to make the profitability side much more important than volume." Deliveries in the U.S. increased 4.4 percent in the first half of the year, seen as the smallest annual gain since the recovery began.
It's a fact that while many automotive manufacturers are fans of the Ride and Drive, increasingly a feature at a good many auto shows, a few have not added their name to the list.
That surprises ATAE Charles Henson
, who heads up the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association, the dealer group that owns the New Mexico International Auto Show.
"It's a model with decades of proven success," said Henson, whose show has embraced the concept. "Manufacturers that use the Ride and Drive at an auto show are getting consumers into the vehicle at a much higher rate of success than they can achieve anywhere else."
Obviously, cost has been cited by some manufacturers as a limiting factor, but Henson said the real math ought to take into account what's occurring over the relatively short period of an auto show compared to what a typical dealership might accomplish in any given 30 to 60-day period.
"When you make that comparison, it seems like the value of an auto show in general and the Ride and Drive in particular represents one of the best marketing tools a manufacturer could ever have," he said.
Henson was clearly in a mood that would suggest recent success.
And for good reason.
His most recent show enjoyed a "substantial" increase in attendance and, more to the point, the event continues to draw new people, year after year.
"I spend a lot of time in the ticket lines, talking to people," said Henson. "It may be a rather limited population base to draw from, but every year I see new people who tell me how much they're looking forward to the show and how they wished they'd come before."
New Mexico is somewhat distinctive in that the state is made up of a very few cities (Albuquerque has more than one-quarter of New Mexico's roughly two million residents, only three others have more than 50,000 people) with very little population to be found outside those cities.
It's no surprise then that Route 66, perhaps the most famous road in America, goes right through the middle of Albuquerque.
The economy's most dependable foundation, notes Henson, is a mix of military and government research—including Los Alamos National Laboratory
and Sandia National Laboratories
Kirtland Air Force Base
, which shares its airport with the City of Albuquerque, is one of three in the state, the others being Cannon Air Force Base
and Holloman Air Force Base
, which was a major training ground for pilots during World War II.
Today, the New Mexico automotive market, like others in the mostly rural U.S., is heavy skewed toward the half-ton pickup.
"There's a wonderful segment of the market where someone can buy a well-appointed half-ton truck, take it to work all day long and then take it out when the sun goes down," said Henson. "They're never reluctant to show off their vehicle."
Profile: New Mexico International Auto Show
April 17-19, 2015
Albuquerque Convention Center
125,000 square feet
$10, adults; $5, seniors, $5, military (with any DOD ID), $5, children (6-12), FREE, children 5 and under, and 12 and under on Family Day (Sunday).
Friday 12 noon-10 pm; Saturday 10 am-10 pm; Sunday 10 am-6 pm
Motor Trend Auto Shows
ATAE Charles Henson
President and CEO, New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association
Auto shows may be exciting places to be, but it's safe to say that the most recent Lehigh Valley Auto Show may have pushed those limits to the breaking point.
At least that's how ATAE Tom Kwiatek
To set up the story, we need to consider that the auto show is located on the campus of Lehigh University
and includes the use of the school's athletic facilities as well as a tent that is brought in for additional space.
On Thursday, when the show began, everything went as planned.
Even a significant snowstorm on Friday wouldn't normally be a problem since the tent is heated and any accumulation would simply be melted away.
That all began to fall apart when a generator failed in the middle of the night.
"We couldn't get the heat index up where it was warm enough to keep snow from accumulating on the roof," said Kwiatek. "Eventually, no matter what we did, snow started to form and in the end, the fire marshal told us we had to vacate the building."
Thankfully, that ended up being a one-day problem that from an attendance standpoint was corrected with what Kwiatek said was the best one-day attendance ever.
"In fact, we achieved the same attendance in three days as we normally do in four," he added.
With five Ride and Drive events in place (up from three the previous year), the auto show was indeed a popular event, especially with all manufacturers involved reporting participation levels that exceeded their expectations.
Other show highlights included a regional television show that was displayed on a jumbo screen located centrally, a "favorite cars by decade" display from the America On Wheels
museum (located in nearby Allentown), and an "ugly car" contest that generated a good deal of attention.
Every patron had a ticket to vote, with the winner driving away with a two-year lease (they chose a Subaru Cross Trek hybrid).
Promotion of the auto show included a tie-in with PPL Center
, a new facility that hosts the Lehigh Valley Phantoms
, an American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL Philadelphia Flyers.
The Lehigh Valley Auto Show was invited to participate in the kick-off press conference for the facility. As part of a two-month sponsorship, Kwiatek and his team were able to bring a vehicle onto the ice during the intermission for home games in February and March.
The promotion included ticket giveaways at each game, all of which were televised.
"We had a great local response to the promotion," said Kwiatek.
Profile: Lehigh Valley Auto Show
March 19-22, 2015
Lehigh University Athletic Campus Buildings
120,000 square feet
Adults (13 and over), $10; Seniors (65+); $7 Children (7-12) $7; Children 6 and under FREE.
Thurs.-Sat., 10 am-9 pm; Sun., 10 am-6 pm.
Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Dealers Association
ATAE Tom Kwiatek
Executive Director, Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Dealers Association
One of the biggest things going at the Alabama Auto Show happens to be the calendar.
ATAE Jennifer Whisenant
made the big leap to bring the show, which had for years been held in November, to its current spring spot.
In fact, she's still juggling things around, with next year's show locked into the March 31-April 3, 2016 spot.
"It has to do, naturally, with the availability of the arena," said Whisenant (this past show was April 30-May 3). "We're still 'monkeying' a bit with the space we need."
Indeed. Whisenant and her team were able to sell out "every square foot we had."
And she's thinking "bring me more."
"I would anticipate that if we had another hall available we could sell that too."
But back to the date change for a moment. Whisenant said the dealer group (the show is owned by the Birmingham Automobile Dealers Association) found itself constantly running into conflicts, which impacted an otherwise "fantastic" show.
"We have a lot of things going on in the community in the fall, and it wasn't just one thing, it was 20 things—graduations, playoffs and so forth. People had choices and when we talked to manufacturers about moving the auto show to the spring, it made the decision an easy one," she said.
That included being able to have new product at the show that wouldn't otherwise be included, always a plus when it comes to an auto show.
This year's three Ride and Drives (there were none the year before) included a heavy emphasis on social media, which certainly contributed to the three participants—Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet—leaving with smiles on their corporate faces.
The dealer group also brought back its charity event. This year proceeds went to the Children's Hospital of Alabama
Whisenant and her team also introduced an industry dinner this year, featuring Henry Cho
, a "clean" comedian whose wife is from Alabama (he's from Tennessee).
"It was a huge success for us," said Whisenant.
Profile: Alabama Auto Show
April 30-May 3, 2015
Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex
220,000 square feet
Adults, $8; Children, $4; 6-11, Free
Thurs., noon to 9 pm; Friday, 10 am-9 pm; Saturday, 10 am-9 pm; Sunday, 10 am-6 pm
Birmingham Automobile Dealers Association
ATAE Ruth Lemmon
, who runs the West Virginia New Car & Truck Dealers Association, will be the first to acknowledge that weather-related issues in recent history affected her West Virginia International Auto Show.
But those days are hopefully behind Lemmon and the team at Motor Trend Auto Shows, which produces the show.
In fact, the most recent event boasted a respectable 5% increase in attendance, at least in part due to better weather but also likely the result of a renewed floor plan that Lemmon said worked out very well.
She has even bigger plans for the upcoming 2016 show.
Those include ongoing discussions with a local TV station that has plans to live stream from the show at various times during the three-day event.
Lemmon said the auto show continues to be very well supported by the local dealer group.
That support, plus several Ride and Drive opportunities, continues to shine the spotlight on the West Virginia International Auto Show.
"We have a very well attended regional show," said Lemmon. "Our community has really taken ownership of the show, which comes at a time when people are ready to see what's new in the market."
Profile: West Virginia International Auto Show
January 16-18, 2015
Charleston Civic Center
120,000 square feet
$10 adults (13 and over), $5 seniors (65+), $3 children (7-12), FREE children 6 and under.
Friday & Saturday, 10 am-9 pm; Sunday, 10 am-5 pm
Motor Trend Auto Shows
ATAE Ruth Lemmon
West Virginia Automobile & Truck Dealers Association
"It's been a ride."
ATAE Bob Vilas
, who for the last 16 years has been at the helm of the Edmonton Motorshow, has begun a two-year transition that will see him retire from his position as executive director of the Edmonton Motor Dealer Association in 2017.
Vilas has already passed the reins of the show to Eleasha Naso
, who has been with the dealer group for 14 years. She will take over as executive director when Vilas retires.
But with this season's show, Vilas has gone out in style, enjoying a 5 percent increase in attendance, which followed a 12 percent increase the year before.
Vilas worked as director of public affairs at Suzuki Canada for a number of years before running his own events business, followed by two years of agency work before joining the dealer group.
It was there that he had the freedom to do "some crazy stuff."
Throughout those 16 years, one thing kept him focused.
"We did our very best to put value into the ticket," he said. "There was always something for everyone that came out."
The auto show continues to expand as a result of the various initiatives.
"We ran out of space," said Vilas. "That meant expanding into ballrooms at the Edmonton Expo Centre and the creation of some pretty great features, like "Auto Exotica," which brought brands not typically seen on your average city street.
Vilas was also involved in taking the display of accessories to an expansive level—some 85,000 square feet.
"That's something that people really enjoyed," he said. "It gives people an idea of what they can do to customize their trucks and cars."
This year's show continued a tradition that's been doing strong for about six years now, a so-called "Electric Garage"—a collector car auction that's seen more than 100 cars sold directly at the show.
"People really like to see other people spend money," quips Vilas of the popular event.
All the while, it's the idea of engaging the crowds that has kept Vilas focused. "There's a whole bunch of things happening within the show that contribute to that. And that's really the key. This is all about stimulus. When you talk about a trade show for cars, it's stimulus—we stimulate the marketplace—but we're not here to sell on the spot. We're here to put information into people's hands and minds."
A family pass that has become increasingly popular is part of the growth curve for the show over the years.
"If you've got a couple of kids, whether they're little or teenagers who play soccer, it's very hard to make the decision on what you're going to drive as a family unless you include your kids."
Profile: Edmonton Motor Show
April 9-12, 2015
Edmonton Expo Centre
500,000 square feet
Adults, $15; Advance adult, seniors, students, $13; Children under 6, FREE; Family pass (two children, two adults), $36.
Thurs.-Sat., 10 am-10 pm; Sun., 10 am-6 pm
Edmonton Motor Dealers Association
ATAE Bob Vilas
Executive Director, Edmonton Motor Dealers Association
When it comes to generating excitement in Minnesota, cold weather is no problem for the Twin Cities Auto Show.
Even in March.
As ATAE Scott Lambert
pointed out, momentum for the event remains strong for a number of reasons.
"One is certainly the very popular Ride and Drives that we had this year," said Lambert. "We also saw the return of Camp Jeep, which continues to be popular."
Participation in the four Ride and Drive events at the show included Ford (with its new F-150), Mazda (featuring four vehicles), Toyota (which brought the RAV4, Camry and Prius) and BMW (which featured the i3 electric).
The show was also helped from a promotional standpoint by two initiatives—a vehicle giveaway in the form of a GMC Canyon and a one-night salute to military.
"We had posters made up and offered a special discount rate to both current members of the military and veterans," said Lambert. "We hit every Legion hall we could find in the area and we could see the impact that outreach had."
Show organizers introduced a "luxury lane" display for the first time, showcasing brands such as Aston Martin and Bentley as well as Maserati.
On the media side, some seven area iHeart Radio
stations were involved with daily broadcasts from the show floor and a tie-in promotion for movie tickets and a contest that included $500 in cash.
Free child safety seat checks were also on the menu throughout the show.
The show featured the display of a solar vehicle entry from the University of Minnesota
(the Centaurus III, which competed in the Formula Sun Grand Prix and American Solar Challenge).
Organizers tapped into the expertise of product specialists from Productions Plus
in offering a 90-minute "Automotive 101" workshop geared to help female buyers (80 percent of whom are involved in a vehicle purchase decision) better understand basics of vehicle construction, mechanical operation, safety and technology.
But Lambert is already looking ahead to next year's auto show. And for good reason: the auto show has inked a five-year presenting sponsorship promotion with SuperAmerica
, a fuel retailer with a strong presence in the Twin Cities market.
"They'll be helping market through all their stations, which is something we're very excited about. It's going to be very big for us," predicted Lambert.
Profile: Twin Cities Auto Show
March 7-15, 2015
Minneapolis Convention Center
366,053 square feet
$10, Adults; $10; Junior (age 11-15), $5; Children under 10, FREE
Sat.: 10 am-10 pm; Sun.: 10 am-7 pm; Mon., Tues., Thurs.: 4 pm-10 pm; Wed., Fri.: 10 am-10 pm.
Greater Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association of Minnesota, Inc.
The big task for ATAE Peter Hodges
has already been accomplished, that being to basically reorganize and rejuvenate the Tulsa Auto Show.
Which is not bad for a guy who doesn't live in Tulsa.
Hodges has spent a good number of years running two auto shows in Oklahoma City—including the event that basically is bolted onto the Oklahoma State Fair—about 100 miles from Tulsa.
This past season, Hodges got the chance to prove his success a year ago was no fluke.
"Everyone was happy," he said of year two as the producer of the Tulsa show. "We preached the attendance they expected and the show has built up in value."
Maybe even more than the dealer group expected.
"It's a real viable event," said Hodges. "We got it back on a sure footing, that's for sure."
But to be clear, this is no new event we're talking about. Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the show. What seemed to be lacking was a sense of renewed energy, which is what Hodges brought to the party.
What he continues to do is basically follow something close to a formula that he knows has worked for years in Oklahoma City.
"It's tried and true stuff," he said. "And for the second year, we did a lot of the same stuff that we knew, more or less intuitively, that works and would continue to work."
One of those was to pay attention to the military, giving auto show attendees the opportunity to honor those in uniform (there are three Air Force bases and two Army bases nearby).
It turns out that nearly nine out of 10 of the one million-plus dependents adversely affected by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan do not qualify for federal scholarship assistance.
The Tulsa Auto Show is offering support to the Folds of Honor Foundation
by helping it provide annual educational scholarships to military families of those who have been killed or disabled while on active duty.
"It was nice to be able to brand a day in support of that cause," said Hodges.
Other show highlights included a display from the Hajek Motorsports Museum
and, continuing with the automotive theme, a Hot Wheels giveaway for kids.
There were also appearances by characters such as Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-Man.
Hodges and his team also pushed discount coupon programs with QuickTrip
, a chain of 71 stores that dominate the Tulsa market.
"This was a very good show for us," said Hodges. "And we're pretty confident based on the feedback we've had that next year will be even stronger."
Profile: Tulsa Auto Show
April 17-19, 2015
140,000 square feet
Adults, $8; Children (7-12), $4, Children under 6, FREE
Friday and Saturday, 10 am-9 pm; Sunday, 10 am-6 pm.
Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association (Oklahoma City)
ATAE Peter Hodges
Executive Director, Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association
Automotive Trade Association Executives
The Auto Show Report
8400 Westpark Drive
McLean, VA 22102
ATAE Executive Director