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New Edmonton ride and drive system features 120 vehiclesThe 2007 Edmonton Motor Show is still months away, but organizers of this year’s events are already planning a new twist on the popular ride and drive concept. Show goers will be able to choose from a selection of some 120 cars to try out, thanks to a booking system custom developed by the Edmonton Motor Car Dealers’ Association. Executive Manager Bob Vilas, who spoke to “The Auto Show Report” about the program, says the system books appointments and text messages show goers with a reminder, allowing them to browse the rest of the auto show until the time of their test drive. Watch for more details on the program in the next issue of “The Auto Show Report.”
Extra entertainment boosts OC show attendanceThe addition of live music – including a concert by 70s rock band Foghat – gave the Orange County Auto Show a 15 percent bump in attendance, according to John Sackrison, executive director of the Orange County Automobile Dealers Association. “It made us more than an auto show,” says Sackrison, “and I think that resonated with people in this market.” Todd Leutheuser, executive director of the Southland Motor Car Dealers Association, agrees. “The power of the concert was in the trade with our media partner, local rock station KLOS-FM, which gave us a five to one return on promotions of the concert.” The show will likely continue to add similar features next year, adds Sackrison. “Doing so let’s us use music as a big part of the ad campaign.”
It’s taking less time to pay for a car, says bank indexDetroit-based Comerica Bank says it took 23.6 weeks of median family income to purchase an average-priced new vehicle in the third quarter, a drop of 2.8 weeks from the fourth quarter of 2005 and the third consecutive decline in its Auto Affordability Index. Comerica tagged the total cost of buying an average-priced light vehicle as $26,500, down 5 percent from a year ago. At the same time, it says median family income has risen about 5 percent over the same period. Comerica includes finance charges in its price calculations.
Luxury market poised for upsurge?Experts say a buoyant stock market and a flood of baby boomers entering their top earning years is likely to produce a comeback in the market for luxury vehicles. There’s already signs of the improvement coming; in October, luxury cars sat on dealer lots an average of 53 days compared with 76 days for other vehicles, according to figures from the National Automobile Dealers Association. Others point to a 20 percent increase in luxury auto spending, even during a period when sales of luxury goods was relatively flat.
Indian manufacturer plans to bring vehicles to U.S.Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., a prominent Indian maker of tractors, trucks and SUVs in the Indian market, plans to bring two vehicles - a pickup truck and a sport-utility vehicle - to the U.S. starting in 2008. Working with distributor Global Vehicles U.S.A. Inc., Mahindra, which already ships tractors to the U.S., expects to finalize dealer agreements by April next year. The company was formed in 1945 to make Willys Jeeps in India and has about half the market for utility vehicles in India. It is the world’s fourth largest maker of tractors. U.S.-bound vehicles are likely to include a version of the Scorpio, about the size of a Jeep Liberty. A pickup sold by Mahindra in other markets has lines similar to a Jeep Wrangler.
Albany: Empire State show eyes convention centerIt’s always been something of an unusual show. And an unusual city. Albany, New York, capital of the Empire State and one of the few cities of its kind not to have a convention center.
Albany is also somewhat unusual in that it has two auto shows every year.
“It’s coming but we’re not sure exactly when,” says Dorman. “But the project is moving along. And they’ve more or less settled on a site.”
In the meantime, Albany has its two shows, both of which have less than 50,000 square feet.
Among them, the Empire State Plaza Auto Show is arguably the most unusual in that it’s held in a state building and organizers aren’t able to charge admission.
It’s also in a space that is anything but rectangular.
“It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” says Dorman of the challenge of getting exhibitors the space they’d like to showcase new vehicles.
And with shrinking space due to security concerns in recent years, developing a workable show plan isn’t getting any easier.
“We use every nook and cranny we can find,” says Dorman.
Those issues aside, Dorman says this year’s event was a very busy show.
And unlike some shows where entertainment features abound, the Empire State Plaza event was decidedly focused.
“We had a little bit of kids’ entertainment, but it was really about the vehicles,” says Dorman.
With exhibits typically hosted by dealership personnel (which is the case for the other Albany show as well), Dorman says the Empire State Plaza show has its strengths, even with the space limitations aside.
“It’s a very comfortable space,” says Dorman. “It’s walkable and there’s parking indoors.”
Still, Dorman admits she won’t be disappointed to leave the Empire State Plaza once the convention center project becomes a reality.
“It’s probably three to five years away from happening, but for us to have a normal rectangular space to work with – that’s our dream.”
Birmingham: Show may ease off non-auto promotionsBrett McBrayer might have liked to claim he’d done some great new thing to account for double-digit attendance figures at the 2007 Alabama International Auto Show.
But the truth is, McBrayer, president of the Birmingham Automobile Dealers Association, says he didn’t do anything different.
And that’s in an area where other consumer shows have seen attendance off by 40-50 percent.
So what’s happened?
McBrayer sees one reason being that the Alabama International Auto Show has simply built up enough momentum that it’s ingrained in the community’s mind as the place to go.
“We’ve been in Birmingham 14 years now and the auto show has touched so many people,” says McBrayer. “It’s ‘arrived’ if you will and Birmingham is growing rapidly.”
The fact that three manufacturers - Honda, Mercedes, and Hyundai - have set up manufacturing facilities likely doesn’t hurt.
With the growth of the Alabama International Auto Show comes some challenges, however, one being a shortage of space for manufacturers.
“We’re lobbying with the convention center for an expansion of the complex,” says McBrayer. “We’re trying to get more space to make it work.”
But that’s six or seven years away from becoming a reality, regardless of the outcome of those talks.
McBrayer meanwhile is happy the most recent show included more concepts than he’s ever seen before, plus vehicles that the public hasn’t seen on city streets, notable among the GM Acadia crossover and its Saturn Outlook cousin (the same Lambda platform may also be used in a production version of the Buick Enclave concept).
McBrayer is also seriously considering dropping some of the “non-automotive” attractions that he once used to bring crowds to the show, especially now that a shortage of exhibit space has him juggling manufacturer requests.
“We’ve always done a lot of promotions, but the show has outgrown those,” says McBrayer. “And they’re taking up space I need.”
McBrayer admits fitting people and cars into a defined area is not easy task.
But he’s also with this show taken steps to smooth out the flow of crowds, notably by moving traffic to less-busy days by restricting complimentary and discount tickets to Thursday and Friday.
“It helped us a lot,” says McBrayer.
At the same time, overall ticket sales increased.
“It went well,” he says. “Ridiculously well.”
Boston: Show celebrates 50 yearsIt’s likely a New England thing. Or more particularly a snow thing.
With that in mind, the New England International Auto Show, nicely positioned on the calendar to arrive before all those nasty storms, is the place many Boston and area shoppers go to make sure they’re prepared, says Barbara Pudney, who directs the show, produced by Paragon Expo.
Aside from the fact that New Englanders are bracing for winter, they also were on hand to help the auto show celebrate its 50th edition.
“It’s nice when you get to celebrate a big birthday,” says Pudney, who included a number of special features for the bash.
Notable among them: a spinning wheel with prizes given away on every day of the nine day show.
Someone almost certainly appreciated the Dodge Nitro they received on the last day of the show.
“We had 100 qualifiers come back to find out if they’d won,” says Pudney. “And each one of them was given a CD to put in the vehicle. It was the 18th person who won.”
Among other features of the show was a tricked-out car contest and an appearance by National Hot Rod Association drag racing driver
Robert Tasca III.
Miami Beach: Good weather, great carsFrom Cliff Ray’s perspective, there is no better city than Miami Beach in which to unveil a car like the Mercedes CL. And for good reason, says the producer of the South Florida International Auto Show.
“When it comes to high-end cars, we have some of the largest dealers in the world right here in South Florida,” says Ray, noting that many of the top 10 dealers carrying Lexus, Porsche, even Lamborghini are nearby.
Which may be why Mercedes chose Miami Beach to unveil its new CL.
“We’re growing, but we’d be growing by leaps and bounds if we had the space,” says Ray.
Aside from the space restrictions, Ray as a show producer is finding ways to add features, one being Camp Jeep, which took up some 32,000 square feet in front of the Miami Beach Convention Center.
That and ride and drive displays from General Motors and Hyundai continue to give show goers additional opportunities to do what industry pundits are saying is increasingly popular: “experiential marketing.”
“It’s all about trying to get more people into the cars,” says Ray. “That’s driving auto sales.”
Other features of the show included a Million Dollar Alley, featuring the high-end cars Ray first talked about, as well as a Memory Lane, with a rich assortment of classic cars, some dating back more than half a century.
There was also a display of motorcycles to complement the four wheel variety of vehicles.
Certainly, Ray would like to see what nearly every auto show organizer hopes for: more introductions.
On his side of the argument is the fact that South Florida is among the first major events in the auto show circuit.
But even without the unveilings, Ray says it’s a great show – to host and to attend.
“We received lots of media coverage and dealers are very happy with the results.”
Seattle: millionaires and masseusesGetting the scoop on the most recent rendition of the Seattle International Auto Show from Jim Hammond was easy.
“It was the biggest show we’ve ever produced,” said Hammond, executive director of the Puget Sound Automobile Dealers Association, which owns the show. “Everything was up 10 percent.”
Hammond is referring to everything from attendance to the sheer volume of displays – more than one million pounds of freight.
“Manufacturers have expanded their presence here,” says Hammond. “We received a lot of ‘A’ packages this year.”
“It stands to reason,” says Hammond. “The reason manufacturers are increasing their presence here is that we have some of the wealthiest people in the country living here. Regular employees are becoming millionaires every day.”
The growth of the Seattle show is not without its challenges, says Hammond.
“We needed another building just to store the crates that came in with the exhibits,” he notes. “Luckily we have a big enough marshaling yard to handle the 90 semi trailers coming in at one time.”
Hammond also took note of an increase in the number of product specialists and narrators at this year’s show.
“Usually we average about 100 at a typical show,” he says. “This year, we had about 150.”
And Hammond ought to know.
One of the “standard operating procedures” for Seattle is making sure the product specialists get treated right.
“We want them to be the best they can be,” says Hammond, noting that the typical product specialist has to stand for hours at a time. “After about the third day, they start withering.”
Seattle organizers try to ease the strain by providing a dedicated lounge, complete with comfortable furniture, even chocolate and flowers. They also get whisked to and from their hotels in a complimentary shuttle.
And then there’s the masseuse.
“We offer 15 minute massages throughout the day,” says Hammond. “We’ll never take that away.”
At the show itself, Seattle had representatives from, as Hammond describes it, “every manufacturer doing viably well in America.”
Included among those were manufacturer exhibits from Bentley, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Lotus, Ferrari and Maserati, with Alfa Romeo likely set to exhibit at next year’s show.
Hammond says he was proud to have a disproportionate number of concept cars at this year’s show. “Normally, we’re likely to pick up four or five. This year we had eight.”
There were also a variety of so-called Zero Emission No Noise vehicles shown, plus one car designed to travel on both the road and on water.
Hammond says he’s particularly excited about a long-term arrangement with one of the world’s largest auto collections, Harold E. LeMay Museum.
With the Tacoma-based organization display space at the show, visitors have one more reason to attend.
“I want them here,” says Hammond, who donates the exhibit space, making LeMay a permanent feature of the show.
Hammond expects a first-time display of motorcycles will be a repeat next year.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he says, referring to the display that included at least 50 Harley-Davidson models and a variety of bikes from other manufacturers as well, including Buell, Kawasaki, Yamaha and others.
“We weren’t competing with the motorcycle show,” says Hammond. “But it brought in traffic like you wouldn’t believe.”
With so many show features, Hammond says the result was a surge in media coverage.
“We got more media this year than ever before,” he says, noting that the show was featured on several TV stations and also picked up by AOL on its network news. Plus the “Seattle Times” featured video of the show on its Web site.
A variety of show exhibits continues to drive interest in the Seattle show, says Hammond.
“It needs diversity,” he says. “We’ve got returning displays but there’s always something new and people wonder what’s gong to happen next.”
Tampa Bay: Strong economy buoys spiritsNever mind the bomb threat that closed traffic around the Tampa Convention Center for two and a half hours.
Besides the obvious – a wide collection of new vehicles that auto shows are typically known for – Tampa Bay enlisted the support of the duPont Registry, known for its high-end collection of cars.
The twist: The Registry added a half dozen luxury yachts to the mix, teaming up with Galati Yacht Sales, a seven store west coast Florida retailer.
Yachts at an auto show?
The fact that the Tampa Convention Center is adjacent to the waterfront certainly helped.
Another partner, Boulevard Customs, used the waterfront venue to conduct sound system demonstrations.
The show added a motorcycle display to this year’s show in what is becoming something of a trend nationwide.
“It was very well received,” says Wilson, who says the move will likely be repeated if not expanded.
On the vehicle side, Volvo sponsored a ride and drive event, which also caught the attention of show goers.
This year’s luncheon featured Rick Parsons of duPont Registry as the speaker.
“It’s basically for dealers and their VIP guests,” explains Wilson. “We have the lunch and walk over to the show, which has opened by the time we get there.”
And what a show it was.
“We had good weather and a good show,” says Wilson. “The economy is strong in Tampa and we’re feeling good about things.”
Auto Shows of North America Show DirectoryAlbany
Albany Auto Show
3/23/2007 - 3/25/2007
Salt Lake City
Credits/Contacts:Automotive Trade Association Executives
8400 Westpark Drive
McLean, VA 22102
703.556.8581 - fax
Gary Thomas, ATAE Chairman
Jennifer Lindsey, ATAE Executive Director
Peter Hodges, ASNA Chairman
The Auto Show Report
J.D. Booth, editor