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.
Quarter of vehicles now sold with satellite radioEven as regulators review a proposed merger between XM Satellite and Sirius, the two U.S.-based providers, automakers seem to be convinced of the future of the technology. Estimates are that more than one of every four new vehicles sold in the United States and Canada this year will have an activated satellite radio. By 2011 that penetration could be 75 percent, although once car buyers pass a promotional period of free service the number could be just over one third of vehicles. A decision on whether the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will approve the XM/Sirius merger could come by year end. But regardless of the outcome of the proposed merger, Sirius and XM assure customers that their radios will continue to work. However, the merger may not be the biggest challenge facing XM and Sirius, both of which are frequent exhibitors at auto shows across the United States. New technologies may make satellite less attractive to consumers. For example, hybrid digital, or HD, radio enables AM and FM stations to broadcast several high-quality channels of programming, without subscription fees.
San Diego goes HollywoodThe San Diego International Auto Show (SDIAS) has done something that TV actress Susan Lucci could only dream about during most of her career in the soaps. In its first attempt, San Diego was awarded an Emmy Award for its sultry, new TV commercial. The spot was co-produced by SDIAS and MJE Marketing Services of San Diego. "This award validates our shift in direction," says Kevin Leap, show director. "Our goal was to move upscale with every facet of the show, including how it is marketed. Other than the show itself, this commercial is the most visible example of that, and clearly it succeeded." Leap adds that the commercial creates an international air with its sexy narration, and smoothly moves through the highlights of the show, featuring the cars as the stars of the spot. He credits the commercial and other marketing initiatives for the 20 percent increase in attendance that the show experienced in 2007.
Comings and Goings in the auto show community
Kim Custer, a media relations specialist who most recently worked on the U.S. and European launch of the MG brand for Nanjing Automobile Corp., has been hired by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers as its director of communications. Before working with Nanjing, he spent three years working as director of public relations for Kia Motors and 10 years prior to that in public affairs at Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
Randy Pflughaupt, formerly vice president, distribution operations with Toyota, has been named vice president, marketing. Joining Toyota in 1992, he has held a variety of positions, including regional assistant general manager, regional general sales manager, district manager, and new era process team leader.
Steve Cannon, who previously worked on the launch of the M-class crossover vehicle at Mercedes-Benz USA, has returned to the automaker as vice president of marketing. Cannon, who assumed the job on June 25, replaces Mark McNabb, who left to rejoin Nissan. Cannon began his career at Mercedes-Benz in 1991, leaving in 1998 to become director of marketing for a company that later became DaimlerChrysler Financial Services. He left DCX in 2002 to join The Richards Group, a Dallas advertising agency.
Experiential producer a valuable partner to event marketing agenciesIt’s a fact: Great events don’t just happen; they’re created.
And sometimes that requires a specialist.
Enter Mark Ruvelson of Light Speed Management, Inc., who for over a decade has worked with numerous agencies and production companies on some of the industry’s most noted events. As a highly regarded experiential marketing producer, Ruvelson brings organization, understanding and clarity to a program, and has built a reputation for managing successful projects that provide exceptional value to the client.
Ruvelson’s background is broad, having worked on mobile tours, ride and drives, meetings and general sessions, sports marketing activations, sales training programs, press events, live events, consumer events, videos and incentive travel programs.
"All of those experiences have made me more knowledgeable, more well-rounded, and capable of a wide range of perspectives and creative approaches,” says Ruvelson.
One of his more successful partnerships has been with George P. Johnson.
“Over the past 10 years, Mark has built a relationship with our company and has been a valuable partner on several successful programs,” says John Tulloch, senior vice president of client services at GPJ. "He has a good instinct for the event and experiential marketing needs of our respective customers and he delivers. We’ve put him on a variety of different types of programs, ranging from live performances to massively attended ride and drives to mobile marketing. He gets it, and he’s proven that he can manage a range of elements – whether it be creative, budgeting, logistics, technical, staffing, CRM, working with the client, crowd management – he’s the package deal.”
Some of the many programs Ruvelson has worked on for George P. Johnson include Chrysler’s Artistry in Motion, the Camp Jeep Auto Show program, Toyota Trucks Off Road On Site Adventure and Toyota’s Highway to the Future: Mobile Hybrid Experience.
The underlying principle, he says, is to provide value – to the agency, to the manufacturer and to members of the public who ultimately define that value in the form of the time they spend going through an exhibit. “I work hard to deliver a very high quality guest experience,” says Ruvelson. “It’s what we’re always measuring against.”
For Ruvelson, the work doesn’t end with the concept; he builds value by making sure all elements are in place and working well to ensure a client gets maximum benefit from the exhibit. “I’m the consumer champion,” says Ruvelson. “My job is to work back from what the guest is experiencing and make sure we’ve covered everything they see and touch.”
In short, he obsesses about the details.
In the auto show realm, Ruvelson sees automakers continuing to strive for an ever richer consumer experience, one that’s driven as much by the need to capture share of mind as it is to prove a return on investment.
“In addition to demonstrating that a program is contributing to the bottom line, we want to show our client how the experience they’re offering is actually connecting with members of the public,” says Ruvelson. “Working with George P. Johnson, we’ve been very successful in making that connection and others will be wanting to do the same.”
Baltimore: Snow-free year boosts attendanceAn 85 percent improvement in attendance?
But even compared with 2005, this year was significantly better from an attendance perspective — 16 percent better, according to DeeDee Taft, who handles media relations for the event.
“Normally, when a show is impacted by weather, attendance does not readily come back up fully the next year,” says Taft. “It often takes a second year to fully recover, and that is because such a high percentage of attendees come to the show almost every year. If they miss a show due to weather, you have to work harder to get them back into the habit of coming to the show.”
In addition, two promotions — a new coupon distribution program through Staples and a second annual AAA Day — were put in place.
This year, e-ticket sales took off, in part due to a new e-mail newsletter management program used to track efforts. The program summarized how many e-mails went out, how many recipients actually opened the e-mails and even kept track of how many recipients clicked through to access online coupons. The technology also minimized invalid addresses and helped staff avoid the use of keywords or phrases that might otherwise trip spam filters.
Show features this year included a live display by artist Richard Markham, a Chicopee, Mass.-based artist who’s been airbrushing for about 16 years.
The decision to move to the Baltimore Convention Center from the Maryland State Fairgrounds has proven to be a good one, with all the additional space available.
“It’s a big center,” says Taft. “And that’s a big thing. They always have a lot of room for an aftermarket
alley and feature cars. There’s plenty of room to work with and that gives us lots of opportunity.”
Buffalo: Small venue doesn’t keep crowds from experiencing it allThe Buffalo Auto Show may be finding its venue a little cramped, but that hasn’t stopped organizers from packing the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, both from a people standpoint and the events and attractions that are driving attendees to the downtown event held in February.
“It’s a show where we have a combination of sales people and product specialists working the floor,” says Barrett. “We try to have something for everybody.”
Among the features of the most recent show were appearances by NASCAR great Bobby Allison, who did a signing of his “A Racer’s Racer” book, and three stars from the NHL Buffalo Sabres — Paul Gaustad, Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy.
The hockey players were among the most popular, says Barrett. “People were lined up three hours just to get an autograph and a picture. It was amazing.”
Perhaps for that reason, auto show organizers decided a few years ago to embrace the weather rather than fight it, the result being Winterfest, a celebration of the season that included ice carvings, a pancake breakfast with Spider-Man, caricature sketching and face painting and even a kite flying exhibit and demonstration.
Inside the show, an initiative around a theme of wellness included a Beauty Detail Shop, with cosmetology students giving manicures and offering color analysis to show attendees, the proceeds going to the scholarship fund for the Miss America Buffalo Pageant. Other features of the Wellness Lane — sponsored by the Wellness Institute of Western New York — included advice on how to become more healthy, whether it be managing blood pressure, maintaining an ideal body weight or improving bone density.
Barrett says a future possibility would be to create an even bigger display that would be connected with the Buffalo Auto Show.
This year’s show also included a raffle of a custom built chopper that was made as a fundraiser by Orange County Choppers, the company behind the TV show American Chopper. Proceeds from the raffle went to Hunter’s Hope, a charity set up by former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and his wife, Jill, after their infant son, Hunter, was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy, an inherited, fatal, nervous system disease.
Attendance at the auto show was, Barrett says, within 3 percent of last year, itself an accomplishment when
activities such as two sold-out Buffalo Sabres games and seven charity events being held the Friday and Saturday
of the show are considered.
Cleveland: Lots of space in I-X Center with 3 Ride and DrivesIt’s a near certainty that consumers thirsting for a ride and drive experience came away from the Cleveland Auto Show being fully satisfied, what with three distinct options from which to choose.
Show goers could start with Camp Jeep Cleveland, which occupied 44,500 square feet of a 900,000 square foot facility, then move on to the new Dodge Performance Zone, a 25,000 square foot section of the show.
Outside, Chrysler’s Inspired Drive Tour took up yet another 130,000 square feet outside the show, in the north parking lot of Cleveland’s I-X Center.
Together the experiences were just what the public was looking for, says Charles Cyrill, the show’s director of public affairs and communications.
“It’s putting them one step closer to a sale,” he says. “The trend is clearly toward more experiential when it comes to the auto show.”
Those opportunities, says Cyrill, were almost certainly responsible for bringing auto show attendees as far as Columbus and even Pittsburgh.
And the late February/early March weather?
Cyrill says it only enhanced the experience.
For the auto show as a whole, sponsorship opportunities were the name of the game, with AutoTrader.com signing up for a multi-year title sponsor of the entire event and BP sponsoring the www.clevelandautoshow.com Web site. A cash prize of $25,000 from AutoTrader.com and $20,000 in free BP gasoline were part of the promotion highlighting the sponsorships.
Other promotions included a vehicle giveaway by the Cleveland Auto Show and area dealers — a 2007 Saturn Sky roadster. Dealers also kicked in with free parking at the I-X Center, a contribution Cyrill says was significant in and of itself.
A number of celebrity appearances also attracted crowds. Among those of interest were basketball broadcaster/coach Dick Vitale, who attended a breakfast sponsored by AutoTrader.com.
Gary Adams, president of the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers' Association, says show attendees and exhibitors alike can look forward to even more space being available next year: more than 200,000 sq. ft. of additional indoor space and 200,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space, which Adams says makes Cleveland the largest show on one floor in North America.
Adams says he hopes multiple ride and drive opportunities as well as off-road driving courses or towing
demonstrations will be the result.
Honolulu: Even in tough times, the auto show shinesWhile those of us who struggle through northern winters might find it hard to believe, times are a little tough in Hawaii.
“On Oahu [the island where the state capital of Honolulu lies], having so much of the military being deployed to Iraq is another huge factor,” says Rolf. “Many of those families have pulled in their budgets and some have even left for the mainland.”
The Aloha state has also raised its excise tax rate (it has no sales tax but takes a bite out of virtually everything that moves, including vehicles) from 4 percent to 4.5 percent in January.
“That’s an additional $450 out of the average household income,” says Rolf. “It’s like a 13th car payment.”
But enough of the reality check.
The First Hawaiian International Auto Show is in the business of showcasing the latest cars and did just that, starting with what Rolf says was a very successful opening night, complete with a traditional Hawaiian blessing.
“We have one road into the entrance to the show,” says Rolf. “And that boulevard was closed for the huge parade on Saturday.”
Once the show did get started, Rolf says things ran very smoothly, which he says is typical of Motor Trend events. Those who were at the show are likely now driving the vehicles they were eyeing.
“We have a very positive feeling about the show,” says Rolf. “People who were there were buyers.”
Rolf points to strong coverage in both print and broadcast as helping drive attendance.
“We have two newspapers here and that makes it a newspaper town, something that’s rare in America. We’re news oriented and the outlets gave the show great coverage.”
There were also a number of exotics on display, thanks to Joe Nicoli, a long time member of the dealership association (and Knight in the Italian government) who runs JN Automotive Group, which handles Chevrolet, Mazda, Audi, Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Lotus brands.
And then there’s the venue itself, which Dave Rolf never tires of extolling.
“It’s perhaps the most beautiful place to hold an auto show that I know of,” he says, as if anyone needed a reminder of the splendor that’s uniquely Hawaii.
Looking ahead, Rolf is working on an initiative that may see a combined science fair/auto show in the future.
“It would be a big double draw,” says Rolf, who had hoped to make the idea happen this year. “We needed a
longer lead time so the timing didn’t match. But if we can figure out the parking issues, there’s a good
possibility of something happening next year.”
Oklahoma City: Show celebrates 90 yearsNinety years after Oklahoma City’s first auto show, Peter Hodges and his crew decided it was time to do a little looking back.
“The collection of vehicles we had was so rare we were pulling people to the show who wouldn’t normally have come,” says Hodges, president of the Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association. “People would tell us ‘we can’t believe you were able to do this.’ We were actually quite surprised by the comments.”
Hodges also credits a supportive media for publicizing the event. Efforts included a replica newspaper advertisement that helped drive attendance.
Once in the show, visitors were treated to decorations done in a vintage style, with flowers and darker, richer colors typical of the period.
Among the modern day features was the Toyota Off Road On Site Adventure, one of the more popular auto show events and the fourth year in a row for a ride and drive at the Oklahoma City Auto Show.
“They work very well for us,” says Hodges, referring to the five buildings making up the fairgrounds. “People always have to go outside to make their way to the next building and they see the ride and drive as a result.”
Among the challenges this year, filed under the category of “things you can’t control” was the hosting of both the men’s and women’s NCAA Big 12 basketball playoffs. “It was held in two downtown arenas and it was really a spectacular event,” says Hodges.
Various concept, specialty and pre-production vehicles, plus a complete selection of 2007 and 2008 model vehicles rounded out the show.
For Hodges, an early March auto show is something of a prelude to another event, the Oklahoma State Fair Auto Show, scheduled for Sept. 13-23, 2007. While the event isn’t owned by the dealer association (it rents a large building from the Fair organization) the auto show garners significant regional support from manufacturers, notably because of the huge crowds associated with the Fair.
“Most people surveyed say the auto show is their favorite part of the Fair,” says Hodges.
Pittsburgh: Rescheduled show comes through, will retain new datesIt happened.
That’s essentially how Denise Brennan views her first year at the helm of the Pittsburgh International Auto Show, the event that was dramatically rescheduled after a loading dock at the David Lawrence Convention collapsed.
“It ended up being a wonderful show,” says Brennan, who won’t be celebrating her one-year anniversary until Aug. 1, having previously run the Idaho Automobile Dealers Association. “Had this not happened, we probably never would have looked at moving the dates.”
With more cooperative weather factored in, the shortened show brought in just about the same number of people as a February nine-day event would have attracted. “Typically there are two or three days in the week that are slow,” says Brennan. “This year, our weekend attendance was the busiest we’ve ever had over one weekend.”
And then there were the displays.
As Brennan explains, moving the show to April meant exhibitors were able to bring much bigger kits following the conclusion of the major New York International Auto Show. “They were stepped up from what we would normally get,” says Brennan, who acknowledges that Pittsburgh (in February) would be competing with several other shows being held around the same time.
Show organizers also tapped into the popularity of NASCAR with a simulator based on a full-size retired vehicle equipped with video and motion equipment.
Other displays at the show included a Pittsburgh SWAT vehicle as well as an EMT Motorcycle that incorporates life support capabilities with the advantages of off-road maneuverability and accessibility.
The city theme spilled over to a Pittsburgh Pirates Suburban, a 2007 customized vehicle complete with state-of-the-art sound system, plasma screen and Xbox 360 gaming system.
Exotics were also featured, among them the latest in luxury from Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Bentley and Lotus.
A Kids Day and Senior Citizen Day as well as an on-site blood drive (with a free ticket to those donating) were also part of the show.
Just ahead of the show’s opening was the annual Charity Preview Gala, which this year raised about $150,000 in support of Family House, which provides accommodation for families of patients being treated at Pittsburgh area hospitals.
Brennan, who this year chairs Automotive Trade Association Executives (and is the first woman to do so), says other events occurring at the same time actually had a positive effect on the auto show.
“The NFL draft was going on, so we brought in benches and TVs and when the Steelers were ready to announce their choices, we put it over the PA system. And because it was in April, there were Pirates games being played, which meant there was a lot of energy going on downtown.”
In hindsight, Brennan says making the decision quickly to reschedule the show was a good move.
“We didn’t sit back with a wait and see attitude,” she recalls. “Within 48 hours we were able to pick the April dates and I think that was the most positive thing we could have done. We showed the community, the authorities and the manufacturers that we were behind this. We remained positive and the media jumped right on it.”
In the end, the show not only survived but excelled, which, of course, it needed to do with some 90 percent of the GPADA budget tied to the event.
“We’re fine,” says Brennan, who adds that she’s grateful to Auto Shows of North America friends who called
and e-mailed offers of support. “It was tremendous.”
Auto Shows of North America Show DirectoryAlbany
Albany Auto Show
4/4/2008 - 4/6/2008
Salt Lake City
Credits/Contacts:Automotive Trade Association Executives
8400 Westpark Drive
McLean, VA 22102
703.556.8581 - fax
Denise Brennan, ATAE Chairman
Jennifer Lindsey, ATAE Executive Director
The Auto Show Report
J.D. Booth, editor
John Koenig, industry editor