ATAE Greg Remensperger
, executive vice president of the Metro Portland New Car Dealers Association
, which presents the Portland International Auto Show
, and this year's chair of Auto Shows of North America, says it's hard to imagine a better year ahead for auto shows in general.
"We expect this season to be one of the most buoyant in the history of the industry," says Remensperger.
Notable in the auto show landscape is the expanse of the Ride and Drive concept. Once almost an anomaly among auto shows, increasingly it's a matter of "how many" rather than "will you have one?"
"Certainly, auto show directors have been listening very attentively to manufacturers who see the Ride and Drive component as being a great link between prospective consumers and their dealers," says Remensperger. "I don't think there's any question that dealers see that upsurge in showroom traffic, even more so than they did in the past, as a result of the Ride and Drive."
As the industry recovers from its challenges of only three or four years ago, Remensperger sees a trend toward larger and more intricate displays in many of the larger shows, but also even in those that may not have received the same OEM resources as in the past.
"Increasingly, manufacturers are seeing a very solid return on the investment they make in auto shows," adds Remensperger. "We see that gaining momentum in this season."
It's a great time to be in the auto show business, and it's getting better.
At the most recent off-season annual gathering of the North American auto show "family," optimism was plentiful as attendees networked, brainstormed, and shared ideas. And the always-popular industry panel discussion sparked constructive conversation and commentary.
Those closest to what remains the most effective event in automotive marketing history are predicting the current season will be the best in recent memory.
One of those is John Tulloch
, a 25-plus year veteran (the last 20 years of which have been at The George P. Johnson Co.
) who remains excited about what's ahead for the business.
"We've seen a big change in the last five years in how auto shows have been presented. That's a good thing in that it keeps everyone sharp."
And then there's the Ride and Drive phenomenon. What was perhaps a glimmer of an idea just a few years ago has mushroomed into the type of event that attracts unprecedented crowds.
But those events come with their own set of challenges, said Grace Morgan
, director, General Motors Global Auto Shows, Exhibits and Events. "It's a good news, bad news story: the more people who are in line waiting means less time they're spending around the exhibit itself."
At the same time, Morgan said GM looks at each show in its own context, the emphasis being on opportunities to engage the customer, which means there's a great deal to take into consideration when developing and executing a strategy that fits from show to show. "That's what counts for us. We're not that formulaic."
Another big change over the last few years, and one that's likely to continue playing a big role in this season, is the use of Social Media, although not necessarily targeting an exclusively younger audience.
"Social Media is very integrated at VW," noted Tim Glynn
, the automaker's auto shows and events specialist. "It has to be because young people aren't buying as many vehicles. For that reason, we tend to skew towards older consumers."
Derse Account Director Michelle MacRae
, says pre show engagement is a critical step in the marketing process.
"Obviously auto shows create opportunities to engage consumers," said MacRae. "Some of our research shows that if they are engaged online in advance, and think something is relevant to them, then they will attend the show. So, to me it's important to know what you are doing preshow, i.e. advertising, promotion, and have to ask ourselves: "what are we doing as show promoters to engage people prior to the event?'"
With some 66 shows now part of the ASNA community, manufacturers aren't able to devote equal resources to each.
But that doesn't mean an auto show in a smaller market is completely on its own as far as manufacturer support.
"We maintain a consistent presence in the marketplace," said Joe Gallant
, manager of shows and exhibits at Nissan North America.
And while VW's Glynn acknowledged that the automaker may find itself scaling down its presence in some markets, a rental program for dealers makes it relatively easy for even a smaller show to make a visual impact.
One more point to consider as the auto show season heats up is the increasing emphasis on measurement as one of the key decision making tools.
"At Chrysler," noted GPJ's Tulloch, "deciding how costs are allocated is a complicated process, but it's based on science. We have an inflationary study relative to costs and trends and we take that to our clients and help make decisions. At the same time, we're challenged to look for new materials and efficiencies. And the decisions are made not just on things like weights and measures, but how we relate to things like brand imaging and product messaging."
Greg Remensperger, Denise Martin, Scott Roth
and Rod Alberts
Jim Hammond, Grace Morgan and Angela Kalatzis
Darrell Bryja, Tavi Fulkerson, Jennifer Colman, and Rich Plyer
The North American International Auto Show
and The One Club
, a New York-based non-profit, are creating a new competition to recognize the auto industry's top advertisements in four categories: print and outdoor, television and video, interactive, and experiential. Bob Shuman
, who chairs the upcoming NAIAS, said the Automobile Advertising of the Year Award will showcase the "critical" relationship between both industries. The jury for the honors will include top creative ad directors and automotive journalists with winners to be named during the NAIAS press preview on Jan. 14, 2014.
, Nissan executive vice president, predicts the price of electric vehicles will eventually "be at a price equal to gasoline competitors." Palmer made the comments at the Frankfurt Auto Show
, adding that vehicles powered by electricity "are as inevitable as taxes and death." He also expressed concerns that government subsidies, which are being discontinued in some parts of the world, may not be a long-term useful way of making green vehicles more affordable to consumers.
Research at an $8-million battery lab that recently opened at the University of Michigan near Ford Motor Company's world headquarters could be a stepping-stone in the process of bringing technology to market faster. So says Ted Miller
, who manages battery research at the automaker. "We have battery labs that test and validate production-ready batteries, but that is too late in the development process for us to get our first look," he said. The lab is the result of collaboration between Ford, battery suppliers, the University of Michigan, and the state of Michigan and the federal government. Ford, which invested $2.1 million in the venture, is the only automaker involved.
A study by AutoTrader.com
is predicting a doubling of the number of consumers who use more than one electronic device prior to visiting an auto showroom. The "Multi-Device Car Shopping Study," which indicates only 23 percent of shoppers today use a combination of personal computer (including laptop) and smartphone or tablet, also cited rapid adoption of mobile devices in general will likely double to over 50 percent by the year 2018. "With slightly less than a quarter of car shoppers using multiple devices, we are clearly still in the early stages of multi-device car shopping, but the 77 percent who are left will be hopping on the bandwagon soon enough," said Isabelle Helms
, senior director of research and marketing analytics at AutoTrader.com.
Even a government shutdown early in October won't have a long-term effect on auto sales, even though September's annualized pace of 16.1 million vehicles dropped slightly to 15.2 million units. One such industry watcher is Oppenheimer's John Stoltzfus who predicts positive developments in employment and economic security in general could result in a sharp rise in auto sales as drivers trade in for new vehicles. Stoltzfus cited R.L. Polk's average age of the U.S. fleet (11.4 years) as further indication of an eventual surge in car sales.
A week after California enacted a bill making self-driving cars legal, the Google executive responsible for the autonomous car project predicted his firm would have such a vehicle on the road within five years. And while Google quickly retrenched from the statement, the evidence available suggests the idea is not that far-fetched. One example comes from a demonstration by Continental, an automotive supplier that says it plans to have autonomous assistance available for limited freeway diving by 2015. Full two-lane and country road technology would be on the market by the end of the decade.
Collaboration between automakers and non-car industry software firms such as Google is essential to the integration of in-vehicle technology. So says Ford Motor Company’s global head of sales and marketing. "We are absolutely at a tipping point," said Jim Farley in a keynote speech at the inaugural Connected Car Expo at last month’s LA Auto Show. A first step should be the integration of navigation systems, one reason being the state of current development among tech companies. "The fourth screen in our life, which is truly the most mobile of all screens - the car - is not connected," said Farley, who added that Ford - which has in the past collaborated exclusively with Microsoft - is determined to change that.
Also at the LA Auto Show was the announcement of the 2014 Honda Civic winning "Green Car of the Year" by Green Car Journal
Gail & Rice, a leading brand communications and experiential marketing agency, has added a new team to its organization, which expands its ability to create unique press events and product launches. The new team joining Gail & Rice comprises 21 industry veterans and will be led by Bud Price and Mike Rosenau. "This is an exciting step in the next generation of our business and smartly positions us for the future," says Tim Rice. "The immense talent and experience of the individuals that have joined us make this a unique business operation that will provide highly creative strategy development at the executive level, and new, on-site event execution for our current and prospective clients. This is a high-energy, live communications company,” adds Rice. The team led by Price and Rosenau has built a strong reputation for creating and producing large-scale live events, executive presentations, dealer meetings, auto show product launches, press conferences, media Ride & Drives, employee meetings and program logistics for a host of automakers.
Organizers of this year's Orange County Auto Show
surely made a few more friends when they came up with a new way of selling tickets to the event.
They got high school students involved, handing them free tickets that they then sold at face value, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to activities as varied as school bands, football teams and everything in between.
That turned out to be about $53,000 worth of tickets, says ATAE John Sackrison
, executive director of the Orange County Automobile Dealers Association
. "I'd call it a home run because what we really want is people in the door. And it made a much bigger impact than something like selling cookie dough."
Next year, Sackrison would like to see more solid advance information from automakers on the products and exhibits.
"In some cases, we didn't find out about introductions until about a week and a half before the show. And the reality is, the sooner we get that information the more we can do to promote attendance."
On the Ride and Drive side, Sackrison was effusive about how effective the program continues to be. "They continue to grow in every respect, in our case with more than 100 vehicles and 16 brands involved."
Profile: Orange County International Auto Show
Oct. 3-6, 2013
Place:Anaheim Convention Center
525,000 square feet
$12 adults, $10 for Seniors, $10 for Military and kids 12 and under are free
Thursday, 4 pm-10 pm; Friday, noon-10 pm; Saturday, 9 am-10 pm; Sunday, 9 am-7 pm.
Produced by:Motor Trend Auto Shows
John Sackrison, ATAE
Orange County Automobile Dealers Association
While it's likely among the smallest exhibitions of new vehicles at any auto show anywhere, the Auto Show at the Oklahoma State Fair has one thing going for it that seems to trump just about anything else - the crowds.
"We know people are there for the Fair," says Peter Hodges
, who runs the Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association and the Oklahoma City International Auto Show
- the sister show that will take place next March.
"At the same time, the crowds are just amazing. And we take advantage of that fact by bringing in the best of what the auto manufacturers have to showcase."
Hodges says the benefits are very much reciprocal. "We're actually one of the State Fair's biggest exhibitors, so, yes, it goes both ways."
This year's event benefitted from great weekend weather and solid crowds, although from a facility standpoint, the biggest issue remains sticky hands and mustard stains.
"It's an ongoing concern," says Hodges. "Everyone is on the lookout for the mustardy corn dog and caramel apples. It's just the way it is."
Profile: Auto Show at Oklahoma State Fair
September 12-22, 2013; September 11-21, 2014
Oklahoma State Fair Park
60,000 gross sq. ft.
Free with State Fair admission.
Sunday-Thursday 10 am to 9 pm; Friday and Saturday 10 am to 10 pm
Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association
Peter Hodges, President
Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association
Kenny Stills of the New Orleans Saints and one of his fans
at the Oklahoma State Fair Auto Show
had an inkling that moving the dates of the Sacramento International Auto Show
from November to October would catch onÑand she was right.
Having made the move a year ago, this year's show found its groove with the new dates and Castle, who serves as executive director of the Greater Sacramento New Car Dealers Association, couldn't be happier.
"The Sacramento market really embraced the date change this year," she said.
Another "keeper" for Castle is the "meal deal" package she and her staff worked out with the food concessionaire. "It was very successful in bringing out the families," she noted.
The show, featuring nearly 40 domestic and international manufacturers, included Ride and Drive events from 10 manufacturers, all set up on the Cal Expo grounds.
There were also special displays featuring ultra-high-performance vehicles, including an exhibit from Los Gatos Luxury Cars, a high-end dealership that features Lamborghini, Bugatti, Lotus, Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Aston Martin brands.
Historic vehicles were also on display as were vintage trailers.
Profile: Sacramento International Auto Show
Oct. 18-20, 2013
275,000 square feet under one roof; 800,000 outside space
$12 adults, children 12 and under free
Fri: 10 am-9 pm; Sat: 10 am-8 pm; Sun: 10 am-6 pm
Greater Sacramento New Car Dealers Association
Stacey Castle, ATAE
Greater Sacramento New Car Dealers Association
Show Web site:
Even as Ride and Drive events at auto shows across North America continue to gain popularity, ATAE Jim Hammond
, executive director of the Puget Sound Automobile Dealers Association
, appears to have taken it to a new level with a promotion that gave people the chance to win $1,000 every time they took a ride.
Even better, at least from both the show's perspective and that of the exhibitors, was reconnecting the Ride and Drive activity to the show exhibits.
"Everyone got a passport for the Ride and Drive program when they bought a ticket," explains Hammond. "Those passports were then validated at the Ride and Drive."
The results were nothing short of phenomenal, a quadrupling of the number of Ride and Drive participants over the previous year.
And the action at the Ride and Drive center was evident.
"It was like entering a train station," says Hammond. "There was great signage, directional maps and even dedicated lanes for entering and exiting the area. And we had a special lounge with comfortable furniture and food for more than 300 Ride and Drive workers. Everything just clicked."
Hammond says heavy promotion of the Ride and Drive section of the show also helped make the event a winner.
"It worked and it worked well. There was a lot of work involved but in the end it made a big difference."
Profile: Seattle International Auto Show
Oct. 16-20, 2013
Place:CenturyLink Field Event Center
500,000 square feet
$14, adults, children 12 and under FREE, seniors, $12. Show has a number of discount ticket opportunities.
Wednesday and Thursday, 1 pm-8:30 pm; Friday, 1 pm-9 pm, Saturday, 10 am-9 pm; and Sunday, 10 am-5 pm.
Produced by:Puget Sound Automobile Dealers Association
Jim Hammond, ATAE
President, Puget Sound Automobile Dealers Association
There are only a very few areas in the Auto Shows of North America "universe" that have two shows every year - Albany and Oklahoma City instantly come to mind.
But beginning this season, ATAE Peter Hodges
of Oklahoma City, already managing the Oklahoma State Fair event and the standalone Oklahoma City Auto Show, takes on the Tulsa Auto Show, scheduled for March 13-16, 2014.
It's a big deal, says Hodges, who'd been in conversation with the Tulsa group, members of which had clearly seen the good things happening down the road (Oklahoma City is about 100 miles southwest).
"The Tulsa show was never in the ASNA fold and it isn't even formally connected to the 30-member dealer association," adds Hodges.
Tom Bloomfield, one of some 20 shareholders of an LLC that owns the Tulsa Auto Show, says the group approached Hodges with a view to taking their show to the next level, the emphasis being on improving attendance.
"We saw what Oklahoma City had been able to do and that was a natural fit for us," said Bloomfield, who is general manager of Don Thornton Cadillac.
The Auto Show Report will carry a full report on the Tulsa Auto Show later this season.
Automotive Trade Association Executives
The Auto Show Report
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ATAE Executive Director