Auto Show Season In Full Force
- December 13, 2007
- The Car Biz
- Posted by George Peterson
- Comments Off on Auto Show Season In Full Force
Three Months, Three Continents, Three Auto Shows: Where Am I?
In the myriad of VehicleVoice posts are stories and podcasts from the Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Los Angeles auto shows. To get these stories, someone needs to attend the shows, and that is very often me.
Auto shows get us close to real cars and the people who created them, giving us our look behind the scenes. As a product analyst for AutoPacific, I attend major shows around the world. Despite sore feet, long hours, pressure to process the information quickly and yet well, and time away from home that tries the patience of both my husband and myself (my cat has given up on me), these opportunities aren’t to be missed.
Like the old traditional model year, my auto show season starts in September in Europe and runs through April in New York. The only thing worse than the travel schedule is trying to cover an auto show from my desk in Southfield, which I’ve also done. Without getting on a plane and being there, we miss the nuances, tidbits, and details necessary for informed evaluation.
2007 Show Season Started in Germany
Odd years mean the Frankfurt show in September and the Tokyo show in October; L.A.’s show is annual and now in November. Between January and April, the Detroit, Chicago, Geneva, and New York shows are held. Even years mean Paris in fall. The British Motor Show used to be held in the fall of even years, but they abandoned Birmingham a few years back and a show in London has not gained traction yet. This year, I attended media drives for the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Malibu, a background event with the New Chrysler, and various Detroit-area events between show travel. I’ve just finished my last trip for 2007, in Phoenix to drive the 2009 Nissan Murano.
Between September 1 and December 6, I spent twenty-four days on the road, turned my football-reading-napping Sundays into work-from-home days (at least then I’m near my sports-junkie husband for a whole day), and many late nights in the office. I racked up nearly 34,000 in-flight miles and stayed in seven hotels in seven cities. Over thirteen weeks, I spent about forty days actually in my office.
The pressure comes from getting what I’ve learned written for VehicleVoice readers and for AutoPacific clients, audiences hungry for information but each with specific needs and interests, and doing so quickly enough to be relevant. This means reporting on about 120 major reveals and incorporating uncounted minor tidbits into the AutoPacific Competitive Battleground at www.eautopacific.com along with the stories you see on Vehicle Voice. And, like most employees in most companies, I have several other projects that also need tending.
Different Time Zone, Same Day
Once you cross through the big doors and onto the show floor, much is the same around the world. Each has a unique focus and atmosphere, but the basics don’t change. Auto shows mean dashing from press conference to conference, collecting press kits for home-office reference, photographing cars, networking, and walking the show floor to see the vehicles themselves. Those elements don’t change with continent or time zone.
Frankfurt is easily the most exhausting show. Ever. My first trip to Frankfurt, in 2003, was simply overwhelming. Three Frankfurt shows later, I’ve learned tricks to make it easier, but it is still huge. The convention center spans ten halls, with eight exhibiting something automotive. Halls 3 and 4 have displays on three floors each. Daimler AG owns a building there and BMW builds a temporary facility in the middle of the complex every year. It is massive, but worth the effort. My favorite this year was easily the BMW 1-Series coupe, and seeing the Ferrari F430 Scuderia and Michael Schumacher’s introduction in person were also high points. Jaguar’s XF sedan was worth notable mention.
Tokyo Motor Show is often the backdrop for the zaniest concept cars, but this year was a disappointment on that score. This was my second time at this show, and I found Tokyo far more comfortable this time. Tokyo’s show is biannual, while in the States we have four major and many minor shows every year. Typically, more concept than production cars end up on the show floor in Tokyo. Tops on the list in Tokyo: BMW M3 sedan and Nissan GT-R. And Honda’s CR-Z concept gave hope for a spiritual successor to the CRX, though the Subaru Imreza WRX STi wasn’t as exciting in person as I’d hoped.
Los Angeles, closely following two major international shows and the late-October SEMA show, offered a handful of global introductions. Models introduced overseas included the GT-R (though U.S. pricing was revealed in L.A.), Subaru’s Impreza WRX STI, Suzuki’s Kizashi concept, Mercedes’ C63 AMG and S400 Bluetec Hybrid, MINI Clubman, and even Dodge’s Journey. Most worldwide LA introductions were products that will only be sold in the States, with Volkswagen’s concept space UP! and Audi’s droptop hint at their upcoming Q5 notable exceptions. VW even brought in the L.A. Lakers for assistance. L.A. was host to the official reveal for both Chrysler LLC and GM two-mode hybrid SUVs (Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Durango, and Chevrolet Tahoe and Silverado) and for Toyota’s latest Sequoia. Lincoln’s MKS and Ford’s Bullitt Mustang also were uncovered in the land of sunshine.
As much as the Tokyo show is focused on Japan, so too is the Los Angeles show focused on the States. Frankfurt hosts more vehicle introductions that will be relevant worldwide, though with its own Euro-centric flair.