By on January 8, 2016

naiaslogo

To paraphrase Andy Williams (or Johnny Mathis, depending on your personal preference), it’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Next week, TTAC will be bringing you live coverage from the floor of the North American International Auto Show in glorious downtown Detroit, including the exciting reveal of the … umm … come on, Bark, think. I know something exciting will be revealed, right?

Just kidding. We’ll see the new BMW M2 coupe, and a bunch of incredibly exciting crossovers. Regardless, it will be hard for this year’s big show to match the excitement of last year’s event: there’s no Ford GT painted in an unobtainium shade of blue and no Shelby GT350R doing smoldering donuts around it. But it’s still NAIAS, and that still means something.

Or does it?

A case could be made that NAIAS isn’t even the most important car show taking place in January. With the ever-changing technology present inside our cars today (and its increased rate of evolution), the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas is becoming just as important as NAIAS, Chicago, New York, Geneva … you name it. CES can stand toe-to-toe with any show out there when it comes to generating excitement and enthusiasm, and it’s only going to continue trending in that direction.

As a Gen Xer, I grew up fascinated by zero-to-60 times and horsepower numbers. The only exciting technology that existed in the interior of the cars I dreamed of was when we switched from tape decks to CD players (no, my first car, a 1994 Volkswagen Jetta III GL, did not have a CD player). When I got my 1988 Porsche 944, the previous owner had it fitted with an Airtouch analog car phone that I could have activated for $50 a month and $1.50 per minute if I wanted. That was automotive technology in the ’90s.

However, when I talk to car dealers today, they tell me their coveted Gen Yers (I hate the word Millennial) are much more interested in the bells and whistles than they are in the roars and tire squeals. One dealer recently asked me, “How can I sell a Mazda3 to kids when the Hyundai Elantra comes with Bluetooth standard for less money?” They don’t care how the car drives. They view it as a giant, rolling iPads. A Gen-Y friend of mine recently based her CUV purchase decision entirely upon which one offered 4G LTE in its cabin, presumably so she could ensure that her children will never, ever have to bother her while they are on drives together. The screen-based parenting of the home can now be safely and easily transferred into your new Chevrolet Equinox with 4G LTE!

But as quickly as LTE came upon us, pCell is up next. And so it goes with technology: it evolves faster than we can put it into cars. The next great tech wave can’t wait for the next show to be displayed before hitting the market. We need it now. The slow-moving stegosauruses of the automotive business, the hulking OEMs who need years to develop their technology? They’re at great risk of being snapped up and devoured by tech start-ups that can change direction on a dime. Sure, you can wait for your favorite car brand to put Apple CarPlay into its vehicles — but Gen Yers won’t. They’ll just go out and get aftermarket devices. They won’t wait for NAIAS 2017 to see the latest technology. They’ll already be using it by then. You’ll be old news.

Car show

So in this age of Skype and GoToMeeting, why do we need to continue to get all of the knuckle-dragging “Wheels” page writers together in a big convention hall, just so they can traipse around in their cotton Dockers and black shoes and collect free swag? Get rid of the big speakers and LCD screens, OEMs. Ditch the booth babes.

Send me a video conference invite with the press kit attached at the bottom, and take all the money you would have spent on your convention space to increase incentives for customers. You don’t have to court the endless hordes of press kit rewriters with buffets. You’ll still get your sweet SEO candy from them, regardless, and you won’t have to deal with their iPhone 4S photography of your gorgeous products.

In the future, I think auto shows will become much like the NFL Combine. The first round picks never run at the combine. The top QBs don’t have to throw. They wait for their own private workouts where they can control the environment. They can invite exactly who they want, they can run exactly the drills they want, and they don’t have to be treated like … well, like cars at an auto show. It’s the guys who are trying to sneak into the seventh round who need the combine.

The big boys, like Ford and Toyota, don’t need the auto show. They can make their own news whenever they want. If they choose to stop playing the game, the shows will cease to be relevant. Once they figure that out, the auto show will become the exclusive domain of the Kias and Acuras of the world — the seventh-round picks.

Until then, however, we’ll keep bringing you the reveals and the news as it comes to light next week. But, as always, I have to ask, who benefits from this? Is it you, the consumer? Or is it the symbiotic relationship between the OEM and the press? I think we all know the answer to that one.

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62 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: What’s the Future of the Car Show?...”


  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    o yes i am fascinated by the advent of technology in cars but i am not an early adopter and i’ll freely admit i am a tactile child. an all electronic auto show? i think not. no matter how good the pixilation what the eyes see and the fingers touch and the mind experiences is what matters.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The auto shows would be a lot more relevant if the automakers would stop all the “leaks” prior to the shows. There is rarely any mystery left or any surprises anymore.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    As a Detroiter I hope the NAIAS remains relevant and continues to draw a large amount of people and press. Its economic impact to the Detroit area was around $400 million last year.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I loathe the NAIAS.

    I loved it up until approx the age of 18, then got serious about life, college, philosophical issues (yes, me), etc.

    I pretty much quit going unless a relative or friend from out of town wants to go, in which case we’ll take them and be hospitable, as I do have family members working for two big automakers and friends working for nearly all (plus major suppliers) and get free admission plus some bonuses.

    It’s a sweaty, stuffy, uncomfortable, forced, unpleasant melee of people, perspiration, promotional PR pitches, typically unPleasant humidity/temperature, traffic, etc.

    And 85% of the Cobo floor is occupied by pedestrian cars such as Camrys, Malibus, Corollas, Accents, Focus’, slabside pickups, etc., anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      You need to come with me on an industry preview day or something. I’m not going on Thursday this year, but sometimes I do. I’d invite you to go on Sunday to Ford’s practice presentation at The Joe, but I think you would yell at Mark Fields and Raj Nair (plus I don’t have any extra tickets). Let’s go early on MLK day, make fun of the hipster lumberjacks at the Nissan Titan booth, and go to Supino afterwards.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      I go to New York every year, and it’s the same – a mad crush of people. You can barely see the cars.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        At the NAIAS you just need to go on the right day or go really early/late. Getting down to Cobo early on MLK day (or any other day for that matter), eating breakfast in your car in the parking on Cobo’s roof, and being done with the show by 11 am is the way to go.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      DW,
      I agree, it isn’t just Detroit. For me to get that involved in a place with so many people I must learn a lot from it.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        You can go to the NAIAS when it isn’t busy. Go on a Tuesday morning. Even better if it’s a snowy Tuesday morning. It’s Detroit, it won’t be hard to get to Cobo and see the show and it won’t be all that busy.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “I loathe the NAIAS.”

      Hitler would shoot you for your unrelenting negativism…

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Is there anything you enjoy out of life?

  • avatar
    Chiburb

    Actually, this is the first auto show I’ve cared about in the last 40 years or so. 2 cars get their unveiling here, and one will be my next daily driver for the following 3 years:

    Genesis G90
    Driving a 2014 Equus now, previous car was a 2011 Equus, and a V8 Genesis before that. I’ve seen the pics of the new model, but very much need to see the specs before going back to Hyundai…
    Will AWD be available with the V8 or only the 6? I read that this version is longer than the current 203(!) inches. How much longer? Will it fit my garage? Also, the bloom came off the Equus rose when the 2015 Genesis came with MUCH better tech than the ’14 Horse. Pissed me off, these things are supposed to trickle DOWN!

    Volvo S90
    I’m blown away by the simple elegance of it and the stunning interior. Yeah, a supercharged turbo 4 is certainly a step down from the Equus,but with available air suspension, (mostly) autonomous driving up to 80 MPH, moose detection, this is VERY tempting to me. Need to see pricing, “lease love”, etc. though. Not to mention eventual test drives.

    So yeah, the show matters to me. But your bigger point is well taken.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    Here’s what I like about Autoshows in general, I can go and look, feel and sit in just about every new car available, then I can narrow my choices and visit as few dealers as possible

    • 0 avatar

      This !

      You see all the metal, side by side. It is interesting to see how much or how little car company A gives you vs. company B. I do the NYAS most years, despite the crowds, and the fact Ford doesn’t let you into their cars. (yes, Ford). Of course, NY AS goers are vultures and steal interior parts-I could only imagine the stories from the presenters.

      Car shows, especially on Weekend evenings, are also date night. Lots of the ladies dress to distract the boys from the cars. Fun Times !

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The only show I’ve done this year is the Paris Airshow. I don’t think any car show can out do it for the tech and wizardry. Some of the gear on display was fantastic stuff. ECM pods, IR gear, missiles, etc with some real performance vehicles in the mix.

    I found out why the French don’t like hotdogs. They use a sav and not a hot dog. Savs are tasteless crap. The German’s have many sausages, ie, wursts and franks to choose from and the French use a British Savloy!!!!!!

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out this year.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Every industry has its trade shows and conferences. They’re mostly an excuse to get out of the office, hang out while not working very hard, get free food and add some mileage to a frequent flier account while feeling important.

    So the auto show won’t be going anywhere. They would exist even without the media.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Pch,
      I do think your comment “They would exist even without the media.” Should of stated “with the media”.

      The concept of shows has been around since the Stone Age. Shows are an extension of the “local markets” that existed to show off and sell your wares.

      • 0 avatar
        BuzzDog

        Well, Al, since you mentioned grammar:

        “Should of” is incorrect; it’s “should have.”

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          In BAFO’s defense, his over all ignorance is a cut above his grammar.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          BAFO has directed literally tens of thousands to me that I haven’t read.

          I can only presume from your comment that he was attempting to “correct” me yet again, and he’s simply too dumb to realize that he failed spectacularly as usual. The poor bugger can’t get anything right; there’s no point in trying to set him straight, as he’s too clueless to ever get it — just scroll past him.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          BuzzDog,
          I was not correcting his grammar. I was actually correcting his comment to reflect reality.

          Re-read my comment, then comprehend.

          • 0 avatar
            BuzzDog

            I comprehend beautifully, and your grammar is still incorrect.

            Have a nice day, or evening, or whatever time of day it may be where you are.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            There’s no point in writing a response to BAFO when he is functionally illiterate. He won’t understand what you’re saying even if you type it as slowly as possible.

          • 0 avatar
            BuzzDog

            Thanks, but I know the drill.

            I wasn’t responding to BAFO, I was helping the newbies around here see the stripes upon this beast.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    so they can traipse around in their cotton Dockers and black shoes and collect free swag?

    “It’s like someone hit a piñata full of white people who suck at golf.”

  • avatar
    Chan

    The car show will remain relevant as long as trade shows are relevant. Non-car companies like Apple and Microsoft still debut products at trade shows–sometimes even revealing software to a live audience.

    This is especially relevant to non-enthusiast car buyers. If I haven’t been reading about the cars all year long like most of us here, the car show is the only venue in which to conveniently see and touch all the new cars that I may be considering.

    Also, Gen-Y has a problem with being able to afford new cars, as wealth is not trickling down to us (a generalisation, yes). Many of my generational peers are rolling around in old cars while using the aftermarket devices that you mentioned.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    There will be car shows as long as people are willing to go to them.

    We always try to go to our local show just to see what’s new and not be bothered by any salespeople unless the weather isn’t good, which was the case last year.

    Even though our local Cincinnati auto show isn’t that large, it’s still fun. Trying to get a seat at one of the billion restaurants and bars downtown isn’t, and we usually get dinner near home.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed – This is why I go to the Pittsburgh Auto show.

      It’s a great opportunity to sit in any car that’s open. In those few seconds, I can decide what might be worth trying at a dealer some time.

      It’s also a chance to see what absolutely won’t work for me, and to observe the appalling quality lapses still evident in a modern automobile.

      Nobody does new model releases here anyway, so I already know what’s arriving by the time our show comes in February.

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    I’m convinced a non-insignificant part of the reason for certain car shows is to let engineers review each other’s cars. There’s some honor among thieves here: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. But only a little. Detroit, Geneva, Tokyo.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Automakers learn about their rivals by buying the vehicles, testing them and taking them apart. There isn’t much to be learned on the floor of an auto show.

      • 0 avatar
        anomaly149

        You learn what to look for, especially when you get a grand high level benchmarking assignment.

        Edit: certain commodities only

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          There isn’t much to be gained from an auto show. For the industry, it’s mostly a social event.

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            Pch

            I agree when it comes to upper level executives. If you are in charge of a department or division, or represent a regional interest even. But I have seen an oem send it’s rank and file into a show to do competitor analysis. What I thought was interesting about it was the realization that most people working at car companies don’t know that much about cars. Any person commenting here for instance, no matter how wrong you might think they usually are, has a far more current and informed knowledge base on the industry and whats coming next than even people with rather important sounding jobs do. Even the enthusiasts among them didn’t strike me as industry enthusiasts, just garden variety car guys/girls.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “when I talk to car dealers today, they tell me their coveted Gen Yers…are much more interested in the bells and whistles than they are in the roars and tire squeals…They don’t care how the car drives. They view it as a giant, rolling iPads”

    This is what comes when you experience the world through the digital screen perpetually placed in front of your face rather than through your senses.

    It’s unfortunate. I’m in my thirties and probably at the older end of that tech-obsessed demographic, but I care far more about the vehicle than the infotainment crammed into the dashboard. I still have a slider phone because I want a phone, not a shrunken tablet, and I don’t want the presence of internet connectivity in my pocket to suck me into the same always-online media-obsessed void as my peers.

    The same Luddite grouchiness extends to my car preferences. I’d prefer a decent driving position and steering feel to the ability to pair all my apps to the car. If automakers can continue to balance these two worlds I’ll be fine, but it will be a bummer if it shifts fully to “rolling iPads”.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I can’t wait to get an Oculus Rift, so I never have to look at the real world, ever again!

      Serious VR is coming. Bruce Willis made a movie about that called Surrogates, I think.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I hope reality never becomes so bad I need VR to get away from it. Ray Bradbury did a good job on me at an early age with the fireman’s wife craving her virtual family and 4-walled television room in Fahrenheit 451. I still think of that when I see skinny jeans trudging down the sidewalk looking only at their phones, or silent couples each browsing the web while out to dinner.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “I still have a slider phone…”

      How do you manage that? Is it an LG Chocolate or something? I used to have a very expensive and somewhat rare Moto RIZR, which wasn’t a good phone but looked great and was slidey. Slide version of the RAZR, the coolest phone of 05-07.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “How do you manage that?”

        I never got hooked to internet access from my phone, so I don’t know any better. I can text with it, it holds a contact list, and it fits well into a pocket, so it does what I require of it. It’s an LG Cosmos and a piece of crap, but I can drop it and not fret. The providers are putting on the squeeze, though, offering fewer non-smart options. I may have to cave when the contract ends. There are times I wouldn’t mind having online access, especially Google maps, and a real camera.

        I hope that’s not the beginning of the end for me. Standing there, staring at that slippery slope and about to take a step.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The good thing about having all the available features, is that you don’t -have- to use them if you don’t want. I have almost everything turned off and/or uninstalled. I was a late smart phone adopter, and didn’t have one until 2011, and I was in my mid 20’s.

          I had an LG very similar to that one you have, just a different name. It was incredibly slow for texting! The screen was always 5-6 letters behind my tapping.

          You will have a -very- hard time finding a new full-QWERTY which is not a smart phone. It may be impossible, as they’re out of style since 2011-ish. My last simple phone was a twisty phone (Razzle, apparently), which had a Blackberry like keyboard. That one was good.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Glad I’m not the only human who delayed smart phone adoptions, and good point about turning off features you don’t care for. I think I’ll survive the transition to smart phone, so I won’t be going to desperate measures tracking down the last standing keyboard phone.

        • 0 avatar
          Zackman

          They’ll always have flip-phones available for the older folks, but you may have to go to AARP to get one, but you can pull that off!

          I’m almost 65 and have a smart phone, but I’m not addicted to it, and when I retire in a year, I just may go back to a flip-phone to save money while Wifey can play on her smart phone all day.

          Just DON’T get an Alcatraz – excuse me, Alcatel-anything – those DO stink, speaking from experience!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            By the way, Virgin Mobile currently offers ONE phone which is a slide smart phone with full QWERTY, the Kyocera Rise.

            So keep that one in mind when you go to get a new one.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I have a Stratosphere II with a real sliding keyboard. I will be riding the platform for many years.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Ain’t going to AARP! My phone gets laughed at enough as is…

            As you alluded to, the cost of the data plans are what bother me. Given some of my remote work locations I need Verizon’s coverage, but their plans seem pricey.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I am totally not into VZW and their exorbitant costs and contracts. Switched to VM as soon as I got away from my parent’s plan. They’re on Sprint towers anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “Stratosphere II”

            It’s so old it sounds like a guitar.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Corey-

            Keep being happy with your fly by night phone plan and 3rd world network! I need the Verizon Network as I spend lots of time in Northern Michigan during the summer. If I had a phone plan on the Sprint network, I might as well use get a Solo cup and some strings on the plan.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Corey

            There probably is a guitar by such a name.

            @30-mile fetch

            I agree with you on need for network, my non-snarky thought is stick to the phone’s use as a phone. When I have traveled for work I always brought my Precision and hooked into where ever. This may not be possible for you I understand but VZ is counting on your to turn your “phone” into a Sony PSP, deny them this.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            28,
            I think that’s exactly right. Use as little data as possible and therefore give them as little money as possible. The price of some of those data plans is hard to swallow when you’ve never had one before.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          Buy yourself a BlackBerry phone, like me, so you will have a barren app ecosystem. You can’t use apps that you can’t even get in the first place! ;)

          (I have my phone because of the no-camera policy at work)

          With no apps, my phone is pretty much talk, text, email and Web surfing.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      30 mile.
      I think the claims that the newer generation of buyers don’t care about other features of the car are wildly overblown. What’s happening is that cars are rapidly integrating large screens and connectivity while also paying more attention than ever to winning the seat of the pants contest. The Koreans, gm, Toyota and Honda have all had to publicly acknowledge falling behind in this regard in recent times (single models for some, lineup for others), and all four have taken immediate steps to rectify the criticism. I think that millennial access to media has massively amplified the reach of the driving critic even as it has created a greater demand for non driving related tech in cars.

      Even in the Era of cvt’s and electric steering we’re seeing a same-time rise in turbos and well designed suspension setups. Those turbos aren’t there to add fuel economy, they’re there to add torque.

  • avatar

    I don’t care for the writers (their symbiotic relationship with the automakers being what it is), but shows are great for consumers, especially the Motor Trend’s traveling show. I always patronize it in every locale I live.

  • avatar

    It’s not all about the media. The Detroit show is run by the Detroit Auto Dealers Assoc., not the OEMs, and the big shows in Detroit, LA, New York and Chicago, as well as the smaller shows in other markets are there to sell cars to the general public. I believe that at the Chicago show you can actually buy a car (not allowed on the floor of the NAIAS).

    A big auto show is really the only way regular consumers can look at all the competitive models in one segment in a short period of time.

    I usually follow up the NAIAS media preview with a visit to the show during the public days, to see what displays are crowded and I see plenty of serious shoppers.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    NAIAS is a hell of a place to get my young kids interested in cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      Exactly. The show is probably the best chance I have to get perhaps 1 of my three daughters into cars. The odds are long, 2 out of three of them think the Odyssey is cooler than the M5. Sigh…

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I agree with Bark. IT’s all a little silly, and dumb to make everyone who can’t go to those car shows have to wait for said car shows for debuts.

    For me a much more meaningful date is when the cars are available to the press. They should hold off on debuting cars until that point IMO.

  • avatar
    Drunkonunleaded

    In a previous article on here authored by someone named M5Power, I mentioned that the auto shows primarily function as a means for the public to view (almost) all current models on the market without the hassles or visiting multiple dealers.

    As someone who allegedly might know a thing or two about dealerships, I’d be curious to know if you have any real feedback in how he shows affect sales. Even moreso when thinking of “smaller” markets/shows (something like Pittsburgh that isn’t used for big reveals).

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Day 1 of Houston Auto Show: I study and sit in every car possible. It’s a tactile thing. Asbergers?
    Day 2: meet several ‘clients’ who I will show valid options for future purchase. Narrow down their choices for test drives in the near future.
    Day 3: Go with brother and/or daughter and view the show like normal people.

    I love the car show!

    Whence I retire, I plan to do the NAIAS at least once.


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