Dan Gurney signing autographs for members of the the media at the 2008 New York Auto Show
The big OEM car show season is over and now that summer is here, it’s time for car shows, meets and cruises. For the people who work for marketing in the car companies and in the aftermarket it’s really a year long season. I see some of the same faces at the NAIAS, the Detroit Autorama, the Hot Rod Power Tour and the Woodward Dream Cruise..
I’ve attended press previews of some of the big auto shows since 2002. I’ve worked Detroit every year since, Chicago every year but ’09, and Toronto a couple of times when it didn’t conflict with Chicago. A car show media preview is not the same as the public car show and not just because there is staging and seating for the press and the displays are not in their final form. In a word the difference is access. During the public days, some of the cars are locked, and the ultra luxury and exotic rides are completely roped off from the unwashed masses. If you have a question to ask, there are trained product spokes men and women who will tell you about the floor models or give you a shpiel about a concept vehicle. There may be some sales reps from local dealers as well who will gladly give you a business card. You never see an executive from an automaker on the show floor during the public days. If there are celebrities, like racers, athletes and entertainers making personal appearances, they too are usually behind ropes and if autographs are available, the lines are long.
The media preview is completely different. Aside from its utility to journalists, for a car guy or gal it’s an auto show on an exponential scale. Yes there are models and product specialists on the turntables and around the displays who can try to answer you questions, but more important there are all the executives, product managers, engineers, designers and marketing people involved in making this year’s tangerine flake streamline babies. I like to talk to pretty ladies as much as the next guy so the models and booth professionals are fine with me. If I have a question or comment about a car, though, I think the chief designer could probably answer my question better than someone who’s learned a script. If you had your choice of people to talk cars with, wouldn’t you pick Carroll Shelby over someone hired by a talent agency?