By on March 19, 2009

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I loathe auto shows. And I’m talking about the press days, where I can meet all my good friends from Automotive News, The Detroit News, Autoblog, Jalopnik, Motor Trend, etc. and score tons of child-friendly swag and jump into any vehicle I want without getting my knuckles rapped. Of course, it’s work. You couldn’t get to me to the civilian side of these events for love (for cars I got lots) nor money (which my writers could certainly use). Look don’t touch? Touch don’t drive? Line-up to see something you saw on the Internet weeks or months ago? Pay for the privilege? Crap food? I get the bonding with the kids thing, and I know there are OCD brochure collectors out there. Modelizers need apply. But other than that, why bother? Manufacturers are wondering the same thing. So . . . say goodbye to the British Motor Show, where attendance has plummeted in recent years. Tokyo’s next. Another sign that the traditional industry template is broken. And not a moment too soon. A bit late, actually. But there you go.

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21 Comments on “British Auto Show RIP: Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish...”


  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I’ve actually always liked auto shows. Yeah the crowds suck and they put the cars you really want to see behind a crowd, rope, and smoked glass but seeing lots of new cars and concepts in the flesh in one place is exciting, IMHO. The oncoming death of the NAIAS will be sad.

  • avatar
    dwford

    When you get passed the BS of having to pay for parking and pay for the entry fee, auto shows provide consumers a low hassle way to compare competing models in the flesh, without driving from dealer to dealer and doing the sales song and dance at each place. So they serve a purpose.

    Yes those OCD brochure collectors are out there (none of them buyers), and the food sucks. But you can be in and out in an hour or two and have a better idea of what cars you are comfortable in before you go to the dealers.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    I used to love going to the auto shows, but they now are just a beating. Most of the concepts I’m interested in will never make it to a showroom, or will be completely massacred in the transition. I don’t see the point in spending half a day going to look at something that will either never see the light of day, or something that I can go look at and drive within a few miles of my house. And then there are the crowds, the cost of food, parking, traffic, etc. If I didn’t go to another auto show ever, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t care.

  • avatar
    sr20de

    I’ve been to a few regional car shows and the novelty of all those cars in one place faded quickly every time.

    When I can’t sit in cars I’m considering because packs of ankle biters are playing in them or otherwise monopolizing the driver’s seat, that’s not helping this prospective buyer make up his mind.

    RIP car shows. I’ll stick to test drives.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I get the bonding with the kids thing

    That’s the only reason I go. My son is 3 and we went to Toronto this year. He loved it, and quite honestly I had fun because he was there. Going to a car show with young kids is an entirely different—and much better—experience than going yourself, with friends or (especially) a non-appreciative spouse.

    That I took the GO Train in and got my ticket free through Air Miles made it all the better.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    Not a big fan of auto shows much any more, would rather cruise dealerships (helps with my fear of speaking in public). But the wife loves them! She is even willing to get up early on the weekend to avoid the crowds, I’ve tried to wake her early for other joint ventures (wink,wink) without success, go figure.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    Auto shows do serve a function; if you are shopping for a new vehicle, they offer the opportunity to
    look at all the products in one area free of dealing with the salespeople at the dealerships and weed your potential choices down to a few vehicles.
    On the negative side is the excessive cost of parking and food, and the crowds. Unless I’m in the market for a new vehicle, I stay away.

  • avatar
    dean

    Every few years I go to our regional auto show, then promptly rediscover why I didn’t bother going to the last one.

    I will go this year, however, because I will have my girlfriend’s kids in tow. I went to our local motorcycle show with them in January and had a great time feeding off their enthusiasm. It was much more enjoyable than going by myself.

  • avatar

    I love going to the auto show. I can sit in and play around in a ton of cars in a much shorter time than if I was going to dealers and I don’t have to deal with sales people. It allows a person to narrow down choices to cars they even want to bother test driving.

    I was looking for a car this year for the first time in a while. We ran into somebody else we know and they were also looking. The rest of the crowds weren’t there, probably because people aren’t looking to buy. That just goes to show that a lot of people do go, because they are interested in buying.

  • avatar
    Colinpolyps

    I would sooner go to an auto show than go to a dealer showroom. To me that’s like either being looked down on because you’re a tire kicker or being hassled to death if you express any interest at all.

    I have always enjoyed the January Detroit event despite the weather and the crowds. Get there early to park in the building itself because Detroit outdoors in January is no bloody fun.

    Passed on this year’s show for the same reason I dont go to funeral homes of folks I barely know.

    In the past I felt I was going to an art show as to me automobilia has always been just that.

    Recent times certainly has spoiled the car business for us all but it will come back. Perhaps not as a North American entity but we will motor on.

  • avatar
    dwford

    “To me that’s like either being looked down on because you’re a tire kicker or being hassled to death if you express any interest at all.”

    What you don’t realize is that if we as car salesmen don’t follow the dealership rules – up everyone, get them in them in the door, assume the sale, nobody walks!, etc.. we get berated for being terrible salespeople. Tire kickers make our lives hell as we try to follow the rules with an unwilling non-customer. Come when we are closed to browse, and save us both the hassle.

    If you are actually in the market for a car, as salespeople we know if we don’t close you today, you are likely to buy within the next 72 hours, and our chances of ever seeing you again are almost nil, whether we are a good or bad salesperson. What ends up happening is that the first salesperson educates you on the car and the deal, then you go to a few more places before you finally cave at the last stop, just to get it over with. So, yes, we will do everything we can to get the sale today, and have you drive it home today if possible.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    I go to a “new” car show about once every 5 years. Last time was to NAIAS when my brother was on a work term in the area. I’ll probably never buy a brand new car, and I think modern automotive style is an oxymoron, so they’re not a big draw for me. Might be different when my kid’s older, but I’ll already be hauling him off to custom car shows, swap meets and cruise nights.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    OCD brochure collection here, dodging the leaks at Cobo Hall. Or not – I haven’t been to NAIAS in years.

  • avatar
    Arminius

    I couldn’t agree with psarhijinian more. I’ve been going to the local auto show since my 8 year old was 2. I now have two boys to take and they have a blast. Where else can they get into a car and play with the buttons, stalks and steering wheel and not get yelled at. The look on their face when they get up close to the sports cars is priceless. I’m not sure I would go if it weren’t for them.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    i agree, they suck. big time. expensive with parking, food is very very bad AND expensive. Loads of 14 year olds, god what a nightmare. I stopped going about 10 years ago. Also, the philadelphia show never has anything cool anyway.Just a gigantic show room with a few exotics and golden oldies thrown in.

    if i wanna see a car, i go to a dealer. if i want a car show, i go to the New Hope PA car show in the summer. More cars, better food, lots less expensive.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’ve liked car shows, but after last year’s experience with my son, I’m going every year. He loved it… got to jump in all the cars, including the ones on the platforms that say “stay off”.

    He was beat at the end of it all, so we both good a lot of entertainment out of it, and he got a really good night’s sleep (as did my wife and I).

    $10 well spent!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’ve liked car shows, but after last year’s experience with my son, I’m going every year. He loved it… got to jump in all the cars, including the ones on the platforms that say “stay off”.

    Isn’t the just the best part? It’s like vicariously living through your kids in a good way. You know there’s no way you’ll ever touch Expensive Concept X or Pretentious Supercar Y, but your three-year old can.

    Hats off to Mercedes of Canada, by the way, for letting riff-raff like us climb all over their unobtanium, and for not disconnecting the batteries. My son wasn’t impressed with the leather-stitched dash of the SL (he loved, for no reason I can figure, the base Wrangler), but it was a nice touch, letting people get in it, especially compared to the killjoys at Lexus and Cadillac, or the no-shows among the other brands.

  • avatar
    petrolhead85

    And what exactly is wrong with being an obsessive brochure collector?!?

    The secret to avoiding the crowds and the snot-nosed kids is to go as early as possible, preferably when the doors open. Believe it or not, some of us don’t get to test drive new cars for a living so it’s the only time we actually get to go near these cars without sales vultures hovering around. I’m not sure about other car shows, but the last time I went to the Vancouver show practically all the cars were open, except for the Ferraris. I got to sit in a Jag XK, BMW 7-series, Merc S-class, Mitsubishi EVO MR and Subaru STI just to name a few.

  • avatar
    50merc

    “I loathe auto shows”

    Huh? I love auto shows. (And go when there are no crowds.) Where else can I sit in a bunch of new cars with being set upon by the velociraptors a.k.a. salespeople. (Sorry, dwford; I know you guys are forced to be that way.) Now, if only the batteries weren’t disconnected so I could see if the seat can be adjusted to a comfortable position…

  • avatar
    gcorley

    I have been going to auto shows in Europe & the US for over 40 years.

    In the last 10 years they have become more and more pointless.

    Now, if you are really interested by cars you can be kept fully up to date by the internet. Many sites such as TTAC do a fantastic job of keeping us informed on an hour-by-hour basis.

    Shows such as Detroit are particularly useless, since all the hoods are locked and most of the vehicles have no electric supply! About the only thing you can do is judge the seats and the quality of the interior. On days other than press days, you cannot even look at the exterior styling because of the hoards of people.

    I think it is better to stay informed by the internet and driving tests/impressions, and short list your choice of vehicles (most people anyway have preferred manufacturers and seldom cross-shop!) and go visit the dealers and actually test them out.

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    I too don’t like Auto Shows, especially when you have to pay a large dollar to attend them, I feel that the Auto companies should pay people to attend, after all they want to sell Cars dont they?

    I guess living in the rural area here in Ontario, its much too far to drive into Toronto, after you pay high rates for parking and your admission fee and doing lots of walking, its not the best imho!

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