QOTD: Do Auto Show Media Days Matter to the Consumer?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Amid the Chicago Auto Show hoopla last week came reports that Mercedes-Benz was considering dropping out of next year’s Detroit Auto Show, news that has since been confirmed. I was invited to a dinner with journalists by an OEM during the Chicago show, and while eating, the PR guy posed a question – “Does the auto show still matter to you guys?”

Immediately, all in attendance agreed that the shows are as important as ever to consumers and the dealers who sell them cars. Which makes sense – the shows are usually run by dealer associations, with the intent of generating sales leads.

For us in the media, though, it’s been an open question. Thanks to changes in technology and how both journalists and PR departments do their jobs, many journalists now find it easier (and cheaper) to cover the shows from home (especially if they snagged embargoed material in advance).

Not to mention that automakers are increasingly spending time and money on off-site reveals (granted, those reveals are still based around the dates of the auto show press days, since the OEMs know journalists will be in town) and sometimes unveiling vehicles well outside of show dates. Ford unveiled the latest Mustang during the public days of last year’s Detroit show, and GMC is doing a major event for the 2019 Sierra in Detroit in a couple of weeks, instead of unveiling it at an auto show.

Auto show media days still hold value for the media, in my opinion. They’re useful for networking, gathering info on background, listening for rumors, photography, and video work, among other things. You’ll notice, though, that with exception of photo and video, none of those things really have a lot to do with “breaking news.”

What say you, dear reader? Are you combing TTAC and our competitors’ sites for info during each press day? Does what happen during the media days affect your decision to go to a show? Do the unveilings influence your buying process? Or are media days simply irrelevant now?

The PR guy who hosted us in Chicago reps a brand that skipped Detroit this year, one of several that didn’t go to Cobo. Yet his brand, and most of the others that skipped Detroit, had a presence in Chicago. I was told that some OEMs will skip a show if they don’t have a product to announce because it’s not a good sales market for them – but they will come to cities that are strong markets. So if a brand doesn’t do well in Detroit but sells lots of cars in Chicago or New York, they’ll skip Detroit (unless they have an announcement to make) and spend the money on a stand in one of those cities.

That makes sense from a business perspective, but it does limit that brand’s exposure to media and consumers. Or maybe not, at least from a media perspective, if those media days matter less than they did 10 or 15 years ago.

Consumer days aren’t going away anytime soon, but perhaps our editorial calendar will look vastly different in five years’ time. Weigh in below.

[Image: TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Feb 15, 2018

    This discussion is being held in just about every industry. Are trade shows worth the money spent, and if you do decide to exhibit, which shows give you the most bang for the buck? Gibson decided to not exhibit at the big NAMM show in Anaheim last month. Instead they showed their new guitars at the CES show in Vegas. Sound familiar? Car companies have been using the Consumer Eletronics Show as they've rushed into technology, with the LA, Detroit and Chicago shows losing out on some reveals to CES. I agree with Peter DeLorenzo that they should move the NAIAS from January to June, in part to create some separation from the CES, but also because Detroit is a much better place to visit in June than in January. Back when all new models went on sale in September and magazines had lead times of months, it made sense to do car reveals in January. Now, new models are introduced year-round.

  • Fred Fred on Feb 15, 2018

    If I'm shopping or thinking about buying a car and that car is on my list, then, yes, I'm interested. Otherwise it's just general entertainrment.

    • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Feb 15, 2018

      I consider all "automotive journalism" to be general entertainment. If I am actually interested in a car I will just go drive it and make my own opinions.

  • TheEndlessEnigma In '98 a guy I worked with came into work pissed, so pissed he was beside himself, so pissed he was beside himself and they were both pissed. He had bought a Seville the year before for his wife, a very buxom empty headed drink of water that was roughly 20 years his junior (she *LIKED* older men and he wasn't about to complain). He had gotten a call the afternoon before, she was broken down in the less than 1 year old Seville on the side of the NY Turnpike at the Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga. The car quite on her in traffic and it wouldn't start. They got it towed to a nearby Caddy dealer and they started checking out the problem immediately. As he told it, the car already had a little over 20k miles on it so the service manager was pretty concerned about a warranty engine failure, "These Northstar engines are bulletproof!". After about an hour at the shop the service manager comes to talk with them, "Uh, ma'am, when was the last time you had the oil changed"? "Oil change, don't they come with oil when you buy these cars?". Seems the engine seized up, right around 1 qt of oil, with a tar like consistency and full of sparkles, was found in the oil pan. The late '90s, a NorthStar engine, one year and 20k miles......never saw an oil change. Powertrain warranty claim? Refused. Engine replacement? You bet, $9900 in 1998 dollars.
  • VoGhost Quality review. Thanks!
  • VoGhost Love this collective clutching of pearls over a vehicle name not a single commenter will ever see, drive or buy.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Here's why" edition_cnn_com/2018/06/13/health/falling-iq-scores-study-intl/index.html
  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?