Auto Shows of North America


By Peter Welch, NADA President and CEO

There is no doubt that the way we market new vehicles has changed radically during the past few years. OEMs and franchised new-car dealers have more ways to spend their marketing budgets than ever before, and pinpoint e-commerce tools and digital targeting have enhanced these marketing advances. But one star continues to shine: auto shows.

In 2005, the average customer visited a dealership 6.1 times prior to purchasing a new vehicle. Today that number has dropped to 2.4 visits. So where do consumers go to actually touch and feel new vehicle product? Given their physical presence, auto shows are a unique, experiential channel where consumers, armed with information gathered online, can evaluate vehicles first-hand across all segments and brands.

And while auto shows measurably ignite consumer excitement for a brand, perhaps their greatest impact is on vehicle purchase consideration and brand loyalty—the two metrics that just so happen to matter more than any other in today’s ultra-competitive market. Auto shows do this by concurrently introducing new potential customers into a brand’s pipeline while reaffirming the brand’s unique value proposition for current customers in a meaningful way.

For example, we know that many millennials delayed their first new- vehicle purchase until later in life than previous generations. As a result, their introduction to OEM brands was delayed. But millennials today are buying new cars at a higher rate than they did a decade ago. According to a recent Strategic Vision report, the percentage of new-vehicle sales to consumers under the age of 35 was 19.3 percent. In 2007, it was 16.6 percent. And guess who’s coming to many auto shows at a higher rate than any other demographic? That’s right; millennials.

And they buy. Dr. Richard Waterman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who has been examining auto show impact on consumers for 20 years, finds that auto show attendees are consistently twice as likely to make a new- vehicle purchase in the year following their show visit than the general population.

According to Foresight Research, auto show attendees cited show attendance as more influential on their purchase decision than digital advertising, direct marketing or event sponsorship. What’s more, among new-vehicle buyers who attended an auto show prior to making a purchase, 56 percent indicated their purchase was influenced by the show they attended, with 21 percent of buyers attending an auto show purchasing a brand they were not already considering before the show. And of those who reported they would be in the market to buy a new vehicle within a year of attending one recent auto show, 90 percent said their auto show visit had influenced what vehicle they would ultimately purchase.

The numbers simply don’t lie. When it comes to generating meaningful consumer experiences that enhance purchase consideration and brand loyalty—and that lead to sales—local-focused content and events are king. Local and regional auto show organizers and involved dealer groups know what will move the needle, and an OEM has the opportunity to communicate with current and potential consumers in their own backyards, often with local brand representatives who speak to consumers in terms with which they are comfortable and who will heighten their relationship with the brand.

Unfortunately, a number of OEMs have recently decided to pull back their investments in auto shows— often in favor of new digital tools. And while digital’s potential for marketing is growing, the gritty reality is that many consumers require an in-person experience with a product before purchase.

Luckily, OEMs don’t have to reinvent the wheel. America’s auto shows are a proven investment that pays high dividends, not just in raw sales but in brand excitement and customer experience—particularly when consumers are questioning whether the time is right to buy a new vehicle at all. This is why smart automakers don’t see auto shows as a relic of the past, but rather as a launchpad for their digital marketing prowess.

It is true that show costs have unfortunately escalated in recent years—as convention centers have raised rates, displays have become more sophisticated, and the cost of logistics continue to rise. But that’s no justification for throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And the brand gurus know this. There’s a big difference between expenses and investments. We hope the OEMs come back around to what dealers know and what the numbers show: Auto shows drive sales and brand loyalty.

Let’s find a way to harness that reality and make auto shows work better for us. The numbers clearly tell us that showing the metal is still the best way to move the metal.

By Charlie Gilchrist, 2019 NADA chairman

If you want to explore the latest and greatest that the auto industry has to offer, then without a doubt your first stop should be a local auto show. Many elements of our industry are evolving due to advanced technology and ever-changing market conditions. But auto shows remain a beacon of influence because it’s where consumers can still touch and feel products across all segments and brands. It’s no coincidence that more than 11 million consumers are attending U.S. auto shows every year – with 68 percent of them planning a new-vehicle purchase within 12 months.

Sure, I proudly sell vehicles to the greater driving public, but I am also a consumer myself. Through the eyes of a buyer and as a Texan, there is nothing that excites me more than seeing the new 2020 Ford Explorer or the Mustang Shelby GT 500 on display, often for the very first time. An auto show is an amazing one-stop destination where people like me can get the first look at the best OEM’s have to offer, from redesigns of iconic models to a showcase of future offerings. Shows are also one of the few places where a brand’s style is personified by the vehicles in the annual line-up—and that style becomes congruent with a customer’s own lifestyle.

The greatest impact of an auto show, however, is that it exerts tremendous influence over a customer’s vehicle purchase consideration and it greatly promotes brand loyalty. In fact, the data continues to demonstrate that auto show attendees are consistently twice as likely to make a new-vehicle purchase within a year of visiting a show versus the general population. Many of the customers I’ve spoken with have expressed that attending a show makes them feel more confident and informed about a vehicle they’ve been waiting to purchase. Auto shows also have the advantage of strengthening relationships with loyal brand followers while at the same time introducing the public to new brands. In fact, 21 percent of attendees have purchased from a brand they’ve never considered before visiting an auto show.

My dealerships are located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I’m proud to say that the 2019 DFW Auto Show in Dallas was a huge success. The show’s Ride & Drive program, in particular, was sold out and it received participation from 13 OEMs. The DFW Show capitalized on its ability to showcase the latest technology which continues to be a changemaker in the selection of a new vehicle. At the Fort Worth Show, we will be adding educational booths which we think will be extremely beneficial for students and attendees who are curious about today’s technological advancements. I have no doubt that attendee numbers will continue to rise at my local auto show.

The reality is that there aren’t many places where consumers can get behind the wheel of multiple brands under one roof, get a personal experience and a glimpse into their driving future. I am an eager supporter and attendee of auto shows, and I hope you are too!

By Jennifer Colman, ATAE President

Welcome to the brand new ASNA website – your place for all things ASNA and auto shows!  These pages have been developed with input from members, show staff, and our stakeholders.  Please take a moment to:

  • Browse the tabs and check out our many resources.
  • Try the search feature.
  • Let us know if you catch something that needs to be updated or changed, such as contact information.

You can also:

  • Submit stories or blogs about your show (each submission will be reviewed prior to posting).
  • Submit your show photos (used with permission) to post.
  • Share best practices and ideas.
  • Update contact information (please use the “contact us” tab).
  • Send in a comment or a request (these are “private,” only seen by the administrator).
  • Join our Facebook group.

This site is truly what we make it. As you use it, please let us know what else would be helpful and what additional resources we can provide. Going forward, the site will be maintained by the ASNA staff, however it could not have been designed, built or promoted without the time and talent of Ms. Kelsey Baker, Show Manager, Philadelphia Auto Show. Kelsey, we appreciate your passion, your expertise, and the many hours and days that you have given to ASNA.

Congratulations, everyone, on a terrific new ASNA resource.  I look forward to reading all about, and helping to promote, Auto Shows of North America!

By Jennifer Colman, ATAE President

Buckle up and start your engines. The 2017-2018 auto show season is in full throttle, and convention centers across the country are roaring with activity as consumers get up close and personal with today’s top auto manufacturers.

Starting with the LA Auto Show in December and culminating with the Austin Auto Show in late April, (see the full list hereor here) auto shows are the best opportunity for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to maintain close relationships with the media and dealership networks, interact with huge crowds of consumers, and put their personalized customer service skills on display alongside their brand’s latest products and offerings.

Auto Shows Lead to Sales

Sure, auto shows are highly anticipated events among auto enthusiasts and anyone else who likes fast, fancy and tricked-out cars. But they are just as popular with consumers who are looking to purchase a new car. “When buyers attend an auto show, more than half are influenced by that experience during their subsequent purchase decisions,” says Christopher Stommel, President of Foresight Research, an industry research firm. “And if you can get them into a ride and drive while they are there, the show’s influence increases by nearly 30 percent.”

In fact, Foresight’s September survey of 5,500 recent U.S. new-car and -truck buyers revealed that auto shows are actually as effective in influencing buyers’ purchase decisions as social media and digital marketing. “Looking across metrics…it is evident that auto shows influence buyers because that’s one of the few places outside the dealership where they can see and experience newly introduced production vehicles as well as concept cars,” Stommel says. “Properly executed, that show experience can pay handsome dividends to any brand.”

Stacey Castle, Executive Director of the Central Valley New Car Dealers Association and producer of the Sacramento International Auto Show for over 15 years, agrees that auto shows provide the best return on investment to manufacturers. She says there is a consistent six-month spike in sales in the Sacramento market during and right after the annual auto show every year. “I know that the Super Bowl cars ads are sexy and the automotive sports sponsorships are exciting, but in my opinion, for actually directly influencing the sale of a vehicle, there is nothing that will ever compare to the auto show experience,” she says.

Forget the ‘Spin and Grin,’ Auto Shows Offer ‘Experiences’

In response, auto show experiences have gotten bigger and better than ever, offering a host of entertainment (hello, DJ Khaled), technology (virtual reality is particularly hot right now) and, of course, cars. Ride and drive experiences at auto shows are also growing in popularity and have become the “final piece in the car buying puzzle,” says Castle.

At this year’s Sacramento Auto Show, attendees were able to drive 50 different models on-site, Castle says. “While in this day and age of being able to look up almost every car detail on the internet, there is nothing that can replace the face-to-face interaction and the ability to get in the car and see how it feels.”

Manufacturers like Hyundai Motor America, which participates in 65 auto shows a year, put a lot of thought and effort into making sure attendees get a quality experience. “It’s the last marketing channel where consumers are paying to receive your message,” notes Erik Thomas, Senior Group Manager, Experiential Marketing for Hyundai Motor America. “If you think about it, people are finding ways these days to speed past commercials or watch TV in time, but in contrast to that, we’ve got people saying, ‘I want to go experience your brand and I’m willing to pay. I’m paying for parking, to bring my whole family to this experience.’ We know that consumers time and time again tell us that they have a great experience and that they learned something that they didn’t know.”

As a result of these attendee-centric experiences, auto shows from Philadelphia to Toronto to Hawaii are reporting record attendance. Foresight found that as of the 2015-2016 auto show season, attendance among actual buyers has increased 57 percent over 2012.

Digital Social and Face-to-Face Value

Today’s improved and interactive auto show experiences also drive social media impressions and, more importantly, convert into sales leads. “We did a research study based upon the launch of the 2018 Hyundai Sonata at the New York Auto Show, and basically we found …that not only the traditional media, but also the social media activity from an auto show, are highly effective at driving leads,” says Michael Stewart, Senior Group Manager of Corporate and Marketing Public Relations with Hyundai Motor America. “Traffic to our website grew with people asking for more information on the new products that are coming. So even from a press day or press conference standpoint, it’s even more effective than getting just higher level awareness. There are also a lot of benefits to driving interest and leads in those products.”

Auto shows are also a means to build a stronger relationship between manufacturers and the dealer network. “The goal at all times is not only to connect and have a dialogue with potential consumers, but to really drive them to the showroom where the dealers really know the product very well, can help with test drives, and ultimately, sell the product,” Thomas says. “They’re definitely a valued part of the process, and in many cases they will join us on the show floor but at all times, we have their interest in mind because the process starts with considering what the consumer wants and building the car all the way down to when it gets in their hands at the dealership level.”

While “the cars are the stars” at auto shows, according to Mark Scarpelli, President of Raymond Chevrolet and Raymond Kia in Antioch, Illinois, and co-owner of Ray Chevrolet and Ray Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Fox Lake, Illinois, local dealers are front and center at the shows and often serve as the face of the brand in their local communities. “Our company has been in business for over 60 years, so our reputation, our name, our goodwill is known in the community. We take any opportunity to show their [the manufacturers] brands as well as our brand, create goodwill and show product demonstrations. At the end of the day, the American consumer looks to their local car dealer who has the bricks-and-mortar, the state-of-the-art dealership facility, the service facility. We’re the factory to them. We’re the OEM. And we gladly accept that responsibility.”


By Jennifer Colman, ATAE President

For Denver, it’s about getting vocational students excited about the industry they’ll be a part of in the very near future. In D.C., the focus is on bringing together government officials from around the world to exchange ideas about emerging trends in transportation. In Philadelphia, it’s about helping kids stay warm in the winter.

For auto shows across the country, it’s about benefitting and improving their local communities any way they can – whether it’s energizing the local economy, contributing to the state and local tax base, giving to local charities, or building community goodwill.

It’s also about showcasing their cities to those who traveled near and far to attend the annual events. In fact, auto shows are an influential part of a city’s economic and tourism development landscape.

Driving Tourism in Philadelphia

For example, the Philadelphia Auto Show (Jan. 27-Feb. 4) is one of the largest auto shows in the country, has a regional economic impact of approximately $50 million, and influences $3.5 billion in consumer sales, according to Kevin Mazzucola of the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, the trade association representing 185 franchised new-car dealers in the five-county region.

The show is the largest consumer event in the Pennsylvania Convention Center every year, and attracts 250,000 guests annually who come to see the more than 700 vehicles showcased on the 700,000-square foot display floor—guests who might never attend an association conference or other industry-specific event held at the convention center, said John J. McNichol, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

“The Auto Show gives us the opportunity to show the building to the people who paid for it.  Since this is a public authority and it was paid for through taxpayer dollars, these are really critically important opportunities for the public to come in and enjoy the building that they built through their tax dollars,” said McNichol. “They [the auto dealers] create a very vibrant, energetic environment. There’s all these beautiful, shiny new vehicles coming into the building, and it creates a great environment for people to come in and actually enjoy the asset. That’s the real intangible—there are only a few times throughout the year when the building is truly open to the public to come in and enjoy the asset.”

Those 250,000 guests will also patronize the restaurants, bars and hotels in the downtown Philadelphia area, McNichol noted. “When they leave, they go over to our Reading Terminal Market, or they go over to one of the shows at one of our great theaters, or go to one of our great museums, or they may walk down to Independence Mall and enjoy the city in some other way. So it’s a great way to invite people down into city center to enjoy all Philadelphia has to offer,” he said. “Not only are they a gate show to try to market cars, and trying to do a good job for the manufacturers who exhibit here, but at the same time, they’re also selling Philadelphia, and that partnership is invaluable.”

Beyond the tourism benefits, the symbiotic relationship between the convention center and the Auto Show also benefits the city’s labor market. It takes 25,000 man hours to bring the show to life, Mazzucola noted. “It’s good jobs. Good work indoors in January in Philadelphia, I can assure you of that,” he chuckled.

McNichols agreed. “It’s a predictable piece of business. It keeps our workforce sharp, and they’re great partners. This auto show really gets it.”

Hitting the Gas on Jobs in Colorado

Creating jobs in the community and excitement around careers in the auto industry will be a big part of this year’s Denver Auto Show (April 4-8). “There’s a shortage of auto techs in dealerships, so we’ll have a job fair for auto techs and other positions in the dealerships,” explained Tim Jackson, director of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA), which puts on the show. Qualified applicants can sign up to meet and interview onsite with some of the 400 new-car and RV dealerships that make up Colorado’s auto industry.

The Denver Auto Show will also offer students at area community colleges and trade schools free entry to the show with the goal of getting this future workforce focused on the industry and the careers awaiting them. CADA works closely with Lincoln Tech Denver and Emily Griffith Technical College, which enrolls approximately 500 auto tech students at any given time, as well as Arapahoe Community CollegeAims Community CollegeFront Range Community College and Pikes Peak Community College.

CADA will also release its latest economic impact report ahead of this year’s show, which highlights the $60 million impact of the 2017 show on the seven-county Denver Metro Area economy. In addition, the show supported as many as 490 jobs in the local economy. “Sixty million dollars is a huge economic impact,” Jackson said. “That’s just the show itself as an event—people coming to town for the show and purchasing that $13 ticket. But people don’t just buy a ticket. They go to dinner. They’ll stay overnight, go to a movie, buy gifts and other items.”

The economic benefits extend beyond the five days of the show, Jackson noted. “Some will actually buy a car and that helps … quite a bit. Just the intenders that buy cars within the next 4-to-6 months after attending the show really elevate the economic impact of the show.”  In fact, the auto industry in Colorado, including new and used car sales and service, generates up to 22 percent of the total sales tax revenue for the state and local coffers.

Propelling Public Policy in D.C.

It’s probably not that surprising that an auto show in D.C. would attract a community of attendees steeped in (and sometimes even divided by) politics and policy. But the 2018 Washington Auto Show (Jan. 26-Feb. 4) was unique in that the show and its organizers have the explicit goal of actually encouraging debate and impacting federal policy.

The show, held in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, was preceded by two show-sponsored industry events: Public Policy Days and the MobilityTalks International Conference. Over the course of three days before the official show, industry leaders, global public policy makers and members of Congress gathered to discuss proposed and existing rules and laws governing the automotive industry. “The focus of the conference is to bring together worldwide regulators from car-producing nations to have a peer-to-peer exchange of best practices, because nobody really knows what the rules are for driverless cars,” said John O’Donnell, president of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association. “We made history with the first Senate field hearing in D.C., as well as the first at an auto show (the Senate Commerce Committee), … We followed it up the very next day by hosting a Senate Energy Committee hearing on site.”

The added events also help bring in additional D.C. visitors, which satisfies the city’s convention and tourism organizations. “We do have a very significant economic impact on the city,” O’Donnell explained. “We also suffer from the pressure to produce heads-in-beds, which is satisfied in large part by MobilityTalks International. We’re now getting international travelers as well as those from all over the U.S. coming to D.C. to attend this conference because we have that public policy niche.”

Giving Back

Across the board, all auto shows help build communities and give generously to local charities. The Philadelphia Auto Show has donated more than 315,000 coats to local children who need them the most through its Auto Dealers CARing for Kids Foundation and More Than Auto Dealers initiative. Since 1986, the organization has also donated $7.5 million in proceeds from their pre-Auto Show “Black Tie Tailgate” event to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Similarly, the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association has created its Clear the Air Foundation, which strives to lessen the amount of pollution emitted by old or improperly maintained vehicles on Colorado’s roads. A portion of the proceeds from the Denver Auto Show’s preview gala benefit Clear the Air and the Denver Post Community Foundation. This year’s event is expected to raise more than $300,000.

The Washington Auto Show, meanwhile, turned over 8,000-square feet of exhibition space to D.C.-area street artists for the 3rd annual ART-of-Motion exhibit by Automotive Rhythms. Designers painted vehicles and murals in real time for show-goers to experience. The Auto Show organizers also teamed up with to host LGBTQ Family Night with an after-party hosted by Toyota and Lexus.

Auto Shows and Cities: An Interconnected Community

No doubt cities get the benefit of positive publicity whenever an auto show takes over a convention center, as well as the direct economic impact, which is often massive. The recent Detroit Auto Show is expected to “have an estimated economic impact of $480 million to the regional economy—the equivalent to holding nearly two NFL Super Bowls a year in Detroit,” according to The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

But while the financial benefits are significant, the impact of auto shows across the country is perhaps even more impactful for the communities they serve.

“We look at the Philadelphia Show as an institution and we are the curators of that institution,” said Mazzucola. “We know how important it is to the dealers. We know how important it is to the manufacturers. But [ultimately], we know how important it is to the consumer and the attendees here in the greater Philadelphia area.”

GAC Motor President Yu Jun: We are seeking to develop partnerships with more dealers through NADA.

By Charles Cyrill, NADA, Director of Public Relations

GAC Motor, China’s fastest-growing automaker, is among 550 companies exhibiting at the sold-out expo during the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show 2018, which runs March 22-25 in Las Vegas.

“We hope we can lay a solid foundation for the future sales network through seeking potential partners and hearing advice from friendly and effective communications with experienced dealers,” said Yu Jun, president of GAC Motor, commenting on what the automaker hopes to accomplish at the NADA Show.

GAC plans to display three to five premium models, including the 7-seat midsize GS8 and the minivan GM8, Jun added.

“The first model to enter the U.S. market is expected to be the changed GS8 model,” Jun said. “GAC Motor is planning to bring more products to the U.S. market in view of the market conditions and consumers’ preference in the future.”

In terms of selecting the number of dealerships and its sales channels, Jun said the automaker is still conducting surveys and developing its action plans.

“We are considering various plans for sales channels, and cooperating with dealers will be a main direction,” he added. “We are seeking to develop partnerships with more dealers at NADA.”

GAC plans to enter the U.S. market in the fourth quarter of 2019.

“We also believe products with high quality are the foundation to gain the trust of American market,” Jun added. “GAC Motor is well prepared to embrace the challenges on our way to the U.S. market, which might come from aspects such as quality, technology and R&D.”

The other automakers exhibiting at the NADA Show (formerly the NADA Convention & Expo) are Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Mitsubishi Motors North America, Subaru of America and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.

The expo at the NADA Show – which occupies more than 740,000 sq. ft. at the Las Vegas Convention Center – is open on Friday, March 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Click here for the complete list of exhibitors at NADA Show 2018.