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A Quick Guide to Car Shopping (Hint: Attend a Car Show)

Published July 15, 2021


Abram Olmstead, Profile Photo, 2021

Abram Olmstead

Senior Director, Digital Media

Looking for a low-pressure, experiential environment where you can explore the latest and greatest cars or trucks that the auto industry has to offer? Then without a doubt your first stop should be your local auto show.

While there are many places where people can do their car research, the auto show is still the place where potential customers can get up close to the vehicle and compare the different brands. “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,” auto dealer and 2019 NADA Chairman Charlie Gilchrist noted.

In every market, Auto Shows only happen once a year. There is no better place or time to compare, shop and see all the new vehicles, all in one space. 

In fact, pre-COVID, an average 11 million Americans went to their local show every year, according to Forrester Research, with seven out of 10 of those attendees saying they were in the market for a new car. 

And, just as COVID-19 has changed the way auto dealers do business and sell cars, auto shows have evolved and adapted to meet increased consumer demand to purchase vehicles and the desire for an in-person experience.

Attendee safety is the top priority, with auto show organizers adopting enhanced cleaning and safety protocols. “Bringing auto shows back for our industry is a big deal and consumers are absolutely ready,” said Jenn Jackson, Chair of Auto Shows of North America (ASNA) and Executive Director of Greater Charlotte Auto Dealers Association.

This year’s Twin Cities Auto Show moved from the 40,000-square-feet Minnesota Convention Center to an outdoor event at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. “We’re using that big footprint of the Fairgrounds, which is 322 acres,” Scott Lambert, President of the Greater Metropolitan Automobile Dealers Association of Minnesota told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press just days before the May event. “We’re really doing the most we can with it.”

Bringing the EV Experience to the Public

Another auto show trend is the focus on educating consumers on the latest electric vehicle (EVs) technology and getting them comfortable behind the wheel. “There is a strong argument to be made that auto shows will be even more critical in coming years,” said Christopher Stommel, President of Foresight Research. “The industry has to convince consumers to buy the battery electric vehicles (BEVs) already churning out of factories.”

The 2021 New York International Auto Show features an entire floor of the Javits Center dedicated to electric vehicles. The EV Hall includes five indoor test tracks to give show attendees the opportunity to experience first-hand the feeling of an all-electric vehicle or a micro-mobility option such as an e-bike or an e-scooter. Nine OEMs will participate in this multi-brand EV demonstration.

The Twin Cities Auto Show featured an “Electric Vehicle Neighborhood” where attendees could learn and experience what’s new with electric vehicles, technologies, cost savings and home charging. An Xcel Energy’s EV garage gave consumers a hands-on experience to show how easy it is to charge and electric vehicle at home. Attendees could also test drive an electric vehicle in the Fairground’s streets.

“In a modern world when dealerships increasingly fall at the end of the shopping process – if not avoided entirely – where can large numbers of consumers intimately experience, be educated about and get comfortable with BEVs?,” Stommel said.

Just when you thought you knew exactly what your next vehicle was going to be, another option will catch your attention out of the corner of your eye or a seat will fit you just perfectly. That is the power of an Auto Show. It ensures your next big purchase will leave you without any regret.