That being said, I will be the first person to admit that I am not exactly a car junkie. At all. In reality, I’m more drawn in by the sparkle and special effects of the Auto Show, but who says that doesn’t count? I’m a car driver, too, and I am not going to be offended if one of the Big Three tricks me into liking their new prototype by painting it some bold shade of Magenta. I’m really not that complicated.
So, as a common spectator (i.e., someone who thinks that all cars start to look the same when you’ve been looking at them for three hours), what takeaways have I gathered after visiting my third consecutive auto show?
When it comes to the NAIAS, advertising is just as big as the cars themselves. The massive displays, the eye-catching signage—and how about all of those LED screens? It’s just the right dose of marketing overload. And how, exactly, do you mount a Corvette to the side of a wall? Mind blown, guys.
The biggest marketing genius, perhaps, comes from the amazing interactivity between manufacturers and prospective customers. Step into COBO during Auto Show week, and within minutes, you’ll find yourself at some type of computer or experience-driven “ride” that takes you to dream-car land and picks your brain for every type of preference you have as an automobile-buying consumer. Sure, it’s fun—and it should be. But it’s absolutely brilliant, too, because everyone will be talking about “that awesome Ford display” they saw last weekend and stashing away armloads of Jeep catalogues to pore over when they get home. And the commercials going on in the background? Forget about it. We see how you caught the attention of moms everywhere with that spot about toting around the kid who’d rather throw his clothes out the window than wear them, Subaru. Nicely played.
We All Secretly Want to be Brand Spokespeople
Are they models, or PR reps in disguise? All we know about these beautiful people with the sparkly clothes is that they’re really excited about cars, and they’re really good at standing on revolving platforms in sky-high heels. Yes, they know all the new product features and specs, but at the same time, we’re wondering where they got those awesome jackets and whether or not they all attend the same spin class.We Love Looking at Things We Will Probably Never Own
Concept cars. Professional race cars. Cars that don’t really resemble cars at all, but are fun to look at. Most of us would agree that unusual vehicles are usually flashy, ahead of the curve, and worthy of making us drool just a little as we stand staring at them, our mouths agape. We love looking into the future, and we love looking at things we can’t have. Unfortunately, this can set us up for a little bit of a letdown when we go back to our everyday commute in our ho-hum automobiles, but it does let us dream a little. And I guess it’s possible that if some of us befriend billionaires—or Jeff Gordon—sometime in the near future, riding in one of these space-age machines could become a reality one day.
If You’re a People-Person, You Won’t Be For Long
I like people. Really, I do. But when you’ve got thousands of human beings packed into one arena, clamoring to see the latest and greatest of what the automobile world has to offer, you start to resent them a little bit. Trying to take a picture? There are ten people lying on the hood of every car, and it’s an unspoken rule that every time you make your way to the front of the crowd, an unknowing meanderer will wander right in front of you, blocking the perfect photo you waited so long to capture. Yes, they’ll eventually leave, but by that time, the car will have rotated on its spinning platform to showcase its best angles to another section of the crowd. By the time it comes back around, a six-foot-tall man will step right in front of your five-foot-three self to disrupt yet another photo session. Alas, pictures are only for the fortunate. Or the extremely patient.
Tote bags, buttons, even postcards you never plan on sending—we all love getting free things. True, most of us will never be able to use five thousand reusable grocery sacks, but just having something to show for our event attendance is reward enough. The trick, however, is being fortunate enough to find these complimentary goodies. This year, I was particularly interested in the miniature bags from Tesla and some yellow sunglasses I saw floating around (I never did find out which brand was passing them out). More often than not, these things are handed out in waves, so supplies run out very quickly. But never fear, there are always plenty of full-color print booklets to take home as souvenirs—but make sure to bring your own bag to carry them in . . . just in case.
Overall, I’m still fairly new to the Auto Show scene—if you’re a long-time attendee who would like to share your impressions of the NAIAS or provide pointers to first-time visitors, comment with your tips below!