EAST NORRITON >> Is your “next” a torqued-up, tire-melting icon of speed and style, a granola-crunching power train, or a hard-working, two-ton pickup truck?
If your next dream machine isn’t waiting for your blessing at the Philadelphia Auto Show — which runs Jan. 31 through Feb. 8 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center — well, they just haven’t made it yet.
The yearly extravaganza of the shiniest and high-tech-iest sheet metal on the planet thunders back into town with the same easygoing motto as last year because, frankly, “Find Your Next” still had some gas in the tank, noted Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia (ADAGP), the East Norriton-based producers of the show.
“In the past, the themes were to signify the expansion of the show,” said Mazzucola, at the ADAGP offices on Swede Road. “We had ‘Bigger, Better, Bolder’ a few years ago, but for this year, when we started looking at what the marketplace was doing, ‘Find Your Next’ resonated another year. More than ever, people are utilizing the Auto Show to find their ‘next’ because of the expansion of a marketplace that has gone from 10.4 million vehicles in 2009 to 16.4 vehicles in 2014. That’s an unprecedented increase in sales for the industry. So, it’s more important than ever to leverage something that is so unique in the marketplace like the Philadelphia Auto Show.”
With Mazzucola behind the wheel of the country’s fourth largest auto show, you can count on the show emitting some of the sweetest “new car smells” in its 114-year history this year, as visitors get a close-up gander of some 700 vehicles from 40 manufacturers on display under one roof.
“There’s nothing like an auto show and what that provides to the consumer in their decision process, where you can see, feel, touch, and have the kids come with you and see how they fit in that minivan or SUV,” Mazzucola said. “You can’t do that in any other medium, and that’s what makes the show so special.”
While the king of the hill, the Detroit Auto Show, is a media-driven global spectacle, Philadelphia’s niche in the auto show world is decidedly blue-collar, Mazzucola said.
“Detroit is the mother of all shows because of its locale, and Philly is a blue-collar show in the business sense of people leveraging it for the decision process in buying a vehicle. That’s what the manufacturers know the Philly show as. It’s important for them when the rubber meets the road of actually having an impact on the market. And that’s a great thing to be. That’s our sweet spot, what we’re known for in the industry and what we’re proud of.”
Roughly 40 percent of all people who attend the show are planning to buy a vehicle in the next 12 months, Mazzucola noted.
“We found that out through exit surveys. Manufacturers are spending millions of dollars to be in the show and we’re able to show them a return on their investment and their impact on the consumer as they leave the show.”
The Philadelphia Auto Show potentially sends more prospective buyers into area dealership showrooms than any of the more hyped shows in Detroit, New York or L.A., influencing nearly a third in sales in the Philadelphia market, Mazzucola added. “Nearly everyone at the show says the show was a strong influence on their purchasing decision. What’s interesting in the show is that when you have an expanding marketplace like this, consumers confirm their choice like smart shopper, ‘that’s the car for me,’ or they’ll say ‘I really like X, but let me look at Y; I never considered that.’ And that may not have happened with a TV commercial, and it’s very difficult to do going dealership to dealership. The show is a unique simplistic way in which to help make their purchasing decision, and everything we do in the show is dedicated for that, whether it’s the free program book that has all the vehicles sold in the country, a price structure option, to the website, phillyautoshow.com, that is totally geared for the consumer to get information about any vehicle they would want, and also where they can locate a dealer ... to the way we structure the show: midsize sedans grouped together, luxury vehicles all together.”
This year the ultimate candy store for those who are sweet on cars will give visitors a sneak peek at pre-production gems like the Lincoln MKX, Fiat 500X and Buick Cascada, in addition to 2015 beauties such as the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Coupe, Lexus NX, Dodge Challenger Hellcat and Jeep Renegade.
Now a perennial favorite, Camp Jeep hits the floor bigger than ever, with the added attraction of Camp Jeep Kids Course, with kid-sized Jeeps available for the younger set.
“They’re really seeing an interest in Jeep with their display at the show,” Mazzucola said. “It’s filled to the gill this year with cool stuff.”
The popular “Ride and Drive,” featuring Kia and Toyota models, throttles forward into its fifth year, offering outdoor test drives.
“The importance of the Ride and Drive is taking the next step, actually getting people into the vehicles and driving the highways and byways of Philadelphia,” Mazzucola noted.
And it’s all accomplished without any undue pressure to buy, of course.
“That’s the beauty of the show, that people can take as long as they like to look at any vehicle with no pressure selling,” Mazzucola pointed out.
Fueled by the popularity of a classic Face-Off between Mustang and Camaro three years ago — America’s pony car won — the show shifts the feuding into high gear with a global battle, pitting Domestics from Ford and General Motors against Imports like Porsche, Audi and BMW.
Auto Show attendees can cast their votes on site or using the Philadelphia Auto Show app. On behalf of the car clubs involved, the Philadelphia Auto Show folks will split a $2,000 donation between Toys for Tots and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
“We’ve moved the Face-Off to main show floor because people love it so much,” Mazzucola said.