Cleveland Auto Show not experiencing industry shift like others; event starts Feb. 22

February 17, 2019

Cleveland Auto Show not experiencing industry shift like others; event starts Feb. 22

CLEVELAND, Ohio - At a time when some national auto shows are struggling with major industry shifts, the head of the Cleveland Auto Show is banking on a no-change-needed approach to success for next week’s century-old annual show.

Louis A. Vitantonio, president of the Cleveland Auto Show and the Cleveland Auto Dealers Association, said the Cleveland Auto Show, at the I-X Center, is now considered among the top seven auto shows in the nation based on attendance. It’s regional, but unlike the top four national shows, he says it’s not a show that’s dealing with challenges like luxury automakers dropping out, or the decision to shift from winter annual shows to summer as Detroit is doing in 2020.

The top four shows are in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago. They’re shows that attract car manufacturers interested in media coverage to unveil new models in a crowded forum, while Cleveland’s is very different.

“They’re not competing for media here, they’re competing for sales. It’s a different type of show,” Vitantonio said of the annual show that attracts several hundred-thousand people each year. The show marks the start of the spring selling season in Northeast Ohio with about 850 pre-production and production vehicles on display.

“For the last 10 years, March has been the No. 1 selling month in the Cleveland/Akron market. We compare ourselves to other regional shows,” he said.

An independent study of 15 markets including Kansas City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York, shows that from 2010 to 2017 Cleveland was the No. 1 market for new vehicle sales, according to IHS Markit. The study was sponsored by the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers Association.

Nathan Lancry, owner of BMW of Akron, Jay Buick GMC and Jay Honda, and Volkswagen of Akron, says he’s participated in at least 20 auto shows in Cleveland and Detroit since the early 1990s.

As a dealership owner, he sees first-hand benefits from a business owner’s perspective.

“We see a surge in our business in the month of March as a result of the auto show because many Northeast Ohioans wait for the auto show to begin their car search.”

“The auto show is an incredible opportunity for people to have the ability to take their time to discover their future driving needs under one roof,” Lancry said. “The auto show delivers a degree of excitement toward the car-buying process.”

Chicago’s February show has always been a consumer show, showcasing cars that have already premiered, but this year BMW and Mercedes-Benz were not present, according to media reports.

Vitantonio said that recent media coverage about the Detroit Auto Show moving from January to June next year, after at least 50 years is not a factor for Cleveland. Audi, among the latest to bolt Detroit, will be in Cleveland next week, along with many American manufacturers and luxury brands.

“We’ve got representation from Cadillac, a company that has not participated in some other shows, Maserati, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, BMW, Infiniti, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo,” he said.

The Detroit News has reported that automakers are increasingly opting to unveil new cars and trucks at their own special events where they don’t have to share the spotlight, or at tech events where more of the Silicon Valley news media is present. Several European premium carmakers pulled out of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last year including BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover and Mini Cooper.

The Cleveland Auto Show opens to the public Friday, Feb. 22, and runs through Sunday, March 3. Parking is free, courtesy of area new vehicle dealers.

Michelle Primm, managing partner, of the Cascade Auto Group which sells Audi, Mazda and Subaru, said the Cleveland Auto Show show is vitally important to her company’s success.

“There is always a huge bump in sales during and immediately after the show, but our staff will also talk to customers months from now who started their shopping process during the Cleveland Auto Show,” she said.

“There is a difference between a Hollywood style show and a show for true customers. We needed a grass roots effort to convince one of our manufacturers not to decrease their presence here as in other “major” shows. It’s about getting our product in front of the hundreds of thousands of Northeastern Ohioans that attend the show. For Cascade, it’s our 50th year serving the region, and our manufacturers recognize we know what’s important to customers.”

The Cleveland Auto Show started in February 1903. That year, the event was held at Gray’s Armory in downtown Cleveland, featuring 15 locally-made automobiles, and several other manufacturer exhibits from cities throughout the country.

The show has changed a lot in the past 10 decades, now lasting for 10 days and attracting thousands of people. Highlights include the ability to test-drive about a dozen brands by eight manufacturers at the show.

This year, the Cleveland Auto Show and the Northern Ohio Honda Dealers are giving away two, 36-month leases, one for each vehicle, to grand-prize winners the last day of the show. Each day of the show, one finalist will be chosen and invited back on Sunday, March 3, so finalists odds of winning are one in five this year.

One of the most popular family attractions of the show is the Classic Car Show where 75 local owners show off their vehicles that are 25 years and older. The show in the South Hall, will include “Best of Show” and “People’s Choice” awards.

At Camp Jeep and RAM test track attendees will be able to ride along as professional drivers put vehicles through a series of obstacles that include the RAM test track and Jeep Mountain. At Millionaire’s Row participants will get the chance to see vehicles worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, up close.

Show hours are: from 5-10 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, which is opening night; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, March 1 and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays, and 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. from Monday through Thursday.

Tickets are available online at clevelandautoshow.com. Admission for adults is $14 while seniors and pre-teens aged 7 to 12 get in for $12. Children 6 and under get in free.