We are in the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, and it continues to affect major auto shows. Some were completely cancelled, such as shows in New York and Geneva, while other shows in Chicago and Detroit were significantly reduced in different forms. When we plan to report on the LA Show, we again expect something meager, because only four mainstream OEMs are holding press conferences, and the rest of the time is filled by small startups. But it turns out that the conference center is almost open as usual.
Of course, there are still signs that the world is still a bit chaotic. Masks are required throughout the conference center. Participants must present a vaccination certificate or a negative Covid test before entering. A stranger’s decision was not to provide name tags to minimize contact between employees and attendees. This led to a lot of awkward glances, as we all tried to figure out who was behind each other’s masks. Therefore, James Riswick and I brought our own brand names.
But putting it aside, there is nothing unusual. As in previous years, these exhibits are distributed in the same main hall. Unlike Chicago, everything was assembled before the media arrived. Even without some major manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Honda, Mazda and Volvo, each hall is full. Technically, the last three have displays, but only because their Galpin dealer puts something together. At the beginning of the press conference, each exhibition was crowded with reporters pouring into adjacent booths. If you don’t show up at least five minutes before the meeting, you will stare at people’s heads and the back of the camera.
But the fact that there is major new news is the main sign that things are returning to normal. Hyundai and Kia have brought gorgeous electric concepts. Subaru launched the production Solterra (rebranded Toyota bZ4X), and Fisker provided more details about its Ocean electric SUV. These are just large automakers holding press conferences. Porsche introduced a series of new models, some of which performed poorly. Dodge reveals a more powerful Hellcat. Nissan showed off Rogue’s new engine and Ariya’s pricing, and it turned out that its interior is quite good. Even automakers that did not officially attend showed off exhibition-related things, such as the Acura Integra one week in advance and the Mazda CX-50 in the same week.
This also only involves veteran car manufacturers. Start-up companies caused a sensation, especially Fisker and VinFast. The latter is a Vietnamese electric car manufacturer whose cars are designed by Pininfarina, and their displays are as big as any large original equipment manufacturer.
The fact that the Los Angeles Auto Show was as normal and attended by a large number of participants during the pandemic gives us hope, and the rumors that the auto show has died have been greatly exaggerated. As James Riswick pointed out keenly, the show still has great benefits for everyone involved. For automakers, this is an opportunity to share the cost of getting the media to participate in the event to report. For reporters, this is an opportunity to get close to the new car, and more importantly, to talk to executives, engineers, and other people without being constrained by a company’s hours of demonstration. This is an opportunity for consumers to experience the product without being tracked by dealers eager to get you in the car, any car, Nowadays.
Of course, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the future (we did mention the pandemic, right?). We won’t be surprised if we still see strange cancellations next year. After all, Geneva has cancelled 2022. But we think the auto show season will continue to rebuild until next year. In a year or two, we may even see them at pre-pandemic levels.