Published on Friday, 24 August 2012
In the 1950s and 1960s, new-car introductions were a highly anticipated experience. Dealerships went to great lengths to make the unveiling of a new model an event worth celebrating.
Each fall, showroom windows were papered over to keep new models under wraps. Special “introduction” evenings were hosted, where guests were given a sneak preview of models that had been hinted at for months. Dealership staff and guests often wore formal attire to mark the occasion.
The idea of launching new models in the fall is rumoured to have begun with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression in the 1930s. It’s believed that he encouraged automakers to introduce cars in October as a way of stimulating the economy.
In 1953-’54, President Dwight Eisenhower revived that idea — again to stimulate a poor economy. From the mid-1950s until the late 1990s, automakers followed this pattern of launching new models in the fall, for economic, marketing and practical purposes.
In the past decade or so, automakers have altered the timelines of new-model introductions. So much planning, preparation and strategy goes into each new model that automakers now introduce vehicles throughout the calendar year, in order to seize a competitive advantage (such as “best in class” or “highest safety ranking”).
For customers, the advantage of buying next year’s model before the end of the current calendar year is significant. The depreciation on a vehicle, which typically begins at the start of the model year, is effectively delayed.
In years past, dealerships, automakers and the media have all played critical roles in creating publicity whenever new models roll into the showrooms. That level of excitement and enthusiasm still exists but, over the decades, the fanfare has become somewhat muted.
This is understandable, given the advent of the Internet and the explosion of information technologies. These days, it’s harder to maintain a sense of secrecy or urgency about new models than it was decades ago.
By the time a new model hits the showroom, the public has already had opportunities to view videos and/or read reviews online. Sometimes reviews and photos are leaked to the press before marketing materials have been released.
This can provide added mystique and anticipation ahead of an official release date, but it can also prove embarrassing if reviewers are critical about certain features (whether they are design-, safety- or performance-related).
The Internet also plays a role in how new models are introduced. YouTube, Facebook and other websites are some of the platforms automakers use to launch new models before they arrive in showrooms.
One of the most popular venues for new-model introductions is at international auto shows. Car makers routinely choose auto shows in Toronto, Los Angeles, Detroit, Toyko or Paris to introduce new models because of the high level of consumer engagement and media exposure.
If you want to know when a new model will be introduced at your local dealership, contact them directly. Online forums, manufacturer websites and online publications are also great sources of information about release dates.
The availability of new models is often determined by supply and demand. Not all dealerships receive the same number of new vehicles. Dealers earn their vehicle availability based on previous sales: the more vehicles they sell, the more inventory they receive. Sometimes, demand for new models is so strong that availability becomes an issue.
If you are as passionate about cars as I am, the arrival of a new model (especially if it’s a new entrant or a completely re-designed model), is still something worth celebrating — even without the papered-over showroom windows.