Created on Friday, 21 January 2011
This week marked the opening of the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, officially called the North American International Auto Show, at the Cobo Centre in downtown Detroit.
In the past two decades, auto shows have become an important barometer of our industry, and an excellent showcase for automakers to present their latest passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks and concept cars, and to announce future plans and products.
Two years ago, the global economic recession caused some manufacturers to skip the auto shows or tone down their participation. Some pundits even predicted the end of these shows. This year, it's quite a different story, as automakers have recommitted to these events.
I've attended many auto shows in North America, and I've generally been impressed with the organization, manufacturer participation and overall attendance. But readers will forgive a certain bias in my declaration that the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto is my favourite of the major shows in North America (ahead of Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.)
This is not meant as a slight against any of those U.S. shows. The Detroit show, which earned "international" designation in the late 1980s, is viewed as one of the major auto shows, attracting visitors and journalists from all over the globe.
But in terms of size and scope, the Detroit show and its venue need to be put into perspective. Visitors can usually view all of the vehicles on display within two or three hours. Plus, it's not the most accessible place to visit by public transit.
By contrast, the Toronto show, with more display space, requires at least a full day to do it justice, and dozens of exhibits and features are available for viewing that are not present south of the border.
The Toronto show, too, has plenty of room for peripheral displays, such as our Cruise National classic car display or manufacturer-sponsored, real-time vehicle experiences. And the Toronto show is easily accessible by vehicle or public transit.
This year, manufacturers are booking more space at all major shows. Indeed, there is a rosy optimism in the air among carmakers, dealers and consumers, and it's infectious.
From two years ago until today, the North American auto sector has shown remarkable resiliency and improvement. General Motors is solidly profitable again. Chrysler increased its market share in 2010 and is expected to post a profit in 2011. Ford grew its market share for the second straight year and now is second only behind Toyota. Nor can the dramatic growth of the Korean brands in North America be overlooked.
For those in the market for a new vehicle and for auto enthusiasts of all ages, make a point of attending the Toronto show (Canada's largest consumer show) in February. You don't have to travel to Detroit to see the latest and greatest industry revelations.
The Toronto show (autoshow.ca), which takes place Feb. 18-27 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, is produced by the Toronto Automobile Dealers Association.
I'll have more to say about our show in an upcoming column. Stay tuned!