History of the LA Auto Show: Chrysler to Concepts

James Raia

Volkswagen Peanut: Concept Car at 2012 LA Auro Show.

The LA Auto Show in 2012 attracted slightly more than 1 million visitors. They viewed 42 car brands, American mainstays General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to international heavyweights Honda, Toyota, Audi and Hyundai. Organizers have announced more than 50 global and North American debuts from nearly a dozen manufacturers for the 2013 edition and with a promise to “Blow Your Doors Off.”

The multiple concourse convention center showcase is in the hub of the Southern California entertainment scene. Concerts and major sporting events are held nearby during the show at LA Live entertainment monolith and nearby Staples Center. For the past several years, the Moroccan-styled Figueroa Hotel, a few blocks away, has hosted the show’s kickoff party. Last year, while mermaids swam in the hotel pool, comedian/actor/musician Jack Black performed before a raucous crowd with his band Tenacious D.

It’s new cars, of course, that attract the most attention. But in auto show tradition, there’s also vast interest in “concept cars.” They range from unrealistic designs to models close to what the manufacturers will soon offer but featured in slightly different designs just to test the public interest. No concept car attracted more attention at last year’s LA Auto Show than the wing-sprouting Smart Car created by controversial apparel designer Jeremy Scott. The Mini was nothing short of a fiberglass mythological creature on wheels.

Volkswagen Peanut: Concept Car at 2012 LA Auro Show.
Volkswagen Peanut: Concept Car at 2012 LA Auro Show. Images © James Raia/2012

“Concepts provide a glimpse into the future for vehicle design,” said Miles Johnson, a Hyundai spokesman. “They allow us to gauge customer and media reaction to future designs and design cues. Concepts allow us to introduce new ideas like eye-tracking technology and 3-D Gesture Recognition.”

Concepts attract customers, but not as many as arguably the most enduring tradition of auto shows other than new vehicles — product specialists. Although some men present the cars or offer narration, product specialists are primarily women and they’re an integral part of manufacturers’ presence.

“Product Specialists and Narrators are extremely important to us,” said Chrysler’s Brown. “They are the face of Chrysler to the general public and have a huge influence on customers as they go through the shopping process at an auto show.  Everyone who represents Chrysler at an auto show goes through a very vigorous training program before they are allowed on the show floor.”‘

For more information, visit: www.laautoshow.com.

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