History of the LA Auto Show: Pretty Girls to Aston Martin

James Raia

One of the product represents of the 2012 LA Auto Show.

New and shimmering, value priced to vastly expensive, the auto industry shines when its machines are showcased on the yearly auto show circuit, particularly at the LA Auto Show. Under bright lights and spinning platforms, cars and trucks just don’t get any more awe-inspiring — unless it’s from behind the wheel.

Nearly every carmaker, Audi to Volkswagen and Bentley to Volvo, displays its lineups at auto shows. Electric vehicles, family sedans, performance sports cars and futuristic concepts all have their place in auto shows from Los Angeles to Tokyo. It’s as if the vehicles are presented to the media and public for at least a week by one giant indoor dealership representing all manufacturers.

Held throughout the year in major cities and in smaller communities, auto shows provide manufacturers free reign. Carmakers tout their models with their best marketing strategies to consumers seeking to help the environment, get better gas mileage, impress friends, upgrade, downsize and stay connected to the ever-advancing technology world.

One of the product represents of the 2012 LA Auto Show.
One of the product represents of the 2012 LA Auto Show. Images © James Raia/2012.

In some ways, not much has changed since 1900 when auto shows debuted in North America in New York. The new models attracted large crowds then and they present a wondrous overdose of automotive decadence now.

But there’s also a problem. Where do you go first? Should you check out the concept cars — the sometimes over-the-top, one-off machines that may never be sold to the public? Do you go directly to Ferrari or Lamborghini? Do you focus on the manufacturers’ hostesses (now called product specialists), who stand near the cars, pose for pictures and provide insight. It’s all a great dilemma.

The LA Auto Show, scheduled Nov. 22-Dec. 1 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, commences the season of major shows in North America. Detroit, Chicago and New York follow as major circuit stops and there’s an auto show somewhere — Fresno, California, to Madison, Wisconsin, — nearly every week of the year.

“LA is extremely important because it sets the tone for the whole year,” said Scott Brown, a Chrysler spokesman. “The California buyer is demanding so we have to put our best foot forward when it comes to vehicles, displays and the talent that works the show. This will be the first time people in LA will have a chance to see up close the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and the Dodge Durango.”

A  shiny new Aston Martin at the 2012 LA Auto Show.
A shiny new Aston Martin at the 2012 LA Auto Show.

The auto shows in Los Angeles and Detroit debuted in 1907, seven years after the concept began in the United States. About 10,000 attendees, each paying $.50, showed up at Madison Square Garden for a weeklong auto show. The main reason for the surprisingly large crowd was overt curiosity for one specific car — the prototype of the “runabout,” presented by Ransom Eli Olds. The Olds Motor Vehicle Company of Lansing, Mich., was the first U.S. automaker to build cars in volume and it manufactured 425 Oldsmobiles from 1897 to 1901.

The LA Auto Show attracts car-specific fans, but how and why manufactures approach the show isn’t always easy to determine. Two years ago, Aston Martin, the luxury British sports car manufacturer, had its own small viewing hall. But in 2012, a more appealing Aston Martin display was tucked into a small corner space.

It didn’t attract much attention on the first day, but it was fascinating since one of the original Aston Martins driven by James Bond in the enduring film series was on display alongside new models. Several display cases of the movies’ now-antiquated weaponry and gadgets were also shown. And it was all there to help celebrate the brand’s 50th anniversary association with the famed films.

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


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