This weekend my father, brother in law, a friend, and I will be traveling to Toronto for the 2015 Canadian International Autoshow. We have done this even more or less every year for at least the last decade. We did miss 2014, but 2013 was highly publicized. For me the autoshow is a great place to go and look at cars that I dream of, but will never own, and cars that I’m considering owning in the near future. It’s always been a fun clash of fantasy and reality. Many of the automotive media have their own spreads and “must sees” at the autoshow, things I take into consideration, but what guides my list is personal preferences, biases, and my current season in life. Not that these people have the highlights wrong, they’re just not me. Or you. We all go to the autoshow with certain goals in mind, certain cars we want to see, and certain vehicle types we want to “test out”.
Autoshows are an ideal place to indulge in a combination of your automotive fantasies and real life needs, because it gives you two things dealerships can’t: Accessibility and freedom.
Accessibility is one of the biggest gifts autoshows grant to their attendees. Normally the likes of Porsche, BMW, Audi, and other elites are beyond the reach of your everyday person. We see them in magazines, on TV shows, and on the streets, but looking into one is another thing all together. Auto makers bring the latest, best, and brightest their fleets have to offer to the autoshow. These cars, with some exceptions, are open for the public to sit, play, and imagine. The only times I’ve ever enjoyed sitting in my dream Porsches or Audis have been at the Canadian International Autoshow. Dealerships for these brands aren’t often friendly places for folks like me; some are downright unpleasant. Because there are so many people looking at so many models, it’s difficult for sales people at autoshows to pick and choose who can see inside cars. It allows me to get the feel for what it’s like, for a fleeting moment, to own a six figure luxury sedan. Or what it’s like to sit in legends like the Range Rover. You also make discoveries: Like how little leg room there really is in the back of a Porsche 911. Have you seen those rear seats? More like small throw cushions, it’s hilarious.
Being able to get up close and personal with cars of your dreams is what makes autoshows. I’m sure less than 1% of the attendees will ever come close to owning these cars. Those that do aren’t likely to be checking them out at the autoshow. Naturally, if the allure of shiny metal and plush leather doesn’t draw you, the car show isn’t for everybody. It can, at times, also be a small form of torture for daydreamers like me.
A second element of accessibility, which is more unique to myself, provided by autoshows is how many cars I can review in one go. Because I’m not employed by any automotive media (yet), I don’t have regular access to vehicles. Aside from the wonderful generosity of a couple dealerships, my fleet of test vehicles is quite limited. What the autoshow does, then, is allow me access to most cars in nearly all manufacturer’s fleet. At once. For a wanna be auto writer, this is a bit of a sensory overload. There isn’t enough time in a day to get to every car and check it out in enough detail to glean a review from. At best you can get a “first look” type review. But you can get a brief review of dozens of cars at once. The challenge is keeping your wits, and your notes, in good order while you browse. So much information easily combines itself in your mind, and cars soon begin to blend and form together. I think this year I will focus on a few key cars, make notes, and blog later! I’m sorry in advance to my travel mates. This may make car browsing slow and boring.
Another key element which autoshows provide is freedom. While accessibility and freedom are similar in their meanings, they’re different in their applications. This freedom is the freedom to browse cars you’re seriously interested in, for real life applications, without the pressure or intrusiveness of a dealer salesperson. It can be very difficult to give a vehicle a once over when you have a sales person leaning over your shoulder. It’s even more difficult when you’re trying to do the responsible thing and compare this model with its competition. Often times getting access to the cars at dealership requires interaction/intervention with a sales rep. While comparison shopping, I feel like I’m wasting everyone’s time: the salesperson, who could be helping a right now buyer, and mine.
Autoshows offer people looking at buying a new car the freedom to compare all models in the segment, at once, under one roof. In my example, this year it will be minivans. These will be a vehicle I buy in the short future, and staring at images of them online can only go so far when comparison shopping. Intermixed with my reviewing of cars, or oogling of cars, will be serious comparison of these minivans. How do they look? What is interior space like? How does rear trunk space stack up? Interior build materials? Value? How comfortable are each of the seats? These are all the kind of questions internet pictures can’t answer. They’re also the objective kinds of questions sales reps shouldn’t answer. These answers change based on the customer, the family, and the needs. My answers will be different than the next minivan shoppers will be. The autoshow gives me the freedom to explore the options manufacturers have on offer, but without fearing my name and email being added to a leads list. No follow up phone calls. No awkward comparisons to competition. And no “lets make a deal now” questioning.
It’s a shame I’m not in the position to buy while I’m at the autoshow. I’d much rather doing it there than in the tight, limiting, pressured cube of a dealership.