You're gonna hear them roar at the Convention Center

Camp will make a return appearance, with hill climb and obstacle course. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Rubicon and Jeep Grand Cherokee will be featured. Jeep
Camp will make a return appearance, with hill climb and obstacle course. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Rubicon and Jeep Grand Cherokee will be featured. Jeep (Jeep)
Posted: February 08, 2014

In this winter of the polar vortex, indoors has been a pretty good place to be.

And for a quarter of a million car-lovers, indoors is about to become a fun place to be for nine days as the Philadelphia Auto Show returns to the Convention Center, with acres of shiny metal and horsepower.

Some people might not think of the auto show as a winter escape on par with warm Caribbean sands and clear waters, but that view doesn't appreciate the auto show as the giant transportational love-in it is.

"The auto industry has a lot of love right now and is going to use the Philly show to give a great big hug to its attendees," said Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the show-sponsoring Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia.

So it's like a big, figurative automotive hug. Fitting that Valentine's Day comes right in the middle.

Still, the real devotees have been longing for this moment more than in most years. The show is getting a late start - running Feb. 8 to 16 instead of its usual late-January time frame - simply because of Convention Center scheduling, but it should reduce competition from other shows for new designs, particularly from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The date also raises hopes for members of the dealers association.

"The car show comes at a rather unique time for this year," said show chairman Don Franks, who also is president of J.L. Freed Honda in Montgomeryville.

Having the car show the week before Presidents' Day helps build momentum.

Mazzucola said it's an important event for the association members, who see about 100,000 vehicles - 30 percent of annual sales - influenced by the show in some fashion. That's $2 billion in sales, Mazzucola emphasized - we're talking some serious automolove, as Queen sang in "I'm in Love With My Car." But it's more than just hugs and deals.

"I'm talking about these things in a practical way - but the auto show is a lot of fun," Mazzucola said.

Fun with a purpose. Still, with a slogan of "Find Your Next," a lot is riding on the auto show.

The auto industry has helped lead the rest of the national economy in recovery - it's gone from 10.4 million vehicles sold nationwide for the 2009 model year to 15.6 million for the 2013 (260,000 to 380,000 in our region, Mazzucola said), and 16.2 million in sales is the prediction for the 2014 model year.

One thing about hitting rock bottom is that often growth can be extremely high on the rebound. Automakers have gotten accustomed to annual increases in the neighborhood of 10 percent since the decade began, but 2014 is expected to be half that, said Lacey Plache, chief economist for Edmunds.com. So this may be a good year to Find Your Next with a slightly better deal.

But only slightly.

"I think we're still seeing strong enough pent-up demand that [automakers] shouldn't have to be deeply discounting," Plache said.

 Get in and go. If you need to give those feet a rest, though, maybe an indoor ride will fit the bill. Two ride-and-drive events return to the show.

Toyota will be back with an expanded version of its indoor test drive, and will include the 4Runner, Highlander, and RAV4 crossovers.

Camp Jeep will make a return appearance as well, with hill climb and obstacle course. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Rubicon and Jeep Grand Cherokee are planned for the event.

Get out and go. More manufacturers are also letting attendees take it to the streets, with test drives in cars around Center City.

General Motors brings models from all four of its makes - Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC - and Kia, Volkswagen, and Subaru also will be represented outside as well.

The outdoor test drives will be offered only on select days and vary by manufacturer.

The latest designs. It's not Detroit or New York or Los Angeles, but it is probably the biggest consumer-oriented show in the United States, Franks said. Because of that, manufacturers will still bring some innovations and models of the future for Philadelphians to see.

Among those models are:

Subaru: The Legacy Concept celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Legacy and provides a look at the styling cues for future models. It features a more coupelike silhouette and a more distinguished front design. Subaru also will bring the 2015 WRX STI.

2015 Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Suburban, and GMC Yukon large SUVs.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado midsized pickup.

2015 Porsche Macan crossover, the automaker's fifth model line and first entry in the compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment.

For those who love speed, the 2015 Corvette Stingray Convertible and 2015 Ford Mustang should fit the bill.

Luxury aficionados should appreciate the 2015 Lincoln MKC and 2015 Kia 9000.

Technological age. For the first time, a Philly Auto Show app is available as well, Mazzucola said. People can get all the information on the models on display and every 2014 car for sale, buy tickets, download a map of the show, and more.

Helping others. Nothing goes so well with a big hug as getting dressed up in one's finest attire. Chairman Franks notes the annual Black Tie Tailgate gala will be Friday night before the show's official opening. The event has raised over $450,000 in previous years.

This year, 4,000 people are expected to pay between $225 and $5,000 for the chance to get up close with the vehicles in a quieter setting, and the proceeds benefit the neonatalogy division at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.


AUTO SHOW

The Philadelphia Auto Show will run from Saturday through Feb. 16 at the Convention Center. Hours are:

Noon to 10 p.m. on weekdays

9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays

9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays

Tickets are $12 age 13 and up and $6 ages 7 to 12, and may be purchased at phillyautoshow.com or at the show. Children under 7 are free.

Visitors 62 and over are $6 weekdays only, and the discount is available only at the box office.

For more information and the latest updates, please visit www.phillyautoshow.com.


ssturgis@phillynews.com

215-854-2558

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