Driving Today

New Breed of Auto Show Lets You Drive

Landmark event in California could set precedent for auto shows worldwide.

Auto shows are a great place to compare vehicles from different brands in a neutral setting where there is no pressure to buy. They only lack one thing: the option for consumer attendees to drive comparable vehicles back-to-back, just as professional vehicle evaluators do. That is about to change.

The Southland Motor Car Dealer Association (SMCDA) has announced that it will host a revolutionary auto show, during which consumers will be able to test-drive a wide variety of vehicles from multiple manufacturers on the same streets used for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Dubbed “The So Cal Ride and Drive New Car Show,” the event will be a hands-on exhibit staged at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center from June 15 to 17.

Traditionally, auto shows have offered no test-driving opportunities at all, though some shows have slowly been getting in on the act. However, the test-drive venues usually consist of limited space in which only a few manufacturers can feature their cars. Show attendees must register for the test-drives separately in each manufacturer’s designated area. By contrast, attendees of The So Cal Ride and Drive New Car Show will be able to register at a single location for access to test-drive any of the show’s featured vehicles, making it much easier for consumers to compare cars from all participating manufacturers.

“It’s all about getting people behind the wheel of the car,” says Todd Leutheuser, the show’s executive director. “We see this as the next step in the evolution of the traditional auto shows’ ride-and-drive exhibits.”

The SMCDA is one of 65 metropolitan new car dealer associations in the U.S. For the past 15 years, it has co-owned the Orange County Auto Show in Anaheim, Calif. The ride-and-drive concept being pioneered by the new event could quickly spread to other auto shows in the U.S. and around the world.



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