Everyone loves a car show. Well, maybe not everyone, but almost everyone can appreciate the collision of nostalgia and innovation when attending an automotive exposition. These shows are a place to marvel at groundbreaking technology, talk shop with like minded gear heads and view classically restored motorized fossils from the past. Speaking of the past, let’s look back and see when these shows began.
The First Show
Shortly after Karl Benz patented the motor vehicle in 1886, The Paris Motor Show had its debut in 1898, held by industry pioneer Jules-Albert de Dion. After 1910, it was famously moved to the Grand Palais in Paris. This show still runs biennially and was the premiere inspiration for auto shows around the world. Across the pond, in 1899, William E. Metzger organized the Detroit Auto Show which was the first in North America. On the heels of Detroit, the New York Auto Show had its debut in November of 1900 at the original Madison Square Garden. In 1901 the Chicago Auto Show burst onto the scene and is still the largest and longest running auto show in North America. Folks would travel from near and far to participate in the automobile revolution, peek into the future and dream of their own personalized set of wheels as vehicle manufacturers naturally took advantage of the opportunity to market to the eager public.
Pandemic Puts on the Brakes
Throughout the 20th century car shows have become a foundational part of American culture. As a society devoted to individuality and the joy of the open road, we delight in viewing the classic automobiles of decades passed and experiencing the innovative vehicles of the future. The onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic, however, put a stop to nearly all public gatherings, and car shows were no exception. This was certainly a major obstacle facing the industry but it has not been the only one. In the years leading up to the Pandemic car shows had already seen a decline in public popularity and had struggled to maintain favor among manufacturers as well. Previously, car shows were the best way for manufacturers to preview their vehicles to the public. In recent years, showcasing vehicles online and using social media, without paying the high costs of car shows has been trending, especially when marketing to younger car buyers.
Keeping the Spark Alive
While consumers can learn a lot about vehicles online, no experience can take the place of sliding into a leather seat, turning a key and feeling the rumble of an engine beneath you. Though critics argue that car shows are on their way out, most patrons are confident that nothing could ever replace them. These exhibitions of motor vehicles and the pageantry they create have been foundational for the industry and faithfully give drivers a glimpse into the automotive past, present and future.
As classic as Apple Pie, car shows remain highly anticipated events for car lovers everywhere. Some folks attend because it reminds them of the shows back home that they attended with Grandpa. Others flock to fancy laser wielding vehicle exhibitions to view the newest unorthodox scheme cooked up by Elon Musk. Luckily, public gatherings are back and car shows are geared up to be bigger and better than ever. It’s difficult to rival the personal connection enthusiasts experience at car shows, and for a time, they were taken from us. But take heart, it seems clear that a car show absence has made our hearts grow fonder.
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