Consumers, luxury market keep New York auto show relevant

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
"New York has a reputation as the 'premium' auto show, with a focus on high-end makes and models," according to an analyst. GM gave New York an early glimpse of its mid-engine Corvette last week.

The show floor at New York International Auto Show should be packed this year despite the global trend that has automakers skipping traditional shows to tout new products.

The 950,000-square-foot floor space will display around 1,000 vehicles starting with the preview days Wednesday. Show organizers expect 1 million people to walk through the four levels of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center near the Hudson River.

All but two major automakers are expected to attend, according to Chris Sams, the show's head of public relations. And most of the automakers that skipped Detroit's last winter show in 2019 will make an appearance in New York. The Detroit show plans to move to June in 2020 in a battle to stay relevant.

"As far as companies that are in the auto show business, we have them all," Sams told The Detroit News. "We added seven companies to our lineup. We're delivering what we know people want."

New York has perks that places like Detroit don't. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut make up one of the most robust new vehicle markets in the country — and there are a lot of luxury buyers. The New York show attracts annually about 200,000 more sets of eyes than the Detroit Show.

Automakers flashed roughly 35 new vehicles in Detroit this year, down from more than 70 the year before. New York doesn't have many press conferences scheduled, but it's still able to attract most of the world's auto companies. 

"Automaker participation has slipped at some shows, but vibrant activity at this year’s New York show confirms it’s still a popular venue for consumers and manufacturers," said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book.

"The expected parade of all-new SUVs will be joined by several high-performance models, multiple luxury nameplates and even a few all-new sedans. New York has a reputation as the 'premium' auto show, with a focus on high-end makes and models. We’ll see more of the same this year."

The New York show isn't immune to the pinch felt around the globe. Automakers are experimenting with ways to debut new vehicles. Some of them have decided they don't need to spend the money for floor space at every auto show. BMW and Volvo won't be in New York, Sams said, adding the two automakers are skipping every major show this year.

But Ford Motor Co. decided to roll out its new Escape for a world debut in Dearborn roughly two weeks before the New York show. General Motors Co. rolled its much-anticipated mid-engine Corvette through Times Square on Thursday, teasing a July 18 reveal just days before the media preview began in New York.

Both automakers plan to debut products from their luxury brands at the show: Lincoln Motor Co. will show its new Corsair compact SUV on Wednesday. Cadillac is expected to show a new CT5 car. Where American muscle and electric vehicles populated the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2018, the New York show is expected to house a mix of luxury vehicles and models geared toward urban living.

Mercedes-Benz, which skipped the Detroit show, is expected to show a slew of AMG trims. Compact vehicles are expected from Genesis Motor America and Toyota Motor North America. The new Escape will make its first public appearance since its global debut. Jaguar is expected to show a new sedan.

Sams said the New York show has two strengths as it distances itself from the pack of auto shows battling for relevance. The show draws more media coverage because its located near many global outlets' headquarters. That nearly 70% of consumers who come to the show say they're shopping for their next car helps, too, he said.

The show continues to attract consumers, which in-part attracts automakers, by bringing in new companies such as Plymouth, Mich.-based Rivian Automotive LLC, and attracting some of the most iconic brands in the world to the show floor.

"People want to come to the show to be wowed," Sams said. "We're making sure the legacy companies have the space they need. We also make the show as exciting as possible."

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau