Auto Show Parties: Carmakers Turn to Celebrities, Design-Minded Visuals

Photo: BizBash

The tide is certainly changing for events surrounding the New York International Auto Show, as car companies look to entice a crowd beyond trade press and industry executives. Similar to the off-site gatherings from Lexus and Audi last year, this year's crop of cocktail receptions, breakfast functions, and intimate dinners held before the expo opened to the public flaunted younger guests, celebrities, and, in some cases, a flock of red-carpet photographers.

Volkswagen kicked off the festivities on April 18 at Pier 36 with the debut of the 2012 Beetle. To beef up the breakfast presentation in the empty East River-adjacent warehouse space, the German auto manufacturer brought in Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz to DJ. Music was also a part of Ford's Tuesday night preview of the 2013 Taurus and Taurus Sho vehicles, where rock band Train performed for the mob of guests at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

Lexus and Land Rover took more conceptual approaches to their efforts, holding court in two separate west Chelsea venues with distinctly different events. Lexus took over the art-gallery-like Center548, styling the white-walled site with angular surfaces and serving a liquid nitrogen cocktail for the April 19 premiere of the LF-Gh hybrid concept. On the same night, Land Rover's debut of 2012 Range Rover Evoque installed a wire-frame representation of the vehicle inside Highline Stages. As an additional draw, the brand brought in designer Georgina Chapman, Cool Hunting founder Josh Rubin, and Psfk.com C.E.O. Piers Fawkes, the New York influencers from its “Pulse of the City” campaign.

At the IAC Building on Wednesday, Jaguar tapped actress Megan Fox to introduce the new XKR coupe and Barneys New York creative ambassador Simon Doonan to fashion a retrospective marking the 50th anniversary of its E-Type model. Doonan's look included a tableau vivant of models in 1960s fashions and life-size wooden replica of the sports car decorated with a decoupage of '60s imagery.

Further afield and more intimate were gatherings from Mercedes-Benz and Bentley. Mercedes-Benz showed off its new 330,000-square-foot dealership on West 54th Street and 11th Avenue with a dinner and live jazz, while Bentley hosted a small cocktail reception at the Flatiron district's David Chu Bespoke Townhouse, where guests were treated to drinks mixed by Richard Charlesworth, director of royal and V.I.P. relations, and sketches drawn by senior interior designer Darren Day.

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