By Walter Nicholls Posted February 3, 2009, 4:54 PM EST
WASHINGTON With the $17.4 billion loan to car manufacturers fresh in the minds of lawmakers and the public, the 2009 Washington Auto Show opens tomorrow at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for a four-day showcase of 700 new cars and trucks from 42 manufacturers, who will occupy 750,000 square feet of event space. Produced by the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association, the organization gave a nod to the Obama administration’s environmental goals and taglined the show “Driven by the Environment.”
At the show entrance is the Green Car Pavilion which, with 40 models, is twice as large as last year and more prominently situated. “Last year it was tucked away and you had to walk through six showrooms to see it,” said Washington Auto Show chairman John M. Ourisma, who attended today's press preview. “With many members of congress visiting the show, manufacturers are showing their commitment.”
From exhibit to exhibit, on acres of carpeting, there are the expected turntables that slowly rotate the vehicles, cross-sections of cars and trucks, and parts displays, with Ford and GM covering the most show space. One of the most production-heavy exhibits is Toyota Scion's three-level display of modified models, which features a high-tech, audiovisual booth called the “Scramble” where visitors have their picture taken and choose colors and detail options of cars. “You just mash the keyboard and it mixes it all up,” said the Scion saleswoman.
Auto Trader’s booth features a live game show with a 72-inch projection screen, five 60-inch and four 52-inch monitors for broadcasting the game to the expected crowds. In addition, there are 12 Internet-connected computer stations so that guests can search Trader’s site and also win prizes.
Despite the economy, exhibitors did not cut costs on this show, according to Ourisman. They expect the usual crowds. “We’ve cut back on nothing. We want to create a first-class venue for people coming and exhibitors who pay a significant amount of money to show here,” said Ourisman. “Unlike the shows in Detroit and Los Angeles, where they have seen a drop in attendance, we think Washington consumers are still in love with cars. We don’t anticipate less traffic.”
The Washington Auto Show is staged by Hargrove Associates with public relations and promotions provided by Atlanta-based Pomerance & Associates.