By Adele Chapin Posted February 2, 2012, 12:54 PM EST
WASHINGTON The 70th edition of the Washington Auto Show opened Friday, bringing more than 700 vehicles from more than 35 domestic and import manufacturers to two levels and 750,000 square feet of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Washington Auto Show is the largest public show held at the Convention Center, and in addition to the 10-day consumer show, the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association also hosts Public Policy Days on Capitol Hill for congressional representatives, industry leaders, and media. This year, the third-annual public policy events included a summit with partner National Journal focused on American manufacturing, job growth, and green technology, hosted at the Cannon House Office Building on January 25.
“Nobody else has Congress in their backyard,“ said Kristina Henry, Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association director of events, who has planned the event for five years. “It’s really helped shape our show a lot. They really consider us the policy show.”
In addition to the public policy summit, lawmakers and media could attend a private preview of the expo on January 26, as well as a reception and event held that evening for automobile racing team legend Roger Penske, who received the Keith Crain Automotive News Lifetime Achievement Award presented by General Motors president Mark Reuss at the awards dinner.
Also at this year’s show, Fiat U.S.A. presented its new “FiatRide” racetrack. On a course constructed in the convention center’s lower level, attendees could ride along in a Fiat, watching as drivers demonstrated parallel parking and maneuverability. As in previous years, green technology was a prevalent theme at the show, with a 65,000-square-foot display on the lower level titled “Advanced Technology SuperHighway” to showcase innovations in emissions from various manufacturers and student engineering teams.
New events at the automotive expo include the “Cram the (Nissan) Cube” contest on half-price student day, where teams from area colleges compete to see how many students can fit in a Nissan Cube for $1,000 in prizes. Additionally, Tuesday featured a “Welcome Home Troops” program, with free admission for military personnel and veterans, as well as a special military tribute and reception with an appearance from Dancing with the Stars winner J.R. Martinez, and announcements from automakers about vehicle discounts and career opportunities for military personnel from automakers.
And while the Washington Auto Show has a loyal fan base that returns year after year, Henry said planners hoped to draw more women to the show this year with television and print advertising built around a “Car Love” theme that focused on the softer side of automobiles. The expo runs through Sunday.