From Flash to Substance (with Flash)Earlier this week I traveled to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with a few fellow AIADA board members. We attend the show every year to meet with industry leaders and get an early look at what manufacturers will offer in 2013 and beyond.
In the early and mid-2000s, the Detroit show defined the phrase ‘over the top.’ Who could forget Dodge’s cattle drive stunt in 2008 (a great visual marred only by a few amorous bulls)? Or the Jeep Wrangler that crashed through the glass doors of the convention center in 2007? Or Grammy winner Seal introducing the Audi Q7 that same year? During that period, the show was less about cars and trucks, and more about extravagant parties and manufacturers looking to top one another’s press conference exploits.
The flashy atmosphere of those years disguised a deeper truth. The auto industry, and the economy as a whole, was in trouble. We were overextended, under prepared, and headed for a fall. Auto sales plummeted from to 16.6 million in 2006 to 10.4 million in 2009, a 27-year low.
Now, after five years of uncertainty and grinding work, our industry is climbing back on solid ground. Last year, manufacturers sold 14.5 million units in the United States. Weathered by disasters, both natural and man-made, carmakers and their retailers are stronger and more adaptable than ever before.
The 2013 Detroit Auto Show reflected the industry’s shift from flash to substance. The emphasis this year was on quality, good looking vehicles that Americans will actually want to buy. International nameplates, in particular, stood out for their thoughtful design choices, excellent fuel economy, and sleek looks.
The tone of the show has changed since the early 2000s, but that doesn’t mean the flash is entirely gone. Acrobats flipped, dancers leapt, and more than one singer drew a standing ovation at the manufacturer press conferences.
And that’s a good thing. The auto industry does more than sell transportation solutions. We sell speed, passion, and style. We sell a 16 year-old’s first car and a 65 year-old’s dream car. We take fantastical technology and turn it into a reality that anyone can park outside their home.
Glitz and glamour are core to who we are and what we provide. After this week’s trip, I am very happy to report that we haven’t lost that sense of fun.
The auto industry is back, and it’s still a good ride.
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