Denver’s a city that thinks big, from bringing the railroad to town in 1870 to former Mayor Federico Pena telling us to “Imagine a great city!” Now we’ve hosted Denver’s biggest, best-attended and greenest Auto Show. It was a record-breaker in every way. “Outstanding,” enthused 2011 Auto Show Chairman Mark Wallace of Schomp Automotive.
“Attendance at the 2011 Denver Auto Show is proof positive that there’s a huge pent-up interest among the public for all things automobile,” Wallace said. This year’s attendance for the five-day show (March 30-April 3) was 23 percent more than last year and two percent higher than the previous record set in 2008.
The Denver Auto Show also broke a record for size. For 109 years it’s been the largest new car display between the Mississippi River and Los Angeles, but covering a half-million square feet, this year’s show was the largest in terms of display space, too, and the largest consumer show in the history of the Colorado Convention Center.
More than 500 vehicles from 30 manufacturers, plus accessories and aftermarket products were on display. There was also a special exhibit, “What Will Fuel the Future?” whose aim was to demonstrate how various forms of energy work and the differences between renewable and non-renewable energy.
This year’s “Camp Jeep” presentation was the first time that there was an indoor driving experience at the DAS. Chrysler Corp. set up an extreme driving course featuring a “mountain” climb and some other rough driving terrain that show-goers were jounced around on in a squadron of Jeep Grand Cherokees by professional drivers.
Denver Post business writer Steve Raabe wrote, “At the Denver Auto Show, there are ‘green’ cars. And then there is green on steroids.” This was the first year show attendees were able to see production models of an all-electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, as well as other available plug-in vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius. Luxury manufacturer Bentley exhibited its flex-fuel Continental, which is capable on running on any combination of gasoline or E-85 bio-fuel. And Honda showed its CR-Z sport hybrid concept that allows drivers three different options of fuel use, from performance mode to fuel economy.
This year’s Denver Auto Show was not just for lookers. People could sign up to test drive one or more of 11 different makes from four manufacturers. Ride and Drives were offered by Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Ford, Kia, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge Ram and Fiat, which more than doubled the number offered at any previous auto show.
One significant measure of public interest was the media attention the 2011 Denver Auto Show commanded, including a first-ever one-hour television special on KUSA’s “Colorado & Co.,” and a half-hour show on Telemundo.
Colorado’s Automobile Dealers stepped up for their favorite charitable causes, as well. The Charity Preview Party was organized to support for the Clear the Air Foundation and the Denver Post Charity Foundation. More than 500 guests, roughly double the number from 2010, roamed the show floor, sipped, chatted and listened to the tunes of three different bands.
“As a self-proclaimed car nut, I love auto shows,” said Herm Brocksmith, general manager of Kuni Honda, who will chair the 2012 Denver Auto Show. “Cars are important to American society and really one of the threads that makes us America,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being the auto show chairman next year.”
The automobile industry has many challenges to face this year including the earthquake and tsunami damage in Japan and escalating fuel costs, but we’re a competitive industry with turbo-charged people and we’re going to try to top this record-breaking Denver Auto Show next year. Stay tuned.