The Philadelphia Auto Show is back for its 113th year. Credit: Marc Barag, MB Commercial Photographers
The Philadelphia Auto Show celebrates its 113th year this month, which means its spanned two centuries and weathered two World Wars, the Great Depression and, most notably, remained unscathed by the recent economic recession. Heck, it’s even been around longer than many automobile manufacturers.
“It ebbs and flows and weathers bad times,” says Mike Gempp, Philadelphia Auto Show director, who joined the team in 1995. "The show remained very similar over the recession. Even when manufacturers cut back on displays for other auto shows during the downturn, we maintained all our manufacturers and full displays. Philadelphia’s a strong market and this is a very consumer-friendly show.”
The manufacturers don’t waiver, because attendees don’t waiver. Snow or shine, recession or boom, they come. Last year, around 250,000 people attended the show, which is produced by the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia.
“There’s no one more passionate than Philadelphia Auto Show attendees,” says Gempp with no note of hyperbole. “Our figures show that around 20 percent will be first-timers and the rest are steadfast die-hards who come just about every year. Some are proud to tell you that they never miss it.”
Attendees are a mix of car enthusiasts and car shoppers. Forty different manufacturers will display around 700 vehicles: Everything from GMC to Rolls Royce, and from Buick to Maserati.
“Apart from your home, buying a car is the second biggest purchase most people make,” says Gempp. “The show provides valuable one-on-one time with the professionals who can talk people through features of what might be your new car. They can try out a luxury car like the Cadillac CTS V coupe, or a Volkswagen, or a Buick. The line-up of cars isn’t something many people have access to every day."
Your dream car
Gempp’s right about American car love. Somehow, it’s etched into the DNA. Much of it is nostalgia, both patriotic, because car manufacturers were among the titans that built the American economic empire, and personal. Cars, for good or bad, figure highly in most people’s lives.
“We say to people, ‘Find your next dream car’. Or, ‘Find your next family car, or find your retirement car’,” says Gempp. “ Cars are in everyone’s memories, so we also say, ‘Find your next memory’.”
Philadelphia Auto Show Feb. 8-16 Weekdays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch St. $12 for adults; $6 for children age 7-12; free for children 6 and under; $6 for seniors 62 and over on weekdays www.phillyautoshow.com