The 2018 installment of the Washington Auto Show kicked off this past weekend, and yours truly was in attendance along with a friend. The show is held annually at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District which lists approximately 2.3 million square feet on it’s website as available for conventions and meetings. Wow, that sounds like a lot, and frankly it is. The show has numerous vendor booths in addition to the manufacturer’s displays and vehicles. Consider this, the product line from 35 marques (at least that’s the number I counted) as well as the assorted displays/booths/concessions areas and you begin to get the idea that it can fill up space quickly. Take for instance both Jaguar and Land Rover have driving experiences this year set up on the lower level where you, and I’m not kidding, take a Land Rover off the pavement and onto a course complete with rock, stone, and packed soil that presents technical challenges for off-roaders meant to showcase the brand’s ruggedness. Jaguar’s was a sleeker course with a mini-bridge and areas for practicing J-turns. Those two exhibits each occupy 50,000-60,000 feet.
Now, let’s put the DC auto show into perspective. These shows display the best and the latest from auto manufacturers. It typically includes them rolling out highly anticipated new models or those with facelifts planned for the model year, highlighting new systems and technologies being installed in vehicles, providing an example or two of their most prestigious models, interactive exhibits where people can experience more than static displays, and in some cases they even reveal a concept vehicle. Auto shows occur in most metropolitan regions, but in a few select markets they are THE show. The major US shows include: Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York. Those shows experience more of the major reveals, all of the top end vehicles from a specific manufacturer are showcased, and generally many more of the new designs for which they want to gauge public interest appear. The DC show is quite nice, and I always enjoy it, it’s just that we’re not on the receiving end of a concept vehicle as often as Detroit, Los Angeles or New York. I’m still silly about spending the day looking at cars/trucks so it’s a win-win experience for me regardless.
Let me take care of a little housekeeping before I give you my impression of the show. First off, the show always comes off well, like first class well. And it’s thanks to many unseen hands who labor to set up beforehand, and again to take down the exhibits at the end of the show. Also a big “thank you” goes out to the army of individuals who are tasked with keeping the gleaming sea of shiny new autos shiny. It can’t be easy with everyone’s paws all over these new vehicles like a pack of lions on a wounded wildebeest. Just saying, they are kept quite busy cause I was a little handsy with the M cars, Honda Civic Type R, VW’s, WRX’s, Audi’s, Porsches…hell too many to keep count. I was like that annoying person in the produce section testing each and every cantaloupe for the perfect amount of ripeness. Sorry if you were waiting to get close to the Bullitt Mustang or bad ass Prius race car (truly, I didn’t think those combination of words would ever line up). Lastly, thanks for all the folks manning the displays, handing out swag or explaining to the countless numbers of attendee about all the exciting details for their vehicles.
The highlights this year were the Land Rover and Jaguar driving experiences, they looked like too much fun to be held in a convention center! Toyota had a nice collection of EV vehicles including a Fuel Cell hybrid. I’m a huge fan of the potential upside for fuel cell (hydrogen) use/development. Toyota also had a hot with a race version of their popular Prius model as well as a bon fide stock car from one of the NASCAR series for people to pose beside or even sit inside. That had a continual line each time I checked. Ford scored big with their robot spokesperson who was hit with parents and kept the kids and adults engaged with possibly the biggest crowd of the show. In addition to the spokesbot I think Ford scored another hit rolling out a Bullitt tribute Mustang which was a modern nod the classic 68 fastback that set the standard for awesomeness the world over. There were classic car corrals featuring Mustangs and Cadillacs that went over well with many of the visitors including me.
Noticeable absences were Tesla and Mercedes Benz being “no-shows”. Models I wanted to see, but were no shows included: Mercedes Benz AMG GT3, Acura NSX, Ford GT, Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R, and Jaguar F-Type coupe. Even with those absences it was still a great time to walk around and kick the tires of vehicles you may or more likely may not need.
I’ll be posting all of the photos from the show in a new gallery so check back at the end of the week to see the symphony of color and wonder that is the Washington Auto Show.
Thank goodness it’s car season again!