Local News

Auto show goes on, but without frills

Posted February 5, 2009 5:49 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Auto manufacturers' economic troubles and slipping sales stripped a lot of the flash off the annual North Carolina International Auto Show, under way in Raleigh until Sunday.

At first glance, there was plenty to see from high-end to hybrid cars, big and small, on the floor of the new convention center in downtown.

"I like to look at all the different cars, different styles, what's come out new," show attendee Tiywanna Jones said.

Missing were many of the shiny frills – such as carpeting or spinning pedestals – that dealers have used to sell their vehicles in the past.

Show manager Jim Lavery said that many dealerships didn't have money to spend this year, so he invited them to set up their displays for free if they helped with promotion.

"(We) went and found our dealers that were interested in being in the new convention center, and ... it's full," Lavery said.

Noticeably missing among the displays were models from two of the Big Three, America's struggling automakers.

"We came here and looking around and no General Motors and no Ford," attendee Walter Ehrhardt said. "With the buyout, I guess they can't afford to be here."

One member of the Big Three, Chrysler-Jeep, had displays, but representatives said they were not allowed to talk to the media.

Many of those looking at the cars said they were there simply for the thrills, getting close or even behind the wheel of the cars they dream about.

Ehrhardt, though, said he was there for some serious comparative shopping, "basically, to see how far I can go with my dollar."

Dealers said that's what they were banking on the show delivering.

"We're advertising; we're here at the show," John Hall, a Toyota dealer, said.