What do you think of when you think of attending an AutoShow? I always expect them to be full of glitz and glamor, conspicuous consumption (well, maybe not in today’s economy), peculiar or preposterous prototypes, lots of booth babes and all sorts of marketing madness. In other words, a barely contained automotive circus; a highly charged atmosphere filled with energy and excitement. If these match with your expectations too, then hopefully you were smarter than me and chose not to attend this weekend’s New England Auto Show at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
My reason(s) for attending the show were simple. Worst case, I at least expected to be entertained (remember I was expecting some booth babes). At best I wanted an opportunity to see the new Porsche Boxster and Cayman, recently unveiled at the LA Auto Show, maybe even sit in one and ask a few questions. As it turns out, I set my expectations way too high. There simply wasn't any energy or excitement. The closest thing to entertainment I saw was watching a vendor demonstrate his magic “shammy” as he sucked up a liter of some mystery liquid spilled conveniently in front of him. Turns out he was a good sales guy as I parted with $20 bucks for a set of 4. As for the Boxster and Cayman, they were no where to be seen.
Maybe it was the lack of attendance that reduced the energy? Granted, I was there on a weekday, but even still it appeared that I was one of maybe only 200 other attendees wandering the vast convention floor at any one given time. I inquired with the event organizers about attendance. Specifically, I asked, "How was attendance this year with regard to actual vs. anticipated?" The response I received, while not answering my question directly, did so anyway, "For attendance we held our numbers from '07."
Come to think of it, could the venue be the problem? This is the second year since the event has changed locations from the BaySide Expo Center (a much smaller, more intimate setting) to the new, vastly overbuilt, billed as bigger than 9 football fields, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. This is a pretty big space to fill and even with good attendance it can still "feel" empty.
Or, maybe it was the complete an utter apathy of the people working this event? If I were a salesperson or automotive manufacturer representative I would have to assume that people who take the time to attend a show of this type (in this economy) fit into one of three categories:
- Automotive Journalist;
- Automotive Enthusiast;
- Prospective Buyer.
In fact, I would automatically assume all attendees fit into category three (3) and approach each one as a potential sale. Instead, almost without exception, in each booth I walked through, I barely received a slight nod, let alone a polite hello or any indication of interest in my presence.
Whatever the reason, my experience at the New England Auto Show was a complete bust. Without exception, the only highlight of my visit was a brief but informative conversation with a Porsche Sales and Leasing Consultant from Chambers Motorcars (Carey Frasca). Carey at least took the time to greet me, answer a few questions and explain how the Porsche booth was set-up (turns out it was staffed with employees from multiple Porsche dealers who took turns making sure that any and all questions could and would be answered).
Meanwhile, the green velvet roped Bentley display next door was guarded by a financial analyst and his solid gold calculator. If your net worth was determined to be high enough, admission to the inner sanctum, for a closer look (but don't touch) was granted. Needless to say, I was left to drool from the wrong side of the ropes.
I just can’t get over the lack of energy and attention from the people staffing the booths. I know times are tough, but cars aren’t selling themselves today (any type of car). Isn't this the time to reach down deeper and sell like you've never sold before?
Has anyone else been to a show recently? What was your experience like?