If you’re in Barrie Ontario this weekend or passing through on your way up or down the 400. I would strongly recommend spending an hour or two at The Georgian College Auto Show. I attended the Largest Outdoor Auto Show in North America yesterday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. The show is currently running June 3rd through to June 5th closing at 6pm, and in my option it is every bit as good and in some respects better then the Canadian International Auto Show that runs mid February in Toronto.
Bollocks, you may be muttering under your breath so give me a paragraph or two to qualify that last statement as I recap my experience attending the show. The first plus for the Georgian College auto show is its location, which is about an hour north of Downtown Toronto it was a relaxing drive up the 400 even with it being a Friday afternoon. The campus is literally 100 meters off of the highway and there are signs everywhere indicating the parking lots and drop off points. Once I did arrive at the parking lot I immediate took my wallet out looking to pay for the privilege of parking, a short 2 minute walk from the main entrance to the show. Much to my disappointment for the 26th year in a row the college had forgotten to hire parking lot attendants to collect the money, so it was free of charge. So far I’m 1 minute in and I’m saving money over the TO Car show.
I grabbed my camera gear and made a bee line for the entrance where I finally came across a man who was willing to take my money. I handed him a twenty, had my hand stamped and began to walk away. Much to my surprise the man then stopped me and began insisting that I had paid too much and that I was owed some change, 13 dollars to be exact. You see unlike most auto shows nowadays the Georgian Collage one doesn’t require you to take out a second mortgage to attend. It is simply 7 dollars a person for one day 15 dollars for a 3 day pass and Free for children under the age of 12.
So far this car show is scratching me right where I itch. Let’s do a quick recap for those who have decided to start reading at paragraph number 4. It has been easy to get to, free to park at and is so affordable you don’t need to pull a Sophie’s choice and leave some family members behind in the parking lot.
Now on to the meat of the sandwich the Car Content, what can you expect to see at the show. It would be easier for me to list the major manufactures who were not in attendance, as the turn out of manufactures was very impressive. There was a noticeable lack of Super Cars at the show which was understated due to the show focus on practical everyday motoring, so the likes of Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren, and Maserati were absent from the show.
Truth be told I wasn’t really disappointed in not seeing the super cars as I know that the cars on display are provided by local and regional dealerships. This would mean that Ferrari Canada would have to ship one example of each of their 4 models; the California, the 458 Italia, the FF, and the 599. They would have nothing left in their show room back in the city and I’m sure sales would plummet. The second reason why I could care less about seeing the current field of super cars at one of these shows is simple and can be summed up in 3 little words. Red Velvet Ropes! Even when these companies do decide to grace the general public with their presence you can’t get within 10 feet of them and forget about being allowed to sit in one. It is so bad now a day that the high end brands won’t even open the doors so that you can peer in. Nothing riles me up more than paying top dollar at an auto show to only see the car’s exterior. I get that privilege for free driving on the highway or walking past on in mall parking lots.
Other manufactures who were notably absent from the Georgian College Auto Show were; Mitsubishi, Jaguar/Land Rover, Suzuki, Infinity, Mini and Volvo. I can’t understand Mitsubishi not being there as there are currently hanging on to what little market share they currently have in Canada. Jaguar and Land Rover may have though that they fit into the luxury upper echelon, but the show wasn’t beneath Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus. It was a sunny day so I’m sure that the folks from Suzuki were all busy riding their motor cycles and forgot that they have an excellent car in the Kazashi that they are still trying to convert buyers over to. Infinity, probably though….Ahh who cares lets skip them, and while you’re at it toss Mini in that category too. Volvo was a disappointment for me as I was looking forward to get inside one of their new S60’s since at the Canadian International Auto Show they keeps the car doors locked.
The one other manufacture who I was most disappointed with by not being at the show was Fiat. Now Fiat you’re new to the Canadian Market place so let me start by saying “welcome”, and now listen up. We Canadians’ are comforted by familiarity. It is why we still run New Laws by the Queen of England and why Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967. When it comes to entry level cars we have historically and rightly or wrongly we will continue to buy Civic’s, Corola’s, F150’s and Caravans’. These are the brands that have treated us well in the past and we know that they will be around when we are looking to upgrade in our future. So if you want to make it in this market you have to woo us, much like the Mazda 3 did when it was released last decade. You will need to be at every Auto Show from St. John’s NFLD to Tofino BC, and from Yellowknife NWT to Windsor ON. This is especially important because Fiat currently only has limited dealership network so not every Canadian can stop by a showroom to take a look at the 2008 European Car of the Year. I would even go as far as suggesting to park one in front of every Beer Store coast to coast for an hour or so this summer to create a buzz around the 500. Don’t be surprised if the result is that you sell every 500, 500c and Arbath 500 you can produce you can produce this year.
Enough of the companies that didn’t RSVP to Georgian’s Party, let’s cover who did attend. Audi was showing off its newest home run model the A7. I must admit, for a big car it sure looked mean and lean. The A7 will undoubtedly be a huge successes here in North America let’s just hope for Audi’s sake it doesn’t canalize its A8 sales. Check out the LED running lights as Audi continues to push the boundaries of LED technology.
Audi also had one of the three super cars at the show with the sleek and sexy R8 V8. The other two could be found down at the GM display where they showed off the Corvette ZR1 and the Cadillac that shares its power plant the CTS-V.
VW was at the show and was easily one of the highlights as it was debuting its newest North America Highway slayer the 2012 Passat. It shares many of the same styling cues of the Jetta and they perfectly suit the full sized Passat. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of one hopefully with the 2.0-liter turbo diesel or maybe one with the Supercharged 3.0-liter V6 found in the Audi A6. I also thought that the new headlights on the 2012 Touareg were fit for a jewelry store.
The Nissan Leaf was also at the show in all of its blueness and was constantly surround by a large crowd of people. I hadn’t realized until I saw it in person how many Zero Emission badges were on it. Nissan seems to have taken a page out of the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid advertising book. I also couldn’t help but notice that the Staff at Georgian had separate the Leaf from the Volt and had both vehicles on completely opposite sides of the viewing field. Could this be possible fallout from the Nissan’s Leaf new advertising campaign? I can’t say and the students showing the car were tight lipped on the topic.
The Koreans were also making splashes with two debuts; Hyundai with the new 2012 Accent which was just debuted at the New York Auto show and Kia with the recently released 2012 Optima. Both of which are positioned perfectly as value leaders in their respected classes, the Accent in the compact class and Optima in the Mid-size arena.
There was also no shortage of retro styled muscle cars on display either with 2011 Chevy Camaro SS, 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 392, and 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8. There were also a couple new school rear wheel drive Asian muscle cars on display with the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 GT and Nissan 370Z Nismo Edition making appearances. I would have loved to have seen either of them ripping around on the Pfaff Porsche Autocross Track; unfortunately it will only be open on the weekend.
Any way you slice and dice up the Georgian College Auto Show it is a winner. It truly has something for everyone and would be a great way to kill a couple hours with friends or family. If you can’t make it this year then circle the first weekend in June on your calendar for next year so that you can attend the 27th installment of this great event. I certainly know I will be in attendance as it is well worth the 7 dollars.