The South Florida International Auto Show (SFIAS) will mark its 40th anniversary this year by showcasing the new “Green Technology” vehicles, while the industry looks to the future with cautious optimism after two years of plummeting sales and sharp production cutbacks.
The SFIAS will open at the Miami Beach Convention Center on Nov. 5 for 10 days and officials say that, while the size of the show is not yet up to where it was three years ago, it is pretty close and several manufacturers that pulled out last year will have exhibits this time around.
“It has been a tough market for this past year and a half, so hopefully this 40th anniversary auto show will help spur the consumer to get back out there and buy a new car,” said Rick Baker, president of the South Florida Auto Dealers Association, the sponsoring entity of the show.
“Mercedes Benz is back; they were not in the show last year along with Infiniti, and they’re back this year, too. I guess they realize the importance of auto shows and the importance of this South Florida market.
“As far as the industry is concerned, at least we are above last year’s sales figures,” he said. “Last year was just terrible. So we’re 10 percent above terrible, but we’re doing okay. But we’re not like we were three years ago when we were really riding high.”
Baker noted that the auto show will have a couple of new items on tap this year to showcase new technology and attract more members of the younger generation through the turnstiles.
“We have the ‘Green Way’ exhibit and that will basically be for hybrid or electric vehicles all in one area of the show,” he said. “We have seven or eight manufacturers committed to put their best fuel economy vehicles in the exhibit and we have received confirmation that the Nissan Leaf will be there at the opening of the show, the first three or four days, and we’re trying to get Nissan to leave it there for the whole show. Of course, the Chevy Volt will be there and we’re trying to get Tesla to have a car there, too,” Baker added.
“We also have a new exhibit called Miami Street Rides and that will include vehicles that have been tweaked or tricked with all the things that appeal to today’s younger generation. And we’ll still have the Million Dollar Alley and Car Boutique, and we’ll have Memory Lane, also.”
This year’s show car is the high performance 500-plus hp BMW Alpina B7, and manufacturers will showcase a host of new models, including Volvo’s new S60R that will make its U.S. debut in Miami. Acura will exhibit its new Sport Wagon, Jeep will display the new Grand Cherokee and Audi will unveil the allnew A8 luxury sedan. All are in the running for Star of the Show selection by the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA), which will announce the winner at the annual press luncheon on opening day, along with picks for Best Green Technology Vehicle and Best Concept Vehicle.
“In size, the show is about 20 percent larger than we were last year,” Baker said. “Last year was about 30 percent down from where we were three years ago, so we’re almost back to where we were then, but we’re getting there as far as total square footage being used. We think the worst is over and we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train coming.”
Baker said auto sales are up industry-wide and consumers are starting to spend money.
“The banks and the lending institutions are easing up credit more and more,” he said. “You don’t need a perfect credit score to qualify for an automobile loan.”
Baker said that last year traffic at the show was down 15 to 17 percent, but that he anticipated that this year it will return to about 600,000 people.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand out there for new cars,” he said. “So hopefully people will come and enjoy the show and get a look at the new 2011 models.”
Tickets cost $10 for adults and $3 for children with children under 6 admitted free, with $2 discount tickets available at car dealers throughout South Florida or at www.SFADA.com website.
Ron Beasley is the automotive editor for Miami’s Community Newspapers.