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Campus Car Shows: What's the Point?

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author photo by Sarah Lynn Bowen April 2014

When is a car show more than just a car show? When it's held at your local college campus. Recently, we attended the Georgia Tech Auto Show on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, Ga. Sure, it's cool to look at old cars on a Saturday morning, but automakers such as Porsche and General Motors don't show up at regional car shows with product experts and new cars just for fun. So what is the point?

One of the organizers for the event described the show as a way to bring everyone back to campus. Alumni and students alike will bring cars to the show and exchange their stories with other car buffs. Translation: Shows like the one at Georgia Tech build a sense of community and may lead to more alumni donations in the future.

One of our favorite cars was a 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser owned by Georgia Tech student Gabe Pippas. He shared that the only way he was able to have a car to drive when he was 15 was if he made the vehicle, a gift from his mother, run properly. "And I've been working on it ever since!" the 20-something said.

But it's not just the local gearheads that choose to participate in these campus car shows. Porsche of North America, Capitol Buick (a local dealer) and General Motors were some of this year's corporate sponsors. But what's in it for them?

The GT Auto Show offers a way to really get a hands-on look at the newest vehicles, which may not be possible at bigger shows. It targets potential buyers on a more personal level. Not to mention, it's another way for automakers such as GM to become a greater presence on a college campus, offering scholarships and grants to the institute.

All in all, having a local outlet such as a college campus provides even more opportunities to expose future buyers to their vehicles. We saw many showgoers walk away with posters of Porsche 911s, some Hot Wheels or faux Ray-Bans with "CHEVY" written on the side.

Porsche told us that they hope to attract young and talented minds to both an automotive career and an eventual ownership of one of their brand's vehicles. Porsche knows as well as anyone that a campus full of future engineers is like buying stock in a tech start-up company; someday it's going to pay off.

To that point, we heard plenty of college kids at the show saying, "I like coming to see all the tricked-out cars I want to buy one day!" Mission accomplished.

The GT Auto Show takes place every spring on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta.

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Campus Car Shows: What's the Point? - Autotrader