February 3, 2011
When Dominic M. Conicelli, chairman of the 2011 Philadelphia Auto Show, noted “There is something for everyone here,” he wasn’t just pulling a PR plug. During the opening weekend, there was a widely diverse crowd that included hives of teens, parents with strollers (and babies in pouches), serious daters and senior citizens.
This is all a good sign for the future of the automotive industry. The Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia announced a 28.4% increase in opening weekend attendance compared to the 2010 event. The show clocked in 65,984 attendees over the weekend making it the third largest opening weekend in the event’s 109-year history.
“These strong numbers echo what we have been saying for a few weeks now–the buzz in the automotive industry is getting louder,” Conicelli remarked. “This is an important show for so many reasons. We are approaching a turning point. Optimism is returning and momentum is building. We hope these numbers are reflective of what we’ll experience in 2011.”
The mood was upbeat and engaging, especially at the Ford booth, which appeared to be a family favorite for interactive games. One of the presenters (who was not allowed to give his name) said that, when Jim Farley, VP of Global Marketing for Ford, came on several years ago, he kicked up a new marketing approach that put Ford front and center. The presenter, standing at one of the stations fielding questions about everything from how long do I have to wait for the simulator to what’s the engine in that Ford F-150, said, “Farley is the man.”
“If you note this booth area has a couple of far-Eastern elements: there is a high level of chi energy (an Eastern term for vitality),” he said. He also remarked that the strategic layout of the display possessed Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energy of a space to assure health and good fortune of the people that inhabit it.
“There’s a fun buzz with the people,” he commented. “I worked in the old world where there was not a flow in the way cars were set up. Three years ago we looked around and saw this dirge of product specialists just hanging around looking glum-faced– the negative energy was palpable. That’s all changed.”
Ford’s spacious display area, with four activity centers focused around safety, quality, green and smart, is decorated in colors that are bright and welcoming (including the carpeting which is more often than not a dishwater gray). The cars are spaced for breathing room giving the whole area a feeling of lightness. We did, in fact, think that there was a bit of Feng Shui going on. Both kids and adults were happily engaged in everything from Foosball to MyFord touch interactive displays to the EcoBoost racing simulator (that had a waiting line).
“Each message is meant to attract a core group customer,” the presenter reflected.
It appears that Ford is in the groove with what their audiences want. Or they just have good chi.
HOLLY REICH writes about cars, travel, lifestyle and more. Her work has been featured in publications that include: Elite Traveler, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The Boston Herald. She contributes monthly to Motor Matters syndicate and her blog, "Riffs on Rides," appears on uptownlife.net.