Car Show Sputtering – at least at mid-day. Maybe it will rev up in the evening.

December 4, 2008

If you’re planning to attend the New England Auto Show at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this weekend, I want to know why.

After spending a few hours at the show already today, I’m astonished at how subdued the dealers and the audience are. Spread out across the entire hall’s ground level are nearly 40 brands of car from Aston Martin to Volkswagen and Volvo. But there are few people wandering around between the cars and there are even fewer booth staff.

Even the booth babes, a mainstay of past auto events, aren’t here in force. There are certainly some attractive sales staff – men and women – at most of the vendor areas, but it’s not like I’ve seen at previous Auto Shows in Chicago, Detroit and even Boston.

One caveat might be the time of day, although there were dozens of kids and parents, a number of retirees and lots of couples wandering the floor when the show opened at noon. The other could be the economy or even the fact that manufacturers are kneeling in front of congress asking for billions in bailout money as I type this.

Heard on the show floor so far…

“I can only fit in an American car.” Medium-sized man who believed all imports are small.

“Gotta get a price on a BMW for my brother. Even though he doesn’t have two cents to rub together.” Middle-aged man who was in a hurry to catch a train.

“I’ve got a system.” From a guy who was planning to win a motorcycle, a car or both.

“Thank you all for listening.” One booth babe, talking to an expanse of empty carpet and peripherally to me as I wandered through her booth.

And some things I’ve learned so far…

ShamWow is everywhere. They have a booth here and the guy doing the presentations looks a little like the guy on TV with the squinty eyes.

The Kia Soul will be out in March and it looks remarkably like the Scion xB. The people at Scion called the Soul cheap. The woman at Kia said the Soul beats the xB in every way. I got tired of walking back and forth to get to the bottom of that discussion.

Ford is giving you $50 to test drive any vehicle. You need to sign up at the show. But after you test drive a car at your local dealer and fill out a survey, you’ll get a $50 gift card in the mail. I’m thinking of test driving 200 cars so I can pay off my current car.

BMW cars were parked on plastic stands on top of the carpet in a statement of how precious their vehicles are. They, and Mercedes, were the only vehicles parked in straight lines in their booths, too. All other cars on the show floor were at odd angles. Maybe the high-end cars want you to think of them as driving machines.

The Lotus and Maserati areas were fenced off and people were only allowed in with an escort.

And the only booth giving away good schwag was Scion. To get the goods you must show them the key from your current Scion.

That’s all for now. Maybe it’ll get more crowded tonight.

For a taste of the show, I’ve posted a video at Dodge Booth Video – it’s of a Dodge product presentation.

Show runs through Sunday at the Convention Center. Tickets are $12 for adults.

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