LISA STEEN PROCTOR Staff Reporter
When Patty and Ron Price of West Hills decided to trade in their 1990 Honda for a minivan, they decided to make the L.A. auto show their first stop.
With dozens of manufacturers showing off their wares, the auto show allowed them to check out a variety of cars without having to visit a slew of dealers or fend off pushy salespeople.
“The auto show’s a nice way to spend a day and it’s time saving if you’re thinking about buying,” Patty Price said.
Dealers like the auto show too. In fact, the L.A. Auto Show unlike its counterpart in Detroit is designed to boost local sales, according to Mickey Garrett, Executive Vice President of the Greater L.A. Motor Car Dealers Association.
“L.A.’s show is dedicated to retail for dealers,” Garrett said. “Dealers pay for most of the space and salespersons work the floor.”
Detroit is more of a showpiece for manufacturers and a kick-off for new models, he said.
It’s no accident that the L.A. Auto Show is held in January, he said that’s when inventories are up and dealers need a jump start after the holidays.
The most apparent benefit to area dealerships is an increase in showroom traffic, said Don Kott, chairman of Don Kott Auto Center in Carson, which sells new Fords, Lincoln-Mercurys, Chrysler-Plymouths, Isuzus and Kias.
“We do not track the numbers, but we do see a noticeable difference in showroom traffic both during and after the show, which then tapers off as time goes by,” Kott said.
Other dealerships report a similar response, which opened Jan. 4 and was expected to draw 800,000 people before it closed Sunday.
“We see most of our activity right after the auto show’s weekend run, but the benefits last for a long period after the show,” said Bert Boeckmann, owner of Galpin Motors in North Hills and president of the Greater Los Angeles Motor Car Dealers Association.
Better informed consumers is another advantage to having a major car show in the area, according to dealers.
That speeds up the selling process. “It is a major challenge if someone doesn’t know what they want,” Kott said.
Dealers are on hand to provide information and get names of potential customers. No selling takes place at the show itself.
The show’s benefits can be looked at on two levels, said John Rettie, an analyst with J.D. Power & Associates and editor of the California Report.
Short term, it gets consumers excited about the cars and encourages them to buy now, rather than deferring their decision.
In the long term, it creates a buzz about new cars and plants the seed for a future sale, especially for younger potential consumers.
Helen and Bobbie Phippen were two of those potential buyers roaming the halls of the auto show last week.
“We come to the auto show every year to see what’s new, what’s different from our cars,” Helen Phippen said. “After comparing and if we see something different that we like, we may buy.”