AutoCon might be the cheeky little brother of the Los Angeles Auto Show, but that doesn’t mean the principals behind the upstart gathering of car enthusiasts are willing to concede they’re the lesser attraction in town.
In fact, the group said it has put together a lineup for the April 23 event that offers an experience you won’t be able to find during the nine days its more established compatriot runs. Instead of the glitz and corporate shine that comes with the Auto Show, AutoCon tries to re-create the local car club meetup vibe on a much larger scale.
“The L.A. Auto Show is more geared toward big manufacturers – Toyota, Honda, Ford,” said Justin Fong, the president of AutoCon. “AutoCon is more geared toward the aftermarket and custom car community – people who like to build cars.”
The show, which is being housed at the Los Angeles Convention Center this year in downtown Los Angeles, is the brainchild of Fong and Nate Leon, enthusiasts who started organizing meetups in 2010. The first was in the basement garage of a warehouse in City of Industry. While they still have day jobs, they’ve hosted an event in Los Angeles every year since, and the gatherings have continued to grow. The group put together enough capital to move into the Convention Center this year, which AutoCon’s head of operations, RaeJan Anciado said will cost them about $100,000 including security, insurance, and other incidentals.
The group has attracted a loyal following and the events now include stops in a few cities nationwide. Anciado said AutoCon in Seattle attracted 3,500 attendees and a show held at the Fairplex in Pomona drew 5,500. The group is hoping for 11,000 people to show up this Saturday, where tickets are $25 at the door. AutoCons will also take place in San Francisco in July and Miami in December.
Despite the growing popularity of AutoCon, the group is still struggling with profitability. But not everything’s about the money, according to Anciado.
“We’re not exactly making a killing off this,” he said. “But it’s about giving car enthusiasts something to get excited about.”