mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

In defense of the auto show...

I meant to write about this a week ago, when it was more timely, but I've been lazy/busy. Last week was the New York International Auto Show, and Rob Farago of The Truth About Cars thinks that auto shows should and will go away, replaced by interactive "virtual" auto shows online.

The NY Auto Show has always had a special place in my heart, because for much of my grade school and high school years my dad and I would make an annual trip from Central NJ to NY City - sometimes by car, sometimes by train, sometimes by ferry - to run around and sit in lots and lots of cars. Well, mostly I did the running and sitting, and my dad tried to keep up. My mom went once or twice, but most of the times it was just my dad and I, and it was a nice bonding opportunity.

It was also a chance for a grade-school kid to sit behind the wheel of a Mercedes or Jaguar or some other car that he will probably never drive. And that's the kind of thing that isn't going to be replaced by the internet. The auto show is less a chance for people to see cars and more an activity, a destination, an amusement park for anyone who sees cars as more than just a means of transportation. You can watch a movie at home, but lots of people go to movie theaters. Partly it's because they really want to see new movies or see a movie on a big screen, but partly it's for the experience - a chance to hang out with a group of friends or a significant other or child. I think the same is true with auto shows.

My guess is that only a small number of the people who go to car shows are actually looking for info on cars that they are thinking of buying - most are more after the entertainment, the experience. But if you are thinking about buying a car, there is something about seeing a car in person, of walking around it or sitting in it, that you can't get online, no matter how many quicktime movies you post. How many times have you seen a new model of car on the road for the first time, and thought "wow, that car is bigger/smaller/better looking/uglier than the pictures I've seen of it?" I know I have.

Plus, the setup of the auto show - where you pretty much have to walk through one company's display to get to the next - encourages browsing. It lets you see cars you wouldn't have thought to look at otherwise. And that's part of the fun, the experience, the adventure. In a cyber show, you would probably just click on the cars you are interested in, but in a meatspace auto show, you are more likely to see something interesting that you wouldn't have thought you would be interested in.

It's been a while since I've been to an auto show with my Dad - unlike when I was in grade school, I don't have the week after Easter off, so I'm not in New Jersey for long when the show is going on, and I forget to try to take off and set something up. But I would like to go again sometime with him - I think it would be fun.

And I know it would be more fun than sitting in front of a computer (something I probably do way too much of as it is). It's also something I know my Dad would never do- he likes to say that he uses the computer enough at work that he never wants to use it at home, and never does.

So I don't think the auto show is going anywhere soon.


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