Miami is hot.
It's not just the soaring temperatures or the spicy Latin cuisine in many of its restaurants. The city has become host to one of the top auto shows in the country, the South Florida International Auto Show.
Miami, once pooh-poohed by automakers, has gotten renewed attention, for several reasons:
1. It's a great opportunity to connect with a large Hispanic audience - not only from Florida, but from Latin America and the Caribbean as well.
2. Miami is a great place to show off imports and convertibles, because Florida is a big market for both.
3. The show's early-October date coincides nicely with new-model introductions.
Dodge is so impressed with Miami that the division spent more than $1 million on props and displays at this year's show, the biggest commitment it has ever made to the Miami show.
Top fall show
'The (Miami Beach) Convention Center is now complete, allowing organizers to better promote the event. And the market itself has grown,' says Don Schmid, DaimlerChrysler senior manager of shows and events. 'All combine to make Miami the biggest (U.S.) show of the fall season.'
The change in the show's status did not occur overnight; the event has been evolving for years. In 1971, attendance at the South Florida show was 112,253, and the show received little attention from automakers. This year, total attendance for the Oct. 8-17 event topped 580,000 - and that's with a one-day closure for Hurricane Irene.
The car companies are paying attention.
Toyota introduced its MR2 Spyder to U.S. audiences in Miami after the car made its world debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Other introductions included the Honda S2000 and the 9-5 Saab Aero sport sedan.
The show's new importance also is causing some manufacturers to use it as a test ground for new displays and ideas. Take General Motors' much-vaunted decision to consolidate all of its divisions under one display at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit, for example. GM quietly tested the concept in Miami on a smaller scale, where it displayed its five domestic brands next to each other in one area of the Convention Center.
To increase their appeal to the Hispanic audience, most manufacturers require bilingual product experts. The move toward bilingual experts started about 10 years ago, but it has become more prevalent in the past five years, says Jeff Phillips, account executive at Gail & Rice Productions of Southfield, Mich., which writes scripts and trains presenters for auto shows.
Rick Baker, manager of the Miami show, is confident next year's event will feature more product debuts and more press conferences as manufacturers step up their efforts to reach the Hispanic audience. The show is scheduled Oct. 6-15.