TORONTO - This city's annual auto show stepped quietly onto a higher plane this year, joining Detroit, Tokyo, Geneva, Paris and Frankfurt as one of only six sanctioned international auto shows in the world.
Toronto won the coveted status from the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles of Geneva, sanctioning body for international auto exhibitions, beating out bids by Montreal, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
'It was felt that North America could support two international events, and Toronto fulfilled all the requirements,' OICA President Emi-lio diCamillo said here.
'Our discussions with Los Angeles and other places haven't stopped, but international status likely will not be granted to another North American venue in the near future.'
Organizers conceded that the show has a long way to go to live up to its new mantle. This year's show, which ran Feb. 16-25, had no world debuts and only three North American debuts, the Ford Focus ZX5 and two concepts.
'We don't regard this as something that's going to happen overnight,' said General Manager Tom Tonks. 'This is just the beginning. You get the status, then you work to achieve your goals.'
Tonks said Toronto sought international status because it wanted to attract a higher level of manufacturer participation.
'We had to look at a means of justifying it, and international status was one of the ways in which they would commit to it,' he said.
Indeed, Ford of Canada said the Toronto show's new international status provided the justification for launching the Focus ZX5 here.
Ford spokesperson Chris Banks said Ford always has supported the show but had not been able to justify debuting important vehicles there.
'If it hadn't been an international show, the ZX5 would have been launched in Chicago or New York,' Banks said.
Stewart Lowe, director of public relations for General Motors of Canada, said Toronto has taken an important step toward becoming an important industry event.
'International status will encourage manufacturers to put more effort and dazzle into the show,' he said.
'We look forward to the day when there will be world premieres at the show but, frankly, that will take some time.'