The knock on auto shows has always been that, unless you're a gearhead or a consumer shopping for a new vehicle, cars on carpets can be, well, a little boring.
But automakers are increasingly turning to virtual reality -- the graphics technology that underlies many video games -- to ensure that consumers not only look at their auto show displays but immerse themselves in them.
At last month's Los Angeles Auto Show, for example, the Chrysler brand used a 2015 Chrysler 200 as a set for an interactive tour of how the sedan is built.
The month before, at the Paris auto show, Nissan showed what it calls the "Juke Color Studio" -- a three-dimensional display that allows consumers to customize a model-sized Juke on a table with different colors, wheels and trims.
Also in Paris, Volvo use a virtual reality headset to immerse consumers in both its new XC90 crossover and the Swedish countryside.
The trend to employ virtual reality displays at auto shows is growing as the cost of virtual reality headsets comes down and the technology becomes more popular. Some headsets can cost nearly $40,000, while consumer versions are in development that would drop the price to a more palatable $300, according to Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News.
At Chrysler's display in Los Angeles, consumers sit in a Chrysler 200 and don a virtual reality headset to begin a four-minute tour of the sedan that explains how it's made.
As the consumer slips on the headset, his or her view of the car looks the same, regardless of where he or she is looking. However, seconds later, the car explodes into a view of its various components, all floating in space around the viewer. Looking at different components triggers short films about the Chrysler Sterling Heights Assembly plant's body shop, paint shop and metrology center, showing how the car is manufactured.
"This is taking people to a place where most of them are never able to go: inside the assembly plant to see how the car is made," Chrysler spokeswoman Diane Morgan said. Chrysler will use the display again at next month's Detroit auto show.
A Volvo spokesman could not be reached for comment. It was unclear whether the XC90 virtual reality display would be used for the Detroit auto show.
Nissan's Juke Color Studio is making a tour of Europe and won't be in Detroit, spokesman Dan Bedore said. Its 3-D mapping technology projects different colors, trims and wheels onto a translucent static model of a Juke on a tabletop at the direction of a tablet computer.
Bedore said, "It's always something we're looking at when we're looking to add excitement to the shows."