"From a consumer standpoint, auto shows are stable and growing in importance," said Sage Marie, assistant vice president for public relations at American Honda. "From a media standpoint, the dynamic is definitely changing. The way automakers leverage auto shows to deploy news is changing."
Honda's custom-built stand is designed to be user-friendly, with lots of light and multiple visitor stations with interactive features. There's a safety area with a crashed Civic and product specialists to talk about crumple zones and next-generation airbags. Other stations focus on the company's racing heritage, its eco-friendly models, accessories for its crossovers and its sponsorship of esports, with on-site video games and visits from top players.
The stand also features a parklike atmosphere with trees similar to the ones in the lobby of Honda's North American headquarters in Southern California and a "living wall" of plants similar to one at global headquarters in Japan.
"Generally, the concept was to be very bright and optimistic," Marie told Automotive News from the stand during its debut in Los Angeles. "You look around the rest of the hall, and it's kind of dark and brooding. So, we literally wanted to be like a bright, shining beacon. The main focus of this is to give people an environment to shop for cars."
While media fragmentation has complicated the marketing equation at major auto shows in Los Angeles, Chicago and other markets, the expos remain attractive venues for millions of would-be shoppers, including younger customers who want to touch and feel the autos they have mostly only interacted with online while doing research. The shows are a no-pressure alternative to traditional dealerships.