When former Chrysler Corp. President Bob Lutz intentionally drove the first Jeep Grand Cherokee through a plate-glass window at the 1992 Detroit auto show, the media stunt not only generated global headlines but also marked a new era.
Car shows were nearly a century old at the time, but the Chrysler marketing team helped push the perception that the annual expo was a major media event rather than what it always had been — mostly an opportunity for local dealers to get local consumers into shopping mode during January's winter doldrums.
Fast-forward to the digital age. Even before the event-crushing arrival of COVID-19, auto manufacturers were cutting back on splashy auto show debuts, doubting their bang for their bucks and looking for ways to spark product attention online.
The media hot take in recent years has been to declare that the era of the public auto show is dead.