More Excitement, More Visitors

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Jason Campbell is the General Manager of the Canadian International AutoShow. You can reach him at [email protected]. Photo Jason Campbell

This year’s Canadian International AutoShow was the most popular yet.

Going into the 2024 Canadian International AutoShow, there were high expectations. It was our second in-person event following the COVID-19 pandemic, and we wanted to build upon the momentum seen in 2023.

By the time the doors closed on the 2024 Canadian International AutoShow on February 25th, we had witnessed record attendance. There were four days that set single-day attendance records and in total, we had 371,559 guests coming through during the course of the show, beating our previous record of 358,842 which was set back in 2018.

Familiar names return

We had 44 brands participate in the event this year, and it was great to see some familiar names return, including Ford, Lincoln, Infiniti, Porsche, Genesis, Polestar and Volvo. Popular exhibits in 2024 included Camp Jeep at the Stellantis display in the North Hall of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, as well as the EV Test Track in the South Hall where we had 15 vehicles from 12 different brands that customers could sample. All in all, we had over 10,000 test drives take place during CIAS 2024, giving consumers an opportunity to really see the capabilities of these vehicles and become more familiar with EVs, even though some are still reticent when it comes to committing to a full battery electric car or truck as their next purchase.

That being said, it was very encouraging to see so many people attend, not only during the weekends but also on weekdays and there’s no question our Super Tuesday discount promotion helped in getting more people through the doors. Ultimately, an event like ours is about exciting and enthusing as many people as we can regarding the complete automotive experience.

Grand Touring Automobiles’ 50th Anniversary was a major event at CIAS this year. Photo Grand Touring Automobiles

Social media buzz

One way we were really able to do that and promote the show this year, was via social media. Our ticket pre-sales were up in 2024 and there was a lot of pre-show excitement. A big draw was the announcement that we would have Richard Hammond attending CIAS. His appearance created a lot of buzz, as did the display from Throttle House on the opening day of the show. Throttle House has a huge audience and social media presence and combined with the exotic vehicle display, generated a lot of conversations and sharing of images and comments across different social media platforms.

Other big attractions were the 1957 Corvette inspired by last summer’s Barbie movie, which proved a real Instagram hit, while the LEGO and Hot Wheels displays and on-site stores were also very popular. Anniversary celebrations are always a big attraction and this year we celebrated 50 Years of Grand Touring Automobiles, showcased by a beautiful exhibit of vehicles that represent some of the most exotic vehicle brands in the world. 

Evident trends

Walking the show always provides a great opportunity to see what is happening in automotive retail and for this year’s event, there were several things that were abundantly clear. The first is that the pandemic is now behind us, and the world is returning to a level of normalcy we have not seen for some time. The second is that economic conditions, such as high interest rates are impacting consumer spending and sentiment. We saw that in the greater degree of interest exhibited among vehicles offered by mainstream brands, particularly in compact and mid-size, family-oriented SUVs.

That’s not to say there isn’t movement in the higher-end space of automotive retail, it’s just that currently, the push is really being felt in the more value-oriented brands and vehicles, a trend that’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future. We’re also seeing inventory levels increase and based on current data analysis, that will likely mean more incentives coming later this year which will serve to stimulate demand. 

Managing capacity

So, in looking back on CIAS 2024, what are our thoughts for next year? One of the biggest factors is managing attendee capacity. Even though we had higher overall attendance this year, the advent of incentives like the Super Tuesday discount ticket promotion had the effect of spreading out attendance across the duration of the show and that’s something we’d like to see continue as it creates a more pleasurable experience while boosting the number of visitors.

Ultimately, if CIAS is going to continue to grow and attract more people, it will require more innovative approaches to both attendance and exhibits, including incentivizing specific days and time slots during the course of the event. And, if we’re able to do that, it will not only result in more bums in seats but more exposure for the manufacturers, for the dealers and ultimately, more success for the automotive industry.


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