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Recession? Car show attendance running high

December 29, 2008

Car buffs aren't letting negative news about the economy keep them away from the 2009 Indianapolis Auto Show.

Attendance is running about even with last year's show, said Marty Murphy, executive vice president of the Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association, the dealer group that sponsors the show. Last year, the seven-day event attracted 230,000.

This year's show started Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 1 at the Indiana Convention Center.

The Indianapolis event, in its 95th year, is holding its own at a time other shows, including a key show in Detroit, are cutting back due to the economy.

In Indianapolis, dealers are showcasing 400 vehicles - a level similar to last year. Only one carmaker, General Motors Corp., cut its footprint at the convention center. The Detroit company, which is struggling to avoid bankruptcy, has 15 percent less floor space than last year.

Indianapolis maintained the size of its show partly because exhibitors were obligated to pay half their fees this summer, before the economy went into a steeper decline, Murphy said.

Attendance has benefited from the recent mild weather and from the large crowds that were downtown yesterday attending the Indianapolis Colts game at nearby Lucas Oil Stadium, he said. Organizers let Colts fans attend the show without having to pay the $7 admission fee.

Murphy also thinks people who have put off buying decisions due to the economy are edging closer to making commitments.

"Both the dealer and manufacturer are motivated," he said. "Usually it's one or the other."

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