EVs, for the first time in Asia, and celebrities
Angels – As automakers in the new media era organized exclusive car debuts and remote media launches, car shows took a back seat. From New York to Detroit to Los Angeles, the shows focus on their core regional audiences and ramp up non-automaker-specific entertainment.
For this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show, that means focusing on electric cars and celebrities.
Located in America’s largest auto market where California regulators are mandating electric vehicle sales over the next decade (with federal mandates not far behind), the state’s largest show is also the most important on the US auto calendar. This year’s car festival kicks off with a media day on Thursday before opening to the public from November 17-26. Attendees will have the opportunity to test more than a dozen electric vehicles, and the show will – for the first time – feature an electric vehicle on each automaker’s stand.
To connect consumers to the growing list of electric vehicles on offer, both the New York International Auto Show in April and the Detroit event in September devoted significant floor space to electric vehicle rides. Electric Avenue in Los Angeles boasts the largest track of electric vehicles on the show circuit — and unlike its counterparts, will allow consumers to get behind the wheel.
“This is the size of the electric vehicle market in the country,” said David Fortin, vice president of marketing for the Los Angeles show, which is organized by Ansa Productions. “California is a leading state in regulations pushing toward an electric future.”
The push for electric vehicles comes as consumer interest declines, and even the California market — home to 40% of America’s electric vehicle sales — has become resistant to battery-powered vehicles that don’t carry the Tesla name.
“The Los Angeles Auto Show has historically been a fertile ground for introducing electric vehicles, but this year’s show comes at a complex time for electric vehicles,” said Jessica Caldwell, an auto analyst at Edmunds. “While the fully electric vehicle market share rose from 6.0% to 7.5% year over year, it has remained relatively stagnant over the past five months due to rising interest rates, higher prices, and delayed interest from consumers.”
Just as the Detroit show tried to fill a void where glitzy brand sets were using flying planes and tow trucks, the Los Angeles show wants to add a dose of celebrity. “We realize we can bring uniqueness to the Los Angeles show by adding some Hollywood flavor,” Fortin said.
There will be Robert Downey Jr. – also known as Tony Stark in the hit Marvel film series “Iron Man” – and his eco-modified RDJ Dream Cars collection, six classic cars converted to alternative fuel and battery power that will power the exhibit in the South Hall. The car transformations have been documented in the MAX TV series and each will be awarded as part of a public sweepstakes. Models include the 1965 Chevrolet Corvette, 1966 Buick Riviera, 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SE, 1972 Chevrolet K10 Pickup, 1972 Volkswagen Bus, and 1985 Chevy El Camino.
Popular comedian Kevin Hart will be showcasing nine custom-built cars from his collection, including a ’59 “Mint Condition” Corvette, a 1969 Chevy Camaro “Bad News”, a 1969 Michael Myers Plymouth Roadrunner, and a 1969 Dodge Charger “Hellraiser.” “1970 model, and 2023 Ferrari. 812 Competition. Other attractions include the Galpin Customs Hall showcasing customers’ luxury cars from Lamborghinis to Ford Raptors, and promoting the film ‘Ferrari’, which will be in theaters this Christmas.
The Hart Collection will fill the West Hall space where Porsche has traditionally resided in the sprawling, 1 million-square-foot Los Angeles Convention Center. Porsche has not committed to an offer this year – citing its huge Rennsport meeting held in Monterrey this fall – as it joins other European luxury brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Alfa Romeo on the sidelines.
The vacant position in West Hall was the victim of Stellantis’ late withdrawal due to protracted UAW contract negotiations. That left a big hole in the West Hall — where Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Chrysler vehicles are traditionally displayed — which Fortin said the show has been creative in filling. Part of that Jeep experience will be delivered by the Overland Outpost, presented by enthusiast magazine OVR, which will showcase more than 30 off-road vehicles.
Two of Detroit’s other major brands, Chevrolet and Ford, will have a large presence on the floor, including Ford’s Off-Rodeo display where consumers can ride the Bronco. Ford is also expected to debut the 2024 Mustang GT California Special to the public.
Chevy (No. 5) and Ford (No. 3) are both among the 10 best-selling brands in the Golden State, but six of the best-selling brands are Asian brands and will make the bulk of product news here (Tesla and Mercedes) are ranked at No. No. 2 and No. 7 respectively in California sales, but not auto shows anymore).
Toyota is expected to make a big splash with its new Camry sedan and Crown SUV. The Crown sedan makes its U.S. market debut for the 2023 model year, and the SUV expands the sub-brand’s portfolio.
Other notables to look out for include the radically redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe SUV – the latest in a string of attractive vehicles from the ambitious Korean brand – and the redesigned Subaru and Nissan Rogue. Ironically, all of these gas-powered debuts are in a show that would otherwise be green-focused. Lucid is expected to make electric car headlines with the launch of its Gravity SUV, the second vehicle in the brand’s portfolio after the stylish aero sedan. There will also be debuts from non-traditional manufacturers like hydrogen fuel cell truck maker Nikola, electric superbike maker Verge, and Pebble EV travel trailers.
In addition to the electric vehicles on the grandstands, the convention center’s spaces will be transformed into the mile-long loops of Electric Avenue that surround the center’s South Hall.
Combine indoor activations with the outdoor test track, and electric models available for the ride include the Chevy Blazer EV, Chevy Silverado EV Pickup, Kia EV6, Ford F-150 Lightning, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Mazda MX-30, Polestar 2, Volkswagen ID 4, Volvo XC40 Recharge, Porsche Taycan, Lucid Air, and Cadillac Lyriq.
“The biggest barrier to entry for electric vehicles is experience behind the wheel,” Fortin says sadly. To complement these trips, Fortin and his team built the EV Discovery Center, where bilingual EV ambassadors are on hand to educate consumers.
“We understand where our customers’ passions lie in California,” Fortin said. “Their passions lie in green technology, off-road, on the beach, and on the race track.”
Henry Payne is a robot critic for The Detroit News. You can find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.