Philadelphia Auto Show: Biggest Year Yet

By Kelly April Tyrrell 8:12pm, February 7, 2014 - Updated 11:28pm, February 7, 2014
VIDEO: Don Franks, chairman of the 2014 Philadelphia Auto Show, talks about the event with WDEL.
What do a Maserati and a Honda have in common?

For the next 10 days, they are sharing space in the Philadelphia Convention Center, alongside roughly 40 other brands. A walk through the spacious showroom Friday revealed a blazing array of Toyotas, BMWs, Subarus, Jeeps and more.

"It's the 113th Philadelphia Auto Show and it's the largest show ever," said show chairman, Don Franks. "It's 650,000 square feet, which maybe you can relate better to 11 football fields which is the size of the display area here, which is just amazing."

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The show, which kicked off Friday with a media day and the Black Tie Tailgate - to raise funds for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - runs through February 16.

It's a place for people to dream and it's a place for people to plan. The show features $12,000 cars as well as $500,000 cars.

"We've got the icing on the cake that allows people to dream about the cars that they wanna look at and we've got the real cars that they're gonna live with, too," Franks said.

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Unlike other shows - many of which Franks said are focused on the media and showing off the latest and greatest, the burliest and sexiest of vehicles - the Philadelphia Auto Show is really about consumers.

"We need to help the consumer make better decisions and I think our show does that," Franks said. "It lets them make good decisions that make them get good values when they purchase their vehicles."

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That's accomplished, in part, by the low-pressure environment the show affords, said Ryan Sandberg, a product specialist for Chevrolet.

"You can come see all the car brands next to each other and just get information on the product," said Sandberg. "You really have all these options in front of you and there's no pressure about buying it. You just get to understand the product and know it better."

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The event also gives many attendees a chance to see their dream car, said Brad Ersley with Porsche Cars of North America.

"On a crowded day, we see that," said Ersley. "They're asking lots and lots of questions, getting their picture taken next to the car so it's a lot of fun to represent that kind of product."

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And car manufacturers also get to do some showing off.

"You can see what we currently have and where we're evolving, where we're changing," said Sean Masson, business development specialist for Ford. "So you get the best of both worlds."

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This year's winter weather made getting the cars onto the showroom floor especially challenging and plenty of elbow grease went into getting them cleaned and polished.

"Moving 700 cars in from 40 different manufacturers is a real challenge," he said.

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Despite set backs in the auto industry in recent years, things are looking up. In 2009, the lowest year for car manufacturers, 10 million new cars were sold. This year, Franks said, predictions are calling for the sale of over 16 million new cars.

This year, he thinks consumers are looking for technology in their vehicles, everything from screens that help people reverse to cars equipped with 4G LTE. It's all about the connectivity.

"I think the technology is what people are going to be most amazed at," said Franks.

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In addition to the cars themselves - truly a dizzying array of colors and features - the show also offers on-site driving experiences, drive track simulators, touch screen displays that offer product information and more.

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