Last week, I had the very pleasant “tropical” opportunity to attend the South Florida International Auto Show (SFIAS), which local folks tout as the start of the 2012 auto show circuit. Ha! I thought. Let’s see how this show compares with the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) at Cobo … the premier auto show.
I figured I needed at least a little flash to fit in with the South Beach & Miami show crowd, but I wasn’t sure if I should go with my Ferrari or my Corvette so I went with both — Ferrari shoes and Corvette racing cap!
Before I started out I did a little research.
South Florida show is second only to Detroit for its influence on vehicle purchases, which makes sense since Florida has the second most car registrations in the country behind California, according to show organizers.
So with these customer influence statistics in hand I thought I’d take in the show South Beach style. No snow boots or winter parkas down here. No, this one had an abundance of sandals, Bermuda shorts, tight miniskirts, great tans and plenty of bling. OK. There’s lots of bling on Charity Preview Night but in Florida it’s just part of the show every day.
For local cruising, Ocean Drive in South Beach is their Woodward Avenue. It was at Ocean and 4th where I started my excursion to the Miami Beach Convention Center (roughly 20 minutes on foot in my size 10 Ferraris). No Lodge Freeway for me for this show — just north on Ocean Drive past the 24-hour News Café, the Versace mansion, and Lummas Park in the heart of the historic “Art Deco” district. Cross over to Española Way and all the outdoor bistros then past the always crowded pedestrian mall on Lincoln Road and you’re just about there.
On the way I came into contact with all forms of transportation — plenty of international tourists walking everywhere you looked. There were bicyclers, roller bladers, a gaggle of Segways and the amphibious Duck Tour vehicle. As far as petro-power, you name it and I passed it (or it passed me). In only a brief five minute span there were Corvette and Mustang convertibles, several different model Porsches, some Jags, a Ferrari or two, at least one Rolls Royce, a Maybach and a bevy of Bentleys which I believe is the unofficial vehicle of Ocean Drive and South Beach. And, as I approached the convention center there was a small parade of Miami Street rides with appropriate bling and more than a few stretch SUV limos.
The first spot I visited was the Operations Center to talk to organizers for their take on attendance expectations, impact of the show on the local economy and their list of must-see vehicles and exhibits. I was also trying to get a temperature reading for how much excitement the show generates because this region is also living through a struggling economy and devastated real estate market. It turns out this show is as important to South Florida as the Detroit Auto Show and the Woodward Dream Cruise are to Southeast Michigan.
I was only there for a short visit but what I can say for sure, “Cars are ALIVE and WELL in South Florida,” which is good news to automakers and Detroit’s industrial base.
Here are some observations from the show:
- Organizers expect 700,000 visitors and estimate the event will pump more than $50 million into the local economy.
- South Floridians are truly passionate about their cars and the region supports a second auto show every spring only 25 miles north in Ft. Lauderdale.
- Lots of excited spectators jumping in and out of the Chrysler, Ford and GM vehicles, which will hopefully bode well for domestic sales.
- Golf in Florida during October’s tropical storm season is as “iffy” as in Michigan during the changing seasons.
- Excited show goers (wet or dry) are easily identifiable in any spoken language.
- Is the 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe really priced near $75,000?
- Many more people have “ink” (tattoos) than I see back home.
- Despite Miami’s reputation for bling, Detroit shines brighter when it comes to funds raised in support of children’s charities through the annual black tie Charity Preview.
I’m planning to return to next year’s South Florida show but I’m really looking forward to putting on my parka and boots and heading to Cobo in January for NAIAS. It’s still the premier show.