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O.C., Long Beach Dealers Join for Car Battle

June 26, 1996|JOHN O'DELL

Seeking new ways to break free of the shadow of the giant Los Angeles International Auto Show, the Orange County and Long Beach new car dealers associations have decided to put together a combined automobile show this year.

The result could be a West Coast show to be reckoned with. Last year, the Orange County Automobile Dealers Assn. show sold 185,000 square feet of space at the Anaheim Convention Center to auto makers and about 100,000 more to auxiliary exhibitors--mainly auto products makers and service providers. While most manufacturers showed their wares at the 1995 show, few bothered to bring their A-list displays--the big, colorful, noisy ones that draws oohs and aahs at the really big shows in such cities as Detroit, Tokyo and Chicago.

This year, with several months still to go until opening day Nov. 23, the combined California International Auto Show already has sold more than 300,000 square feet of exhibit space and organizers expect to sell all 400,000 square feet in the three halls the show leases at the convention center. Ford, Chrysler and import auto makers Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi all have said they will be setting up their premier displays--about the same number of A-list exhibits the Los Angeles Auto Show gets.

Providing the alliance holds, the combined show will be an annual event and will be held each year at the Anaheim Convention Center. Long Beach Arena, where the Long Beach show has been held for years, isn't big enough to stage the combined event.

The two dealer associations represent more than 200 new car dealerships that, combined, sold more than 500,000 new cars and light trucks last year. The Orange County auto show drew about 200,000 people for its Thanksgiving week run last year; attendance at the Long Beach show, held in September, was about 150,000. The Los Angeles show, in January, drew about 675,000.

John O'Dell covers major Orange County corporations, manufacturing and economic issues for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-5831 and at john.odell@latimes.com

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