At some point, there might be a Philadelphia Auto Show that doesn’t follow a year of growing sales. But 2017 will not be that show.
In fact, 2016 offered another year of record sales for the American automobile industry.
“This is our seventh year of growth since '09 – the last time that happened was 100 years ago, and that was spurred by the Model T,” said Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, which produces the show.
U.S. vehicle sales totaled 17.55 million for 2016, beating 2015's record sales of 17.47 million, according to Autodata Corp. That was up from just 10.6 million in 2010, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and had been rising by a million or more units each year.
Automakers kept sales high, in part, because of incentives, especially at the end of 2016. But consumer optimism, low unemployment, and rising but still low interest rates have offered reasons for continued cheer.
“It’s a cyclical business, so when is that cycle going to change or turn?" Mazzucola asked. “Most people think it’s going to flatten.”
So as sales remain up, moderation is key. The just-ending 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit was a more sedate affair: only about 50 debuts, about an average number, according to Forbes, compared with 66 debuts at the 2016 show.
Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for Edmunds, the automotive clearinghouse site, had this to say: "The auto industry is going back to basics at the Detroit Auto Show this year. Car enthusiasts may be a little disappointed about the lack of flash and fantasy at this year's show, but car shoppers will appreciate the fact that automakers are showing off new versions of vehicles that they're actually likely to buy."
So while the official tagline of the Philadelphia Auto Show remains “Find What Moves You,” the 2017 subtitle for all shows might be “Cautious Optimism.” And as more of a consumer than a real car enthusiast, I say, “Bring it on.”
David Kelleher, chairman of the Philadelphia Auto Show, pointed to the cars as the bread and butter of the show. But there’s plenty to draw in crowds – sports stars like Mo'ne Davis and UFC champion Eddie Alvarez, plus Audra McLaughlin from The Voice.
Last year’s pub gets an upgrade this year as the Pitstop, Camp Jeep makes a return appearance with more, and BMW joins the Ride and Drive club with Mazda, Kia, and Toyota. Deaf and hard-of-hearing community access days will be the first Saturday and Tuesday evening.
The annual Black Tie Gala previews the show Jan. 27, and money raised supports the department of neurology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“It’s just not cars on a rug,” Kelleher said.
Still, what could be better than cars on a rug? Here are just a few of the featured models:
2018 Lexus LC500: This premium sport coupe is projected to have 471 horsepower and a zero-to-60 time of 4.5 seconds. A 5.0-liter V-8 paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission will drive the rear wheels.
2018 VW Atlas: This three-row SUV from Volkswagen fits an important niche for its American customers. The automaker's marketing department is making the most of those three rows, but little other information is available about the Atlas, including its sale date.
2018 Volvo V90: The sedan version S90 has just qualified as a North American Car of the Year finalist, and now here comes a crossover version of the largest Volvo available. With a starting price of $55,300, expect to pay a handsome sum for this vehicle. The company’s 316-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder will power the vehicle.
2017 Acura NSX: This $156,000 two-seater sports car is a rollicking departure from previous incarnations. A 500-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 will get drivers where they’re going in a hurry. The NSX is available now.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: Putting a hybrid gas-electric powertrain with plug-in capabilities into a people mover like the Pacifica minivan may be the ultimate marrying of practicality with practicality. The gasoline version averaged 24 mpg in our testing, so the hybrid has the potential to bring the Pacifica’s mpgs near the 30 mark. In the hybrid, a modified 3.6-liter PentaStar V-6 engine gets mated to a 16-kilowatt battery.
2017 Infiniti Q60: The new sporty four-seater has also visited the Driver’s Seat testing grounds. Its 3.0 V-6 creates 255 horsepower and rockets the small car to 60 in a real hurry. It starts at $28,950, but was over $55,000 as tested. As grown-up version of the 360Z, there’s a lot to like about the Q60.