Will The (Los Angeles Auto) Show Go On?

The big question weighing on the minds of many automakers is whether the Los Angeles Auto Show is going to take place as planned in just over a month. 

The public days are currently scheduled for Nov. 19-28 and the media events are planned for Nov. 17 and 18. 

The automakers are in scurry mode, planning their media events and vehicle reveals. As one executive told me, they are already “far into our spend” to put together a huge event around a concept vehicle. Every day that ticks by means thousands of more dollars have been spent. 

The New York auto show didn’t cancel until Aug. 4, just 16 days before the public days -- and with even less notice time for the media events. Organizers cited a rise in COVID-19 Delta variant cases and stricter public-health measures put in place in New York City.

But for now, it’s business as usual in the planning for LA Show activities. 

Just this morning I received an invite to an event co-hosted by Hyundai Motor America and Vanity Fair, celebrating the recent campaign launched by the automaker using images by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. 

The Nov. 17 event features “an exclusive installation of portraits and films documenting the journeys of Hyundai owners, employees and partners.” 

The invite also includes a requirement: “Proof of vaccination is required to attend.” 

Given the current regulations by the Los Angeles County Department of Health, that’s also likely to be a precondition to attend the auto show, along with the ever-present mask stipulation.

Indeed, the entire state of California has been way more stringent in its continuing mask requirements, and the Los Angeles Convention Center will be bound by those requirements. 

Currently, the LA Auto Show FAQ page simply states that “The LA Auto Show will be operated in full accordance with all safety protocols required by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Official guidelines will be provided to all ticket holders in November.”

Attendees at the nearby Staples Center are currently required to present either proof of full vaccination (two weeks since your final dose) or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event date.

However, new city regulations go into effect Nov. 4, which require businesses to require proof of vaccination when customers enter indoor facilities, including coffee shops, gyms, museums, bowling alleys, spas and a range of other venues. There’s no reason to think the LA Convention Center will be exempt. 

Of course, there is pushback by some members of the public who are posting their objections to the event’s social media pages. 

I have not yet heard from a journalist or automotive executive who is against the vaccine and mask mandate. In fact, many have already started requiring proof of vaccine, and proof of recent negative COVID-19 test to attend their media events. Some have gone as far to require attendees to be fully vaccinated and also to submit to a quick test before entry into the event. 

Having a nurse swab your nose in front of your colleagues and then waiting for the result is slightly awkward, but it beats the alternative. I get it. If I’m going to be up close and personal with the top executives of these giant companies, they need to know I’m as healthy as possible. 

Verifying the vaccination status of thousands of people streaming in through the convention hall doors could be a logistical challenge, but it’s likely something large events are going to have to face for the forseeable future, so we might as well start figuring it out.

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