Even pre-pandemic, the auto show format has been ripe for reinvention. And as one of the first major auto shows to come out of a Covid-induced hibernation, the LA Auto Show floor still felt quite a bit, well, sleepy.
Big brands were absent. Budgets were cut. Masks were on. Name badges were nixed. But people were there. They were ready to ride. And the future of automotive certainly feels like it’s headed in the right direction.
So as we begin to emerge from this haze of the past several months, one thing remains certain: it may be a slower first lap around the track until we’re fully back to business as usual. But auto shows certainly aren’t dead yet.
Here are our favorite themes and experiential trends after the year-long hiatus:
The greener, the better.
This year was, by far, the electric slide of auto shows. There was a huge focus on sustainability and electric vehicles. From solar-powered charging ports and solo-rider vehicles to electric mods on classic cars, if you were an OEM with an electric lineup, you were putting it front and center. And while some of the messaging around sustainability may have felt more optics-driven than actionable, it was still promising to see such a big spotlight placed on driving greener. One thing is clear about the future: we’re going to need more charging stations.
Immersive storytelling continues to captivate.
We felt like flies to honey within the spaces that swept us (mentally) off the show floor. Subaru transported us straight into the wilderness with a multi-plane curved LED screen and floor that cycled through multiple seasons and environments. Toyota had a 360-degree theater which incorporated active participation with the audience. Lincoln and Porsche both created a feeling of exclusivity and luxury — with fully built-out spaces that created a barrier from the rest of the show. Kia played with contrast, creating an all encompassing space designed in nearly all black and featuring the journey of its Guiness World Record-breaking electric vehicle that drove across the country with a total charge time of a little over seven hours.
Hop in, I’m vaccinated.
With Covid vaccinations or a negative Covid test required for entry, the ride and drive experiences felt more important than ever this year. Not only did people want to get behind the wheel of electric vehicles, but there were some impressive drive tracks that gave us all sorts of roller coaster vibes. Most notable was Ford Bronco’s outdoor track which made the queue experience as engaging as the ride itself. And Dodge Ram’s playful approach to showcasing the truck’s capabilities felt like a real world obstacle course — integrating scenes from everyday life into the track.
Diverse brand ambassadors for the win.
From the industry that glorified the booth babe for so long, we finally saw a big, refreshing shift in brand ambassador talent. Some were older, some were younger, some were tatted, some had dreads, but all were masked up and incredibly knowledgeable about the cars and the tech. Brand ambassadors — and the vehicles — truly came in all shapes, sizes and colors. And we were here for it.
Go big or stay home.
I think one of the most interesting things about the show this year was less of what we saw — and more of what we didn’t see. Several auspicious brands were absent from the show floor. However, their absence only created opportunity — because if you showed up and showed up well, we noticed.