Public Policy Day at the DC Auto Show Features New Models & Strong Attendance

Before the auto show opens to the public, members of the automotive press, political officials and auto industry insiders are treated to a preview event. Since The Washington, DC Auto Show is the “Public Policy Show” on the international auto show circuit, the preview day is branded as “Public Policy Day” and took place on Thursday, January 20. This year’s public policy day featured brand new product reveals, keynote addresses, and policy-focused panel discussions that centered primarily around the theme of electrification.

The day was kicked off just after lunch by Toyota, who did a “regional reveal” for their first full battery electric vehicle, the bZ4X. Toyota Group Vice President for Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs, Tom Stricker, made the presentation, noting that the model would be in showrooms in a matter of months.

Immediately following the bZ4X reveal, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, who some have called the most influential politician for the automotive industry, delivered an energetic keynote address. After being introduced by NADA President Mike Stanton, Ms. McCarthy, President Biden’s top environmental official, sat down with Joe White from Reuters for further elaboration on her remarks in the form of a conversational fireside chat. Among other notable statements, Ms. McCarthy had exclaimed that “I love auto shows!” and that she had never “been at an auto show where so many environmentally friendly technologies were on display.”

Following Ms. McCarthy’s remarks, Amir Hadzimehmedovic, General Manager of Sterling Motorcars’ exotic lines, presented a pre-production McLaren Artura, the company’s first “hybrid supercar.” Closing off the first portion of the Public Policy Day programming, David Bilger of Form Policy then introduced a brand-new Karma GS6. Between the Toyota bZ4X, remarks from the National Climate Advisor, and the first-ever regional introductions of a McLaren and Karma, the 2022 Public Policy Day was already a smash hit and was only halfway through.

For the second half of the program, the audience moved from the show’s EV Pavilion in the lower level of the show, to the MobilityTalks Main Stage on the upper level, which was strategically located between the Chevrolet and Stellantis exhibits. Kicking off the agenda was Chris Urmson, the co-founder and CEO of Aurora, the world’s leading self-driving car company. Mr. Urmson sat down with Joe White and discussed the future of autonomous driving, to include Aurora’s latest initiative in the freight industry, to the continued development of ADAS technologies that will ultimately lead to self-driving passenger cars.

Following Mr. Urmson’s keynote, the audience was treated to a five-minute video that Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg had recorded specifically for Public Policy Day. There was then a panel discussion on infrastructure featuring the states of Virginia and Michigan along with a representative from Electrify America, followed by keynote remarks from CEO Alex Vetter. Mr. Vetter notably addressed the trend of industry “disrupters” like Tesla and Rivian who plan to continue to deliver vehicles direct to consumers. “The best distribution network is already in place,” he explained. “Why a company would not want to leverage an existing distribution network like the nation’s franchised car dealers, who already have facilities and deep ties to local communities, is beyond me.”

Following Mr. Vetter’s remarks another video was presented, this time from British Ambassador to the US, Dame Karen Pierce. A final panel discussion delved into the topic of international automotive policy trends, and then John O’Donnell introduced Senator Chris Van Hollen to close the “MobilityTalks” portion of the program. Senator Van Hollen used his keynote address and Q&A with Bloomberg’s Kevin Tynan to discuss Build Back Better and other challenges related to the nation’s supply chain and related infrastructure concerns. Senator Van Hollen was then treated to a special ride in one of the show’s premier exhibits: an electric three-wheel vehicle from Arcimoto, an Oregon-based EV company hosting a fully interactive ride & drive on the lower level of the show.

After Senator Van Hollen left the stage, the program closed with what has become a Public Policy Day staple: U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Cars for the Money” awards. Of the eleven awards, five were from Hyundai (Santa Fe, Kona, Tucson, Tucson Hybrid and Elantra Hybrid), and three were from Honda (Civic, Odyssey and Accord). The Kia Telluride, Nissan Versa and Toyota Avalon rounded out the remaining awards.

To cap it all off, the show’s annual “Sneak Peek Preview” reception was held from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. The Sneak Peek is an area favorite where staffers from Capitol Hill and many federal agencies come down to the convention center for their chance to see the auto show before the public opening the following day. As with the other events throughout the day, the attendance was much stronger than expected, with thousands donning their masks and verifying their vaccination status to come in and enjoy one of the world’s premier automotive exhibitions.

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