The 2023 Washington, DC Auto Show Exceeds All Expectations

On Sunday, the 2023 Washington, DC Auto Show concluded after a landmark year and full return to pre-pandemic levels of attendance and consumer engagement.

“This show exceeded every expectation,” said WANADA CEO John O’Donnell. “We knew we would be better than 2022, which had a lot of COVID-related headwinds, but we didn’t expect to get back to where we were before the pandemic. We’re back…and more!”

The show began with its annual “Public Policy Day” on Thursday, January 19. Kicking off the proceedings was Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), who chairs the important Environment & Public Works Committee. As a leading voice in policymaking that affects the automobile business, Sen. Carper shared many of his insights about the impact of recent legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and more.

Following the senator’s welcoming remarks, several manufacturers introduced or showcased new models. Toyota started off the OEMs by introducing the 2023 Prius to the East Coast. The newly redesigned Prius, complete with plug-in charging capabilities, was subsequently made a prominent feature in Toyota’s exhibit. Next, Lamborghini unveiled their all-new Urus Performante, the first model of its kind on American shores. Third, Bentley took its turn by showcasing the newly extended Bentayga SUV. The Prius, Urus Performante, and Bentayga “EWB” (extended wheelbase) turned lots of heads and had the assembled members of the media scrambling for the best photos. Rounding out the product portion of the Policy Day programming, U.S. News & World Report delivered their annual “Best Cars for the Money” awards.

Other notable Public Policy Day speakers included Gabe Klein, Executive Director of the Joint Office for Energy and Transportation, Michael Berube, Deputy Asst. Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), Andrew Mayock, Federal Chief Sustainability Officer, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States Stavros Lambrinidis, and Nikola Motors CEO Michael Lohscheller.
Following Public Policy Day, the WANADA Member Reception was held concurrent with the show’s annual Sneak Peek Preview. This year’s reception was a hit, with many dealers and kindred line members taking the opportunity to take in some of the policy programming and check out all the new models on display. The 2023 Member Reception was sponsored by BG Crovato Products & Services and The Kirvan, Pierce, Sweeney Group.

On Friday, January 20, the auto show opened to the public. And throughout the weekend the public showed up in droves. Saturday and Sunday were characterized by huge crowds, with many exhibitors reporting that lead goals were exceeded each and every day. The ride & drives, both outdoor and indoor, were full the whole weekend, as were the special feature areas like the all-new Commercial Truck Zone and Get Outdoors Pavilion.

Another highlight of the weekend was the Hyundai Hands-On Hope contest. Six contestants, drawn from the pediatric cancer units at Georgetown Lombardi and Children’s National, maintained physical contact with a brand new Hyundai IONIQ5 for 44 hours to have a chance to win the car for themselves and a $60,000 research grant for their institution. The runner-up institution would not be left in the cold, of course, as they would then receive a $40,000 donation from Hyundai, for a total contribution of $100,000 to fight pediatric cancer. The winner, Jeffrey Petro from Georgetown Lombardi, was understandably thrilled to be the new owner of such a highly prized new car.

In addition to the fun atmosphere, beautiful surroundings, and hundreds of new cars, The Washington, DC Auto Show also offers several additional activities for WANADA members. The Tag & Title seminar, which was held on Tuesday, January 24, featured motor vehicle agency regulators from DC/DMV, Maryland/MVA and Virginia/DMV discussing the special tag and title issues facing Washington Area dealers. The seminar was attended by over 40 area tag & title processers from WANADA dealerships and focused on proper document processing, inter-jurisdictional coordination and administrative efforts.
Another feature of the 2023 show was a reinvigorated Career Day where area high school auto technology students gathered at the convention center to learn about all of the career opportunities available at new car dealerships. Speakers included WANADA’s Director of Education Joe Hemberger discussing WANADA’s ADEI technician training program, Chris Peterson from Toyota, and Farzad Makarehchi from DARCARS.

Following Career Day, one of the highlights of the entire show materialized when Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi came by for a joint visit. Stopping first on the street to take turns driving a Ford F-150 Lightning and Chevy Bolt, Secretary Granholm and NCA Zaidi then made their way to the show’s EV Pavilion to personally review lots of the electrified products that the manufacturers were featuring at the show.

“All these companies announcing they are locating now in the United States,” Granholm told Reuters. “It’s electric vehicles, it’s the guts to the electric vehicle, it’s the guts to the battery – the whole supply chain now locating in the United States.”

Sec. Granholm and NCA Zaidi met with product specialists from Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota as they reviewed eight different models that had been gathered for the occasion. “We literally influenced the classification of vehicles that receive credits under IRA, then had the two of the most important policymakers to our industry stop by and review product for an hour,” said O’Donnell. “We are one of the strongest markets in the entire country, and we help influence decisions on the highest levels. This is why we are one of the strongest and most important auto shows in the world.”

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