The 2024 DC Auto Show Kicks Off Year with a Bang

On Sunday, the 2024 Washington, DC Auto Show concluded an eminently successful event. “We’re very happy with this show’s performance,” said WANADA CEO John O’Donnell. “We had a record-breaking Public Policy Day, all of our conference partners set attendance records as well, and all of our exhibitors met or exceeded their engagement goals. It was a great show!”

The show’s annual “Public Policy Day” kicked off the proceedings on Thursday, January 18.  The day opened with the newly minted Champions for Automotive Education Awards, a dynamic partnership between DARCARS, Toyota and WANADA’s Automobile Dealer Education Institute (ADEI), which honored automotive educators from around the region and presented them with keys to a leased, pure-electric Toyota BZ4X.

Following the awards, several hundred lawmakers, members of the media, and the auto industry gathered at the Public Policy Day stage for lunch and a robust program of keynote addresses, panel discussions and vehicle reveals. The wide array of notable speakers included National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, the Deputy Secretaries of both the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Transportation, the Administrator of the General Services Administration, senior officials from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Volvo North America chief executive Michael Cottone.  Perhaps the highlight of the day, however, was a fiery roundtable from five members of the Congressional Auto Caucus.  Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Bob Latta (R-OH) and Roger Williams (R-TX) engaged in a passionate debate over the current state of the automotive industry, most notably trading barbs over the appropriate level of government involvement in electric vehicles (EVs).

Amid the political discussions, several manufacturers introduced or showcased new models, including the all-new Lexus TX 550h+, their 3-row plug-in hybrid SUV; the Rolls Royce Spectre, the famed luxury automaker’s first full battery electric vehicle; and the first-ever Aston-Martin DB12 convertible.  “We can’t think of a better place to showcase these products,” noted David Bilger of Exclusive Automotive Group. “This show is always full of our customers and potential customers looking for Bentleys, Aston-Martins, and the like.  It just makes sense that we would pick The Washington, DC Auto Show to premier a car like the DB12 convertible.”  Rounding out the product portion of the Policy Day programming, U.S. News & World Report delivered their annual “Best Cars for the Money” awards, highlighting vehicles that present the best value for those consumers perhaps not in the market for high-end exotics.

Following Public Policy Day, the show’s annual Sneak Peek Preview provided an opportunity for lawmakers and industry insiders to take in the sights and sounds of the show before opening to the general public.  In addition to live music, drinks and hors d’oeuvres, this year’s guests were also treated to a reveal of a special edition Lamborghini Huracan STO and Ducati Streetfighter V4 companion set from The Driver’s Vault.

On Friday, January 19, the auto show opened to the public.  In spite of some light snow, the public showed up in droves throughout the weekend.  Saturday and Sunday were characterized by large crowds, with many exhibitors reporting that lead goals were met or exceeded. The ride & drives, including indoor tracks from Hyundai & Nissan, and outdoor drives from Ford, Hyundai, Kia, and Tesla, were all quite popular, sporting strong lines for the duration of the weekend.

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 IONIQ6 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, Mithcell Haverty from Children’s National, 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 offered several additional activities for WANADA members.   The Tag & Title seminar, which was held on Wednesday, January 24, featured motor vehicle agency regulators from DC/DMV and Maryland/MVA discussing the special tag and title issues facing Washington Area dealers. The seminar was attended by area tag & title processers from WANADA dealerships and focused on proper document processing, inter-jurisdictional coordination and administrative efforts.

Director of Education Joe Hemberger discussing the ADEI technician training program, Chris Peterson from Toyota, and Farzad Makarehchi from DARCARS.  The event was attended by over 200 high schoolers, who then had the opportunity to enjoy the auto show before returning to their respective campuses.

Thursday, January 25th featured the 2024 WANADA Member Reception, which was sponsored by BG Crovato Products & Services and The Kirvan, Pierce, Sweeney Group.  Many dealers and kindred line members took the opportunity to view the show floor and network with their colleagues. Of utmost interest were the models on display from both Tesla and Lucid after both direct-to-consumer EV brands decided to participate in the show.  “It’s good for the show to have these brands represented,” said show chairman Bob Biagi of Ourisman Automotive of Virginia.  “The Board of Directors was unanimously in support of having them exhibit to demonstrate to those non-participating OEMs what they are missing out on.”  The Tesla Cybertruck and Lucid Air were among the most popular vehicles on display, underscoring the importance of getting new and innovative products in front of the buying public at a venue like the auto show.

Another benefit to exhibiting in the show is the prevalence of lawmakers who use the event as an opportunity to educate themselves on the latest automotive technology and to engage with the manufacturers on policy issues facing the industry.  Over 100 Hill staffers attended various tours throughout the week, and several congressmen and senators also came to the show for this purpose. As The Public Policy Show on the international auto show circuit, the DC Auto Show uniquely fills the role as a lobbying hotspot for the car business.

Another unique feature of The Washington, DC Auto Show is the annual FedFleet Conference & Expo, which is the only place that General Services Administration (GSA) fleet managers can travel for education, training and to view product.  The three-and-a-half day event featured over 2,600 federal government fleet managers from around the world, as well as top executives from the GSA, including GSA Deputy Administrator Katy Kale, over 70 exhibitors, and an indoor FedFleet Ride & Drive.

“We have influenced the classification of vehicles that receive credits under IRA, been the site of many important conversations that shape our industry, have some of the most important policymakers in the country stop by to review product and much, much more,” 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 most important auto expositions in the world.”

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