Jan 12, 2024 - News

How Philadelphia's annual Auto Show is pulled off

Illustration of a car made out of a bunch of different cars.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Each year the Philadelphia Auto Show rolls into town to showcase classic cars, the best the industry has to offer and what's to come.

Why it matters: Pulling off this more than 120-year-old show in Center City is a feat of logistics.

What's happening: The nine-day event opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 21 inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center on North Broad Street.

  • It's expected to draw hundreds of thousands of attendees and has an estimated $50 million economic impact on the city and state.
  • The Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia puts on the annual shows.

If you go: Tickets are $20 for adults and kids 13 and up; $12 for children 7-12; $15 for seniors and military members. Hours vary.

What's at the Auto Show?

More than 500 cars will be on display spanning 600,000 square feet on a single floor of the convention center.

  • More than 16 manufacturers, including Rolls-Royce and Kia, will showcase new gas-powered and electric rides — nearly all of which you can sit in.

Yes, but: Notably missing from the show is Stellantis, the parent of Ram, Chrysler and Jeep, and Tesla, the nation's leading electric car manufacturer.

Meanwhile, you can check out dozens of rare exotic and classic car exhibits.

Plus: Shop aftermarket products and get the scoop on the latest trends in vehicle customization at Custom Alley.

  • Local Lane also features about 35 customized cars from local owners.

When did the tradition start?

The Auto Show dates back to 1902 when it was started by an automotive trade association.

  • That first show's budget was just $4,000.
A trailer carrying a car to the Philadelphia Auto Show.
Dozens of trailers brought cars for the Auto Show this week. Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Auto Show

Car selection and how the vehicles get to Philly

Each year, manufacturers decide what cars they want to bring to the show.

  • At least 40 trailers hauling the vehicles from all across the U.S. began rolling into Philly on Wednesday.

1 cool thing: Some vehicles get special treatment.

By the numbers

There are 25-30 EVs, including the GMC Sierra EV truck, Volkswagen "ID. Buzz" van and Honda Prologue. Other highlights include:

  • Gas-powered vehicles: 450+
  • Classic vehicles: About 40
  • Most expensive car: Rolls-Royce Spectre at more than $450,000.
  • Cheapest car: Nissa Versa, starting around $16,000.
  • Hollywood rides: Around five vehicles from iconic movies, including the Mutt Cutts van from "Dumb & Dumber."
Buick WildCat EV concept
Some cars, like the electric Buick WildCat, have a chaperone with them at all times. Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Auto Show

What else is at the show

Back again is the e-Track, where you can drive electric cars on an indoor track.

  • Test drive cars from Ford, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.

🧠 Pro tip

Skip the crowds by visiting the Auto Show on Tuesday around 3pm, executive director Kevin Mazzucola tells Axios.

  • That's typically when the show is the slowest and least crowded.

Of note: You can't buy a car at the show but you could score rebates for a new car, which vary by manufacturer.

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