Tue07222014

On The Road

S.J. auto show breaks attendance record

Last month's San Jose International Auto Show was the best ever, according to organizers.

"It was a very successful show," said event spokesman Peter Ciccarelli. "Everyone involved was pleased by how it went."

The fourth-annual show, held Jan. 7-11 at the San Jose Convention Center, attracted record crowds.

Ciccarelli said the auto show drew 147,575 people over the five days. This is not only a show record, but a convention center record as well, according to Ciccarelli. Last year, the exhibition lured 106,842 people.

Ciccarelli believes the significant jump in attendance can be attributed to four things.

"The major difference was the debut of four new cars: the Volkswagen Beetle, the Mercury Cougar, the Pontiac Grand Am and the Mazda Miata," Ciccarelli said. "These cars had a real impact on the attendance."

The most popular car at the show, at least on Saturday, Jan. 10, was the Beetle. More spectators surrounded this car than any other, and some asked representatives if they could buy one that day. However, the car won't be available until the spring.

Also creating a buzz were the concept cars of the next century, especially Ford's Ghia Saetta (Italian for "fast as lightning").

Spectators also seemed to get a charge out of the Honda EV Plus, which looks like something from the future but really isn't. This electric car is already available to California residents.

Almost every major car maker in the world was represented at the show, from Audi to Volvo. Thirty-four manufacturers displayed their 1998 models.

Mark Normandin of Normandin Chrysler/Plymouth Jeep-Eagle was amazed by how the event producer, Auto Dealer Shows of Playa Del Rey, managed to fit so many cars in the convention center.

"Someone in that company has to have a Ph.D. in geometry," Normandin said. "For the first time we've had to move displays into the upper lobby to accommodate the demand for space."

And it wasn't just the cars that brought people to the show. Appearances by three pro athletes - San Francisco Giants pitcher Shawn Estes, Oakland A's outfielder Ben Grieve and auto racer Jimmy Vasser - also contributed to the record crowd.

It won't be easy to top this show next year, but organizers say they're up for the challenge.

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