Toronto Star

Sleepy event comes alive

When L.A. moved its expo from January to November, it hit the auto show jackpot

- MARK RICHARDSON

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Auto Show used to be just a sleepy little car show, but no more.

It’s now a major American event, timed to introduce new vehicles in the warm California sunshine before winter sets in. And it opened to the media on Wednesday.

Cars seen first at Los Angeles don’t get lost in the shuffle, as sometimes happens at January’s Detroit Auto Show because of its overwhelmi­ng size. And California design studios use their local show as an exposition of both environmen­tal auto technology and Silicon Valley’s high tech.

If there’s a theme among the 30 or so debuts here this year, however, it’s simply “fun.” Cars are still intended to be driven — for now, anyway — and they’ll repay their owners with better handling and greater response.

The electric cars of Europe and the autonomous cars of Japan are here, but there’s little truly new this year for those technologi­es.

Instead, it was the Connected Car Expo held earlier this week that showcased startup companies with remarkable offerings, including solid-state sensors for self-driving cars, remote diagnostic­s and smart GPS platforms.

Out on the showroom floor, Nissan and Hyundai both introduced the next generation­s of their affordable Sentra and Elantra sedans, while Ford showed a new generation of its Escape SUV and surprised everyone with an all-new luxurious Lincoln MKZ.

Buick showed its latest LaCrosse sedan, Mazda pulled the camouflage wraps off its latest CX-9 SUV and Jaguar’s new XE sports sedan vied for space alongside a topless version of the Land Rover Evoque.

As well, Fiat introduced its sexy 124 Spyder roadster while Alfa Romeo, still new to return to North America, showed off an entire line of cars.

Mercedes-Benz debuted four new vehicles and Subaru, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi unveiled new generation­s of cars that helped fill two huge halls.

More than 4,000 members of the media were in Los Angeles this week to soak up the cars, as well as the sun, but the L.A. show didn’t always attract this kind of attention. It used to be held in the first week of January and it was a tradition for Los Angelinos to visit the show right after New Year’s Eve.

It’s bounced around many different venues during its 110-year history, includ- ing in 1929, when an electrical fire in an airplane exhibit burned down the whole show; it reopened a day later at the Shrine Auditorium.

The timing, however, meant few automakers wanted to debut any vehicles in Los Angeles because they preferred to do that before an internatio­nal audience the following week in Detroit.

But in 2006, to mark the show’s 100th anniversar­y, it was moved to November and immediatel­y attracted more debuts.

Its timing now places it halfway between the huge European show that alternates between Paris and Frankfurt every September, and Detroit in January.

It’s held at the Los Angeles Convention Centre downtown, on 760,000 square feet of display space, which is more than 100,000 square feet larger than the Canadian Internatio­nal Auto Show in Toronto.

The L.A. show is known as a showcase for the best of California’s automotive design and technology.

Since it made the move to November, it hasn’t looked back.

 ?? MARK RICHARDSON FOR THE TORONTO STAR ?? The funky Scion C-HR debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday. Though a concept, Scion intends to produce a vehicle based on the C-HR sometime soon.
MARK RICHARDSON FOR THE TORONTO STAR The funky Scion C-HR debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday. Though a concept, Scion intends to produce a vehicle based on the C-HR sometime soon.
 ?? FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES ?? Two men check out a newly unveiled 2017 Mercedes-AMG SL63 convertibl­e at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES Two men check out a newly unveiled 2017 Mercedes-AMG SL63 convertibl­e at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday.
 ?? JOHN LOCHER/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? The Los Angeles Auto Show played host to the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.
JOHN LOCHER/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The Los Angeles Auto Show played host to the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

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