From Cadillac to Honda, New York Show Steals Detroit’s Thunder

Updated on
What’s New at This Year’s New York Auto Show?

Detroit may be where cars are made, but New York is becoming the town to show them off.

Just look around at the New York International Auto Show. Honda Motor Co. chose the Big Apple to surprise the motoring press and car buffs with a sneak reveal of the all-new Civic, one of the Japanese company’s most important models. While General Motors Co. could have shown off its bread-and-butter Chevrolet Malibu and its most expensive Cadillac sedan in Detroit in January, executives instead chose New York.

For this year at least, New York is home to some of the glitziest and most important cars that the industry’s big players want to show off in North America. That’s in part because Detroit is where industry insiders gather, but New York is home to more affluent shoppers and influential television personalities.

“New York is a fantastic consumer show and a ton of the media is already here,” said Scott Keogh, Audi’s head of U.S. sales. “I see New York getting stronger and stronger and it seems to be taking on a new position in the luxury corner of the market.”

Chevy showed its vitally important Malibu sedan Wednesday, just hours before Honda rolled out the new Civic. That was after Toyota Motor Corp. kicked off the day with its new RX crossover SUV, the luxury brand’s top selling vehicle. The night before, Cadillac revealed its new flagship and Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln division showed off an all-new Continental.

The New York auto show has long been a place for luxury brands to show the wealthy and fashion conscious of Gotham their coolest new looks. But mainstream brands are also opting to make their curtain call here.

In addition to Honda, Kia Motors Corp. unveiled its Optima family sedan, a rival to the Malibu. Toyota’s low-priced Scion brand also showed off the iA, its first sedan. On Thursday, Chevy will show its new Spark subcompact and Nissan Motor Co. will reveal its Maxima sedan.

Detroit Not Done

Is the Detroit auto show -- formally called the North American International Auto Show -- starting to fade? No, said Dan Bedore, a Nissan spokesman. He said the company wouldn’t use New York to show a brawny vehicle like a pickup: Nissan unveiled its new Titan truck in Detroit in January. The Maxima, which starts above $30,000, is a better fit for New York, he said, adding that the Northeast is the car’s biggest market.

And for the most part, Nissan decides when to open the kimono on its new cars by selecting a show that is close to when the vehicle would go on sale, he said.

Detroit is the “grand-daddy” of auto shows because it attracts the most international media, Bedore said.

“All of the manufacturers bring out a lot of new products to attract the media,” he said of Detroit. “It’s the big show in the U.S. -- it’s clearly the important one.”

GM chose to show the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and Bolt electric car in Detroit to tell its technology story, leaving the Malibu for New York. Plus, New York is the biggest family sedan market, said Steve Majoros, marketing director for Chevrolet.

Cadillac brought its new flagship to the Big Apple because that’s where so much of America’s wealth and luxury buying is concentrated, said Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen. Plus, Cadillac has made New York its new headquarters. BMW AG and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz brand have had their headquarters based in New Jersey, just across the Hudson from Manhattan, for years.

‘Epicenter of Luxury’

“New York is very much at the epicenter of luxury,” de Nysschen said. “It’s a place where not just American trends are established, but also global trends. The New York show is going to hold a prominent position on Cadillac’s calendar.”

Jaguar Land Rover had the same logic. While the Indian-owned brands didn’t reveal anything new in Detroit in January, they showed off the new XF sports car with “Mad Men” star Christina Hendricks to help make a splash.

“It’s absolutely important for us as a luxury brand to come and showcase here.” Fiona Pargeter, head of global communications at Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc, said in an interview Wednesday at show.

“New York is a really very important show for us and the last couple of years we have supported the show with global debuts,” she said.

The Detroit show is still bigger, but Pargeter said most luxury buyers are in cities on the coasts so it’s more important to reach the affluent audience in those markets.

“For both the east coast and west coast of North America, these are predominantly our key markets for our brands,” she said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE