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A Car Isn’t Just to Get You Where You’re Going Anymore: A Review of the New York Auto Show

My father and I look forward to checking out the latest and greatest that the automotive industry has to offer every April at the Javits Center in Hell’s Kitchen.  This year, I focused on the trends of the segment rather than sitting in the fastest or most beautiful car that I can’t afford.  That’s because working for a leader in the automotive SEO world, one does not simply disregard the New York International Auto Show when it comes to town.

In its 114th year as North America’s first and largest attended auto show, the New York International Auto Show has become a place for automakers to show off their goods, with each brand trying to win over the hearts of consumers and car-enthusiasts alike.  The automotive arms race has inspired copycat tactics that has resulted in industry trends that aren’t hard to notice across the board.

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After a quick ferry ride across the river from New Jersey, we roamed the 840,000 square foot exhibit area that housed current 2014 and 2015 models, concept vehicles for the near-future, and vendors selling automobile products.   As we sat behind the wheel of car after car, there were common resemblances among the major automakers.

As a whole, here are the three trends I noticed from the 2014 New York International Auto Show that automotive marketers will be seeing this year:

Electric Cars…Again

The EV Pavilion Ride Along was set up for the umpteenth year in a row, still relegated to the basement.  Unlike the Camp Jeep Ride Along that’s prominently featured outside with a huge line, not many were enthusiastic about the carousel of electric cars on concrete.  The futuristic cars of today seemed to glide across the floor without much buzz or fanfare.

Even upstairs, as more electric cars were on display, not many seemed to care about their efficiency or compact design.  Perhaps the public isn’t ready to give up on their gas-guzzlers.  Maybe the thrill of aggressive acceleration really gets our adrenaline pumping like no electric car can.  Unless it’s the sporty and luxurious Tesla, it hasn’t received the recognition in today’s market.

Similar Interior Design Cues

In terms of 2014 models, it’s clear that every brand strives for the same goal once you’re inside their vehicle.  Nearly every model that I sat in was accented with a tablet-like touch screen, and every button created a fully immersed and engaged experience.  No longer are cars just for getting from Point A to Point B.  Today’s top models want to organize your life, complete with navigation, hands-free communication and voice recognition, as well as storing your entire music library.  As expected, the expensive bells of whistles of years past are now standard equipment.  After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
I also noticed that manufacturers really paid attention to what makes up their interiors, hoping for an edge in any way over their competition.  The three-tone interior was a major theme this year.  No longer are interiors an afterthought of dull and ordinary buttons, cars now feature rich materials fuse fashion and function throughout.  While my dad used the same “So, where are going?” joke to strangers in parked cars, I took notice of the fine details in every front seat.  Personally, I prefer physical buttons to touch screen controls, and the trend seems to be favoring the latter.

Automakers Slimming Down

The 2014 New York International Auto Show finally appears to be back up to par, after trimming down on exhibitions the last few years.  Mirroring the automotive market collapse this decade, the show cut a few corners in recent years.

Not coincidentally, most of the major automakers have cut down on the number of available models for purchase.  The popular models that have been a rock-steady stalwart in lineups will remain in showrooms in 2014 and 2015, with plenty of updates and cosmetic changes to already-reputable models rather than introducing new vehicles to the segment.  On the floor at the Javits Center, there were often multiple versions and trim levels of the same model on display for consumers to sit in and admire.  Of the few reveals and introductions to brand new models, most were locked, or circulating on a rotating display, roped off from the public and their fingerprints and smudges.

There’s plenty to be excited about if you’re planning on buying a new car, and while the lines begins to blur about what separates brands from one another in the automotive industry, it will be interesting to see what concepts and intelligent features will make the distinction from brand to brand in the very near future.

The New York International Auto Show gave us a glimpse of what’s to come by offering what’s available to the public now, but the market could be shifting to a whole new focus right before our eyes. What I learned this year was that when manufacturers compete, the consumer wins.

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