The Philadelphia Auto Show is coming home.
It never left the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but COVID canceled it in 2021 and moved its timing to March in 2022. The show returns this year to its typical January-into-February time slot.
That may be all the familiarity that show attendees can hope for, however, when the show opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28.
Gone are the days of simply walking among acres and acres of almost every type of gasoline-powered car and truck from practically every manufacturer. This year’s show offers more opportunities to ride in vehicles on indoor tracks and even to drive outside. And even more than in years prior, electric vehicles will be prominently on display.
“The industry is ever changing, and the shows need to change with it,” said Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the show’s sponsor, the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia. “We are witnessing a transformation within the walls of the Convention Center for the show.”
Electric vehicles take center stage
The growth of EVs at the show reflects the major changes in the industry. This year’s show will feature more electric and hybrid vehicles than ever.
“We are continuing the biggest transformation in the industry since, I would say, Ford and the assembly line,” Mazzucola said.
EVs have been a story for a number of years but always seemed to be just around the corner. Now the corner has turned a bit, as more models, new tax credits, and longer-range batteries have combined to push the market forward.
“With EVs representing 1 in 20 sales and green vehicles 1 in 10, electrified powertrains have already achieved a level of relevancy to the point where they’re no longer at risk of disappearing,” Ivan Drury, Edmunds director of insights, said in a news release.
Edmunds data show the U.S. EV market share for 2022 through November climbed to 5.1% of sales, compared with 2.5% for the entire year of 2021. The share of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles climbed above 10% for that same period, up from 6.2% for the full year in 2021. And EV and hybrid total vehicle sales in 2022 should still be higher than 2021, even though total units sold fell from just under 15 million in 2021 to about 13.8 million in 2022.
These recent sales increases help put the U.S. on track toward President Joe Biden’s goal that half of all new car and light-truck sales will be EVs by 2030. The more EVs out there, the greater momentum is expected to build for them.
“As more and more of the public start experiencing EVs, and start talking to those people that are buying those cars, almost universally, the comments I hear from people is, ‘Wow, I’m surprised; it’s so much easier than I thought’” to own an electric vehicle, said Michael Berube, deputy assistant secretary for sustainable transportation for the Department of Energy, in a panel discussion at a Washington Auto Show preview on Thursday.
Visitors to the show can also learn about EV tax credits and get other information about EVs from Peco. Federal tax credit and rebate availability is evolving as new rules are expected to be put into place in March under the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Philadelphia Auto Show offers a way for drivers to start thinking about the likely future looming 10 to 15 years down the road.
“We’re in this for the long haul; this isn’t a short-term move,” Berube said. “We are fundamentally changing the entire powertrain of cars.”
More chances to ride in style
Though the show will still feature plenty of cars to look at and climb into — among the roughly 250 vehicles on display are the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, and Subaru Solterra — vehicles in motion is the new name of the game. Indoor ride exhibits will take up about three acres of the show’s 15-acre footprint; the show adds back space that was left out for the 2022 event.
The refocus of the show on indoor rides and outdoor drives also helps the show weather industry shortages, as supply chain and logistical problems have made vehicles scarce. Some manufacturers bowed out of shows a few years back — notably Cadillac and BMW — and continued shortages and changes in auto shows around the country likely have taken away the incentive for the manufacturers to restart their visits.
Philadelphia Auto Show organizers aim to lure in visitors with four ways to test-ride vehicles.
Electric vehicle rides, appearing for the second time at the Philly Auto Show, have expanded to five manufacturers and will now be a central focus of the show. Show attendees will be able to ride along inside the Convention Center with professional drivers who explain the highlights of the various EVs.
Meanwhile, attendees looking for hands-on, real-life driving experiences can venture outdoors and get behind the wheel of various models from Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Ram, and Toyota.
Camp Jeep returns to the show for the 10th year. The experience allows visitors to ride in gasoline-powered 4-by-4s over a course of hills, bumps, and stones in the Convention Center.
Ram Truck Territory takes that a step further, with materials simulating off-road experiences. Professional drivers will drive guests over a course featuring dirt moguls, rolling hills, staggered logs, and a 15-foot hill. In both events, participants will get to feel the vehicles pushed to their extremes, watching how the heavy-duty trucks handle the terrain without fail as the passenger compartment jostles from side to side and forward and back over the varying surfaces.
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