By Perry Lefko

The Canadian International Autoshow, gearing up for its 45th edition, has a new company headquarters in Richmond Hill after moving from Markham last September. Canada’s largest consumer car show, takes place Feb. 16-25 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

“We try to provide the total automotive experience for consumers,” says Jason Campbell, who is in his fourth year as general manager of the show. “Basically it’s more than just the 1,000 new cars and light trucks that are available. We, more than any other auto show in North America, focus on the feature presentations. We have six major features that we as a show put on, encouraging and highlighting everything from classic cars at the turn of the century to hot rods to muscle cars.”

This year the show will feature some new specialty exhibits, such as 50 Years of Hot Wheels, 70 Years of Porsche and the E-Sport Gaming Zone.

“We appeal to a lot of enthusiasts that come to see what’s new every year, so we try to keep it fresh,” Campbell says. “That helps to build our audience even bigger.”

Last year the Autoshow had a record attendance of just under 340,000 people.

“We aim to increase it every year and I think it’s reasonable,” Campbell says. “The City of Toronto increases in size and the auto sector is still doing strong. There were more than two million new car sales in Canada last year, which was a record, and that all bodes well for a strong Autoshow.

“Barring any snowfalls the first weekend or the last weekend, we would expect to improve on attendance year after year. There’s a lot of family-focused fun activities, and this year more than last we have focused on that. By bringing in such a strong program with Hot Wheels, that’s something that appeals to people of all ages. It’s not only the target market of kids two to six years old that are going to be interested in this giant Hot Wheels track in the middle of the Autoshow, but also parents that grew up with Hot Wheels cars when they were kids. I think this will bring a smile to their faces reminiscing of the great times that were had with the number-one iconic toy.

“Six billion cars have been made by Hot Wheels over the course of 50 years. I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been touched by Hot Wheels cars growing up or hasn’t bought them for their kids.”

Campbell says people of all ages can get a thrill out of these features.

“But the whole car-buying experience isn’t just about the practicalities of getting new wheels; it’s also about the whole automotive culture which is reflected very well throughout the Autoshow,” he says. “We’re really trying to keep the new-car buying experience alive and fresh and celebrating iconic vehicles throughout the ages, which we do very well at the show. It appeals not only to those in the market to buy a car but those who are enthusiasts and dreamers and want to see the $15 million or $20 million car which they will never see in the showroom in an environment which provides great entertainment value for a great price on what could be a cold February day.”

Campbell says the Autoshow will provide a platform for Porsche to tell its story.

“They want to share the story of how the brand began, where it all started, who the key people were and their background and what made the company the success that it is today,” he said. “It is showing the iconic Porsche vehicles throughout the last 70 years, including where they are going with some of their modern technology and their modern concept vehicles, which they will be showcasing. Porsche is a brand that has so many followers and fans. We are confident it will be a big hit at the show.”

The E-Sports Zone will offer people a chance to participate in electronic racing games geared towards automobile enthusiasts. This type of game is creating a culture for people to play live against friends or challengers from anywhere in the world.

“Last year Formula One announced its first eSports Series and teams are launching their own eSports teams in Formula One,” Campbell says. “It is something which is driving a very big interest for not only motor racing fraternities, but other gaming properties. They see the connectivity is important with today’s youth, and if they want to engage with these people and drive them to their sporting events they need to catch them at this early age.”

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