Driver’s Seat: At Auto Show, new tech to make it easier to buy and sell cars –

Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Philadelphia Auto Show’s organizers really want to make it easier for you to buy a car.

Though high-minded enthusiasts like me stroll through every year as if it were a temple that could not be sullied by moneychangers, the show is there to sell cars. It’s estimated a quarter-million people will shuffle through the exhibits from Saturday, Jan. 30, through Sunday, Feb. 7, and $3 billion in dealership transactions a year typically stem from the eight-day event.

With that in mind, dealers and show organizers have incorporated new technology to make connecting buyer to seller easier on both sides. And it will be unveiled for the first time when the event spreads out across 700,000 square feet at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St.

Tell us about yourself: Meet eKey. Or, I should say, have eKey meet you.

The auto show’s website,, directs visitors to this technology. Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, the event’s producer, believes it breaks new ground among auto shows.

It works like this: Input all your information (name, address, phone number, email) and answer rude questions about how old you are and how much you wish to spend, then some more middle-of-the-road queries, such as what style of vehicle you’re shopping for and when you plan to purchase.

Potential buyers then receive emails with QR codes and access to a microsite listing all the vehicles that fit the criteria that have been input and featuring personalized à la carte guidebooks.

At the show, scan the QR codes at the manufacturers’ booths where you have an interest and receive brochures, perhaps even specialized discounts on the vehicles you have in your sights.

Mike Gempp, the auto show’s director, said the organizers looked into the new technology to make moving through the show easier for visitors.

“We’ve heard, ‘Love the show; I love how relaxed it is. I want to give information, but it takes so long standing at the kiosk,’ ” Gempp said.

Previews of 2017 models: The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica was all the buzz at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month. FiatChrysler aims to reinvent the sagging minivan segment with a more upscale offering.

The 2017 Buick Lacrosse revamps that large sedan from GM’s more upscale brand, while the 2017 GMC Acadia will take that nameplate down in size to the small-crossover segment. The Acadia will join the popular Mazda CX-3, Honda HRV, and Jeep Renegades in the segment, which was the hot slot at last year’s show.

Closer looks at 2016 models: Buick brings the pretty Cascada convertible to the show and the groundbreaking Envision crossover, which will be the first vehicle imported from China to the States.

Adding the 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider brings a whole new make to the show, Mazzucola said. The Italian brand only recently returned to the U.S.

Covering both ends of the spectrum, General Motors will bring the 2016 Cadillac ELR and 2016 Chevrolet Cruze. The ELR is a new electric-drive hybrid coupe that starts at $57,500, while the Cruze redefines the bread-and-butter American sedan – and, for 2017, a hatchback as well, as revealed in Detroit.

If you think you know the Mazda Miata, take another look at the 2016 model. While its exterior has grown more attractive, the inside has just grown. Mazda managed to make driving this two-seater even more fun than before.

Finally, the 2016 Toyota Prius takes the granddaddy of gas-electric hybrid vehicles and puts some weird new angles on the weird old angles.

Classic cars: The Antique Automobile Club of America will bring cars as historic as the 1906 National Touring and the 1910 Packard Model 50, as sporty as the 1955 Porsche Speedster, and as everyday as the 1969 Volkswagen Beetle.

Deadlines amuse us: Because of production needs, some of the latest additions to the Philadelphia Auto Show were not available to list in this report. Read Friday’s Weekend section for last-minute details. 215-854-2558

Driver’s Seat: If You Go

What: Philadelphia Auto Show

When: Saturday, Jan. 30, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 31, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Weekdays, noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 7, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St., Philadelphia

Prices: Ages 13 and over, $14; ages 62 and over, $7 weekdays only; 7-12, $7; 6 and under free. Active military, $11.


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