The Great Recession that struck a body blow to the American auto industry a decade ago, resulting in programs such as cash for clinkers, is now nothing but a distant view in the rearview mirror.
Last year was the seventh straight year auto sales in the country rose from the previous year when a record-setting 17.5 million new vehicles were sold.
With spring nearly here, that means the peak of car-buying season is arriving, too.
To help kick off the season and stir some enthusiasm among potential auto shoppers, the annual Columbus Auto Show opens today at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
There will be more than 1,000 automobiles on display at the event, which runs through Sunday. More than 30 manufacturers will have a presence at the show.
“This is all about product knowledge in a non-pressure environment,” says Ami DeAngelo, event director for the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association. “There are no sales people on the floor and everything’s in one place for people looking for a new car.”
She said there are primarily three groups of people who attend the show — people looking to buy a new vehicle, car buffs and enthusiasts and families looking for something to do.
With gas prices remaining relatively low in recent years, vehicles such as trucks and SUVs are selling well.
Last month Ford sold nearly 69,000 SUVs, a record for February.
Ford’s U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve said cars made up 53 percent of new vehicle sales in 2010. In February, they were around 35 percent, according to the Associated Press.
The Columbus Auto Show is also an opportunity for auto manufacturers to demonstrate new features in their vehicles and nowadays that mostly means new technologies.
“A lot of manufacturers want to show off their technologies. There’s lane assist, park assist and lots of other safety features,” said DeAngelo.
This year the show has made it easier for attendees to test drive vehicles.
In the past people would have to search out the test-drive area and leave a loading dock area.
“This year you don’t even have to leave the show floor to get in and drive. That’s a feature people are really going to love,” said DeAngelo.
For those families looking for more than just perusing among the vehicles, there are plenty of other activities planned, such as a visit by animals from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, face painting, balloon figures and art on wheels, which includes wrap designs from The Ohio State University design students.
There will also be a drawing to win a two-year lease on a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback.
The world’s fastest Corvette, which can reach 228 mph in 6.5 seconds and a suped-up “ultimate tailgate RV” will be on display.
New to the show this year is “Accessory Avenue,” a display of upgrades and features for vehicles such as grille guards, audio systems, automatic starters and body kits.
“There is so much to do at the show. I have had people tell say they need to come here for two days because they can’t see it all in one,” said DeAngelo.
The show is also an opportunity to highlight an industry that remains vital to Ohio’s economy.
The auto industry accounts for $31.1 billion in sales and 17.6 percent of total retail sales statewide.
There are 743 new vehicle dealerships in the state that employ more than 42000 employees. More than 500,000 new vehicles are sold in Ohio annually.
Also, auto companies are continuing to invest in Ohio plants.
Fiat-Chrysler has committed $700 million to the Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant to create the next generation Jeep Wrangler, with 700 new jobs and GM is investing $668 million to the Toledo Transmission Plant to facilitate a 650,000-square foot expansion and secure more than 700 jobs.