South Florida International Auto Show attracts many auto lovers worldwide By Betty Alvarez

The 40th anniversary South Florida International Auto Show ended its 10-day run on Sunday with attendance up over last year, a positive sign that local dealers believe may reflect a rise in consumer interest in new cars. This is true as I witnessed many car lovers at the auto show this year.

“We’ve had a couple of bad years in this economy,” said Rick Baker, president of the South Florida Automobile Dealers Association. “But this year, attendance was up about seven percent over 2009. Both weekends were fairly strong and visitor interest seemed high. We hope that will translate into better car sales going forward.” The event typically is the first major U.S. auto show of the season, filling the Miami Beach Convention Center with hundreds of new models.

New this year was Green Way, a special exhibit that gathered hybrid, electric and other models that sip fuel, or use none at all. It included a production version of the Volt, Chevrolet’s new extended range electric sedan, Nissan’s new all-electric LEAF and Honda’s new CR-Z Hybrid. Volvo used the show for the North American introduction of its 2012 S60 R-Design. Other new models included Nissan’s Juke and Suzuki’s Kizashi sports sedan. The South Florida show, one of America’s oldest and largest, also featured the latest crossovers, SUV’s and pickups.

During opening day press events on November 5, Ford showed off its all-electric Focus prototype and Lincoln’s MKZ Hybrid, then reviewed new technology in charging stations. Jeep’s all new Grand Cherokee has an upgraded interior, a new suspension designed with Mercedes-Benz and it boasts a 5-star crash rating. Reporters learned that sales are up 61 percent at Maserati, and 20 percent at Ferrari, from executives of the Italian marques who shared details of Maserati’s new 4-seat gran turismo convertible and Ferrari’s new 458 Italia. Nissan demonstrated the charging port, solar panel and other features of its 100 percent electric LEAF (Leading Environmentally Affordable Family) model. Toyota shared details of its new plug-in hybrid Prius in a special one-day-only event for media. Press day included events by Saab, Acura and Hyundai, which has new hybrid and turbo-charged versions of its popular Sonata sedan.

“There were new vehicles here that pave the way to the future,” said Baker, “and visitors got to see them up close, all under one roof.” Another new exhibit at the 40th Anniversary South Florida show was Miami Street Rides, a collection of chopped, tuned and painted custom cars in the spirit of 1960’s California designers. Numerous manufacturers participated in Ride & amp; Drive events that put attendees behind the wheel for a spin around the streets of Miami Beach. There were also classic autos that appears in the popular 80s show “Ghostbusters” and “Back to the Future”

Johan de Nysschen, president of Audi of America, was in Miami to speak to journalists gathered for the annual award luncheon presented by the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA). The group chose the Chevrolet Volt as its “Star of the Show,” Nissan’s LEAF as its “Best Green Technology Vehicle” and Jeep’s “Lower Forty” as its Best Concept Vehicle.

The South Florida International Show is produced by the South Florida Automobile Dealers Association, a four-county group of 190 new car dealers from The Keys to the Palm Beaches.

Photographs by Betty Alvarez

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