Twin Cities 2023: Back Inside The Convention Center
That opportunity came about this year, as the Twin Cities Auto Show returned back to Minneapolis Convention Center for its 50th time.
The first two weeks of March of 2020 was a busy time for me. After coming home from a couple of events in the Chicago Burbs, my focus was on the Twin Cities Auto Show. It would be my tenth time attending the show as a member of the media.
Kicking things off inside the Minneapolis Convention Center was the National Truck Summit. That was followed by a media preview of the 47th Twin Cities Auto Show. It was a full day full of excitement and celebration.
Little did we all know that Governor Tim Walz would pull the plug on our lives in the name of the COVID-19 Pandemic that just took hold on the state of Minnesota. That occurred a week after the National Truck Summit and the media preview. Anyone inside the Minneapolis Convention Center was told to leave around 1:00 PM. Vehicles and exhibits soon followed.
The next two years saw the Greater Metropolitan Automotive Dealers Association reinvent the Twin Cities Auto Show by setting up shop at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the month of May. The crowds came out, with some twists to the program to engage everyone inside.
It was only a matter of time that not only the healthcare situation would be under control or subside. That opportunity came about this year, as the Twin Cities Auto Show returned back to Minneapolis Convention Center for its 50th time.
This is certainly cause for celebration. It also lent to an atmosphere of ceremony. That began with a proclamation from Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to GMADA President Scott Lambert and Director of the Twin Cities Auto Show Mary Veline. Then, there was the ribbon cutting ceremony to open up this year’s show at the main entrance.
Compared to years past, the show’s floor plan felt different. The main halls were reduced to almost more than half. You had Camp Jeep on one side with several mainstream brands filling the remainder of the hall. The two adjacent rooms hosted Luxury Lane, split between Cadillac and Volvo in one room, the rest of the luxury brands in another.
The ballroom opened up to a few other brands, along with the Electric Vehicle Neighborhood powered by Xcel Energy and hosted by longtime local meteorologist Paul Douglas. To make matter more interesting, the lobby had a few vendors and the kiosks for the Ride and Drives.
You had plenty of Ride and Drive opportunities between Toyota in the main hall, Volkswagen and Stellantis in the lobby and at the Electric vehicle Neighborhood. The latter had the Gary Curtis Driving Experience team facilitating drives of the latest electrified vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Kia, and Mitsubishi.
I took advantage of the latter. In the process, I drove the Mercedes-Benz EQS 450 4Matic SUV and the EQS 580 4Matic sedan. In short, I liked how the SUV was executed overall. The sedan – I was hoping for better. No need for a full report here.
The focus of the Twin Cities Auto Show is on the consumer. To give them a place to check out their next vehicle and do some onsite comparison without stepping into a showroom. That also includes showing some future products that will arrive later this year. In this case, visitors would get to check out the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray, and 2023 Dodge Hornet. Those were the two vehicles that should attract folks looking for something brand new.
One thing I appreciate about auto shows of all sizes and importance is the interactivity and engagement that are a part of these exhibitions. With this, these auto shows would not be worth the price of admission. You would turn off enthusiasts and consumers alike.
Which brings me to a constant issue: Automakers skipping out on auto shows. Granted, some of the brands that were not fully represented at the Chicago Auto Show were there in Minneapolis. For example, Cadillac, Volvo, Mitsubishi, and Mazda were on the floor at the Twin Cities Auto Show.
In turn, some brands were not present at the Twin Cities Auto Show. That is a list I’d rather not call out here. You get the idea.
This is the challenge GMADA has to work with as they celebrate the brands on the floor of this 50th annual edition of the Auto Show. Brands that are committed to engaging with visitors through interactive displays and experiences. To open up the possibilities for an electrified future, while demonstrating consumer preference towards pickup trucks and SUVs mostly powered by internal combustion engines.
On a personal note, GMADA gave me a huge uplift by providing a mobility device to make my job easier. Similar to Chicago, I was on an electric scooter. It was very helpful in covering the show floor, but it was a bit challenging when I needed to do quick maneuvers. I almost collided with George Torline a few times. That was quite embarrassing.
The show has returned to the Minneapolis Convention Center. You should be there this week. It runs through Sunday, April 9. Like the jingle says: “Gotta go to the Auto Show!” You better…
DISCLAIMER: Many thanks to the Greater Metropolitan Automotive Dealers Association for their assistance on key logistics at the Twin Cities Auto Show.
All photos by Randy Stern