What does Miami’s low-key event mean for the future of auto shows?

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Steven Cole Smith

The Miami International Auto Show—and we’re not sure why it’s still international, unless you count the presence of some imported cars and trucks—opened October 16 to a healthy little crowd, which probably in unison, said, “This is it?”

Yes, that is it, and you’re lucky to have this much. COVID is still treated with mandatory mask-wearing at the Miami Beach Convention Center, regardless of what the governor says. The very real chip shortage has made new vehicles profoundly scarce with no real relief in sight. And the sagging economy has most of us hanging on to what we have, especially automotively; even used vehicles are priced out of sight.

Nissan was the champion of the show, especially if you go to auto shows to see vehicles that you can’t see, under normal circumstances, anyway, at your dealer. The company brought the 2023 production-ready Z car, complete with its 10-spoke wheels and fat Bridgestone Potenza tires; it doesn’t look quite as good as the prototype, but it’s damn close, and a lot of car for the $40,000 starting price. Which is otherwise known as $65,000 and up, especially for this initial, special run of 240.

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Steven Cole Smith

Already put a deposit down with a dealer? Make sure it’s refundable, because Nissan hasn’t opened the order book yet. This here is the yellow car, by the way; there’s also a blue one, that that is the extent of the Nissan Z inventory so far. Yes, this car is a crusher, meaning that it is not approved for sale and therefore must be disposed of, but it will be saved from that fate by being drafted into the cool Nissan Heritage Collection.

Nissan also brought a production-ready version of the Ariya electric crossover, not available yet but not a U.S. debut, as we saw it at the Chicago show.

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Steven Cole Smith

One other vehicle shown that you won’t find at dealers, at least for a few more weeks, is the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, an able but generic-looking small SUV built on the Corolla platform, powered by the 2.0-liter, 169-horsepower four-cylinder. It slots just below the RAV4 on top, and the CH-R underneath. It technically debuted in June, but this is the first time the public has seen it in the flesh. It’s being built at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, the joint venture in Huntsville, Alabama.

Which is as close as we got to a Mazda in Miami, as it was one of multiple manufacturers that didn’t show up, including Miami-centric brands like Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Land Rover and Audi, as well as Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, and Mini.

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Steven Cole Smith

And that makes us feel like we should tip our hat to who was there: Lincoln, Lexus, Cadillac, Ford, Kia, Subaru, Nissan, Genesis, Toyota, Hyundai, and the Stellantis sextet of Fiat, Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo and Jeep, complete with Camp Jeep and the new Grand Wagoneer and stretched Grand Cherokee. There were some notable absences among those that did show up, like the Ford Bronco and Maverick.

Yes, Miami is a dealer show (as opposed to a pure manufacturer show), but the manufacturers could help out, like Nissan did, possibly even bring a few year-old concepts. Miami used to be considered a major auto show, and maybe it will be again, but when almost half the show floor is populated by locally-owned classic cars and exotics and a few race cars, it’s like manufacturers and plenty of dealers have just given up on auto shows.

Maybe they have. And that’s a short-sighted shame.

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