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Electric vehicles a hit at Baltimore Convention Center auto show

Elaine and Bill Phillips already own seven cars, but they may be in the market for another.

The Millersville couple came to the 2011 Motor Trend International Auto Show at the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday to get a look at the Chevrolet Volt, the plug-in electric vehicle recently introduced by General Motors.

"We're car people," said Elaine Phillips, adding that she and her husband visit the show every winter and liked what they saw this time.

"It's more exciting this year because of all the hybrids and the electric car," she said. "That's definitely why we came."

The Volt was one of several popular attractions at the auto show, which runs through today. Ford had a talkative robot who announced that Ford would pay $50 to anyone who signed up to test-drive a Ford before April 1. There were vintage cars on display, "tricked out" custom rides, pre-production models such as the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro convertible and hybrids such as the Honda Insight and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

More than a few visitors said they came because they're thinking of buying a car this year.

Valerie Smith of Glen Burnie said she wants to buy a compact and got to compare a Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Ford Focus. "It's better than going to the dealers," she said.

Ben Sander, who came from Ellicott City with his daughter, Abby, said he has 80,000 miles on his SUV and had his eye on a Mazda and an Acura. "I'm always in the market for a new car," he said.

Organizers say the show is 20 percent larger this year than last year. Although they declined to provide a head count, they say attendance is up from last year. The 2010 event was cut short because of a heavy snowstorm.

Shelbi Okumura, a spokeswoman for the auto show, said people seem to like that they can look at different makes and models in one location, sit behind the steering wheel, inspect engines and even take a test-drive.

"It's a no-pressure environment," she said. "The cars are close together, so you can compare them without driving from lot to lot to lot."

The auto show continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Its website is http://www.AutoShowBaltimore.com.

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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