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Auto show returning to Convention Center


The Baltimore Auto Show will move back to the Baltimore Convention Center with a new name and twice as much exhibit space next year as the event's new producer seeks to make it one of the premiere automotive events on the East Coast.

"Next year's show will be bigger and better than anything we've ever had in Baltimore before," Chuck Boyle, chairman of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, said yesterday. Boyle is also president of Boyle Buick Inc. in Abingdon.

"The idea is to upgrade the show to Class A from a Class C that we had at Timonium in recent years," said Boyle. "I'm not sure you would call it world class, but it is going to be a lot bigger and better than in the past."

Next year's show, which will be held Jan. 17-21, will be staged by Liberty Productions, a division of Emap U.S.A. Inc., which publishes Motor Trend and Hot Rod magazines.

It will be called the Motor Trend International Auto Show and will be returning to the Baltimore Convention Center for the first time since 1993.

"Our intention is to make this the most significant auto show on the East Coast in the first quarter of the year," said Bryan Lilley, vice president of Liberty. "It will be second only to the New York show, which is later in the year. If we had a building twice the size of the Baltimore Convention Center, we could compete with New York."

Lilley said the Baltimore show will double the amount of space that auto manufacturers have had in the past to display their latest vehicles. He said the show will cover about 320,000 square feet.

Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, said the trade group decided to upgrade its show and hire a new producer after learning that auto manufacturers are considering reducing the number of shows held in the United States each year.

He said the Motor Trend people have an advantage over other show producers because of their strong ties to the manufacturers.

"The new show is going to be like night and day compared to what we have had here in the past," said Kitzmiller.

According to Lilley, visitors to next year's show will see exhibits that had never come to Baltimore in the past.

"There will be exhibits that are only displayed at six or eight shows around the country," Lilley said.

While it is too soon to say exactly what exhibits will be coming here, he said, there will be more concept cars and perhaps such things as 20-foot wide computer screens highlighting new models and auto display platforms two-stories high.

"We are talking a major upgrade," he said. "The auto manufacturers will be taking a lot more space and they will be pumping big bucks into the Baltimore show. Take Ford, for example. In the past, its exhibit cost $100,000. Next year, it will invest a half million [dollars] into its exhibit in Baltimore."

DeeDee Taft, a spokeswoman for Liberty, said Ford will increase its space to 24,000 feet from the 9,000 square feet it had at this year's show in Timonium.

"General Motors will triple its space, going to 75,000 square feet from the 24,000 it had this year," Taft said.

David Hyatt, executive director of communication at the National Automobile Dealers Association in McLean, Va., said Liberty is part of a company that publishes "top flight automotive magazines, and there is no reason to believe they can't use that expertise produce a quality auto show."

According to Lilley, next year's show will feature the products of 35 manufacturers, domestic and foreign. Five-hundred cars and trucks will be displayed, an increase of nearly 45 percent from this year's show.

He said the auto manufacturers would like to make Baltimore the East Coast site for showing new products unveiled at the Detroit auto show. "The manufacturers don't show their products anyplace else until after the Detroit show," Lilley said.

The Detroit show opens Jan. 13, four days before Baltimore. Lilley said there will be press previews of cars at the Detroit show "where they will pull the covers off cars for the first time and then ship them to Baltimore."

Said Taft: "Baltimore will be the East Coast debut of what they are talking about in Detroit."

It might not happen the first year, but Kitzmiller, of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, said he expects the new producer to use the Baltimore show in the future to make public its Motor Trend car- or truck-of-the-year awards.

As are the other major shows in the country, the Baltimore show will be used as forum for top auto executives to make announcement or meet with the automotive press, he said.

The Baltimore show shifted from the Convention Center to the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium in 1994 because of construction to expand the downtown facility.

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