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Published: Tuesday, 1/26/2010

Toledo Auto Show organizers expecting attendance to increase

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Don't think of it as shrunken auto sales. Think of it as pent-up demand.

In the midst of the greatest single sales decline in the automotive industry in decades during 2009, a strange thing happened last week during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit: Attendance went up 10 percent.

That bodes well for this weekend's Greater Toledo Auto Show, a more intimate, car-centric affair that starts at 3 p.m. Thursday and runs through Sunday in Toledo's SeaGate Convention Centre downtown.

"We've had great participation from the manufacturers and the dealers for this show," said Nikki Bragg, a spokesman for the Toledo Automobile Dealers Association. While the group doesn't release the attendance figures for its annual auto show, Ms. Bragg said she expects the show's attendance will be up over last year, despite the economy.

"We don't have any reason to believe it's going to be different," Ms. Bragg said.

Just like the auto industry itself, there will be fewer brands to peruse at this year's Greater Toledo Auto Show. Some brand stalwarts of the show - Pontiac and Saturn, for example - have joined DeSoto, Studebaker, and Hudson in the automotive history books. Yet some 200 cars and trucks from 26 brands will be on the show floor for patrons to climb in without sales pressure. No sales are permitted at the show.

General Motors Co. and its dealers will display a number of new or refreshed vehicles at its booth, including the Corvette ZR1, a Corvette convertible GS, Cadillac CTS-V, CTS Sport Wagon, and SRX crossover, the new GMC Terrain, and the new Chevrolet Equinox.

Fort Motor Co. will showcase new or redesigned vehicles as well, including the 2010 Ford Mustang, Fusion, and Fusion Hybrid; the Mercury Milan Hybrid, and the new Lincoln MKZ.

General Motors Co. will have a number of automobiles, including the Corvette ZR1, on display at the SeaGate Convention Centre. General Motors Co. will have a number of automobiles, including the Corvette ZR1, on display at the SeaGate Convention Centre.
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Subaru, which bucked industry trends and grew its sales in 2009, will have a full display at the show, said local Subaru dealer Jim Yark, of Yark Automotive Group.

"We had the best year we've ever had with it last year," said Mr. Yark, who also operates six other auto franchises. "The auto show is just a good place for people to come and look at these vehicles indoors, out of the cold, and out of the elements, with all the different brands under one roof."

Besides the autos on display, the Toledo Automobile Dealers Association will again sponsor a number of give-aways for showgoers, including three gifts of "free gasoline for a year," and a big screen television for the lucky person who correctly guesses the identity of a crushed vehicle. The show also will be visited by Toledo Mud Hens mascots Muddy and Mudonna, as well as a visit from Scooby Doo.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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