The opening of the Los Angeles International Auto Show this week marks the beginning of the auto show season, where new car shoppers as well as car enthusiasts can head to their nearest convention center to be dazzled with bright colors, glittering chrome and interactive exhibits.
The 2012 Los Angles International Auto Show, which runs through Dec. 9, features more than 1,000 cars on display, including more than 40 cars that are being shown in the U.S. (or in some cases the world) for the first time. New-car debuts include redesigned versions of the Ford Fiesta, Honda Civic, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Forte, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.
The show is also known for its wide array of alternative-fuel cars and the announcement of the Green Car of the Year. This year's award was given to the Ford Fusion. Other alternative-fuel cars that debuted at the show included a full line of clean diesel cars from Audi as well as the BMW i8 Spyder plug-in hybrid, Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e and Mazda6 clean diesel.
Auto shows aren't just about ogling new cars. There are plenty of hands-on things to do. In Los Angeles this year, show visitors can test-drive a huge array of cars from more than 17 brands in a test-drive loop on city streets surrounding the convention center in a no-pressure opportunity to check out the latest models.
"It’s good to see such a strong presence from automakers (at the L.A. Auto Show) and the best news is that consumers benefit from the many choices available to suit their needs. Plus, car loans have never been cheaper. Banks are charging the lowest interest rates since the Federal Reserve began its survey of loans more than four decades ago," says Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota in the U.S.
Other activities include numerous interactive displays from automakers such as Audi's Urban Intelligent Assist display, where show visitors can view a virtual city and see how driving with predictive technology, such as calculating driving time at the beginning of a road trip and finding parking spots in advance of arrival, can enhance their driving experience. Toyota's Let's Go Places features interactive exhibit where visitors can test their reaction time in a racing-simulator game, see numerous race cars, and meet celebrity drivers and test their skills on the Tunda Teeter Totter. For kids, there is Hyundai's Hope on Wheels, a fun zone that features video games, educational activities, radio-controlled cars and more.
Have you ever been to a car show? What was your experience like?
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.