With automobile sales in the Valley and across the U.S. starting to rebound from the depths of recession, organizers of the Central California Auto Show opening Friday in Fresno say the show's timing couldn't be better.
"We've come through some pretty difficult times, but now we're finally starting to see some daylight," said Mark Rapin, president of the Fresno-Clovis New Car Dealers Association and vice president of Freedom Ford in Fresno. "This year's show is a little later than we've done it in the past, but I think this is the perfect time for the show because dealers are in their model-year selldowns now."
This is the fifth year for the show, which is one of about two dozen shows produced each year across the country by Motor Trend Auto Shows LLC.
"When I think of where we were five years ago and what's happened with the economy in the meantime, I'm happy our association was able to keep doing the show," Rapin said.
Rapin said that because the Fresno event is one of the smaller auto shows in the U.S., he feared manufacturers would scale down their participation and force cancellation of the Fresno show. But, he said, "we learned that the manufacturers are really behind the auto shows because it gets their products out in front of the consumers."
Three automakers that skipped last year's show -- Range Rover/Jaguar, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz -- are returning in 2010, Rapin said.
The Fresno show, at the Fresno Convention Center's Exhibit Halls and Valdez Hall, coincides with the opening weekend of the 10-day Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, but Rapin said he doesn't expect the larger L.A. show to crimp attendance in Fresno.
While the L.A. show will mark the world and North American debuts of pre-production and concept models from around the world, the three-day Fresno show will be a more practical affair, showing mostly 2011 models that will be for sale in showrooms next year, if not already available.
Advances in technology that increase fuel efficiency, improve safety and enhance the behind-the-wheel experience will be featured in various models. Ford and Chevrolet are both providing vehicles from their 2011 lineup -- Ford's Fiesta, Edge, Mustang and F-150 pickup, and Chevrolet's Cruze, Equinox, Silverado pickup and Camaro -- for visitors to test-drive.
Ford also will show off two pre-production models before they're available to dealers: the new 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and the 2013 Ford Focus.
One part of the show will include a handful of automobiles best described as "out of reach" for most car shoppers: a quintuplet of ultra-sleek, ultra-expensive exotic vehicles displayed by Fresno businessman Marv Rose that are more at home on a race track than on Blackstone Avenue.
The star of Rose's show is a 2003 Ferrari Enzo, a $1.5 million "supercar" and one of only 399 built by the famed Italian company. Rose, an insurance agent who also brokers high-dollar sports cars on the Internet, has brought Ferraris to the Fresno show in the past. But Rose said the Enzo, which boasts a top speed of more than 200 mph -- is different than anything he's shown before.
"This car happens to be owned by a client and good friend of mine," he said. "I wanted to bring something that's pretty out there."