Fifth Largest Auto Show in Nation Cancels for Spring

Thousands enjoyed the 2020 Cleveland Auto Show on opening day earlier this year, just prior to the pandemic.

Cleveland Auto Show looks for later dates, possible venue change

By Terry Troy

It’s official. The kickoff of the retail automotive selling season in Northeast Ohio will not be held in spring of 2021, according to the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association (GCADA), the organization which hosts and manages the Show each year.

The closure of the I-X Center, the host venue for the Cleveland Auto Show for the last 20+ years, paired with the COVID-19 mass gathering restrictions from the State of Ohio, have forced Show Management to postpone the 2021 Cleveland Auto Show.

“As we continue to navigate through the Coronavirus issues, it’s best we delay the show until we have a clear path to producing an Auto Show indoors,” said Louis A. Vitantonio, president of the GCADA and the Cleveland Auto Show. “We believe the Auto Show best fits in the I-X Center facility given the larger footprint it has; however, we can produce the Show in the Convention Center downtown as we did in the early 80’s.”

After many meetings with I-X Center and city officials, even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been no confirmed resolution, and the facility is closed until the parties decide how the building will be managed and utilized going forward.

“As representatives of automobile retailers, we know when the people of Northern Ohio see spring around the corner, demand for new vehicles soars. We also know how important the Show is for consumers to gather information in a no-pressure environment,” Vitantonio continued. “We look forward to continuing conversations with the I-X Center Corporation, the City of Cleveland, and the Huntington Convention Center, and hope an announcement can soon be made regarding rescheduled dates for the 2021 Cleveland Auto Show.”

Louis A. Vitantonio, president of the GCADA and the Cleveland Auto Show

With more than 800 pre-production vehicles and new vehicles on display, the Cleveland Auto Show marks the start of the automotive spring selling season in Northern Ohio, making the month of March historically the strongest month of the year for sales in the region. The Cleveland Auto Show is considered one of the top five auto shows in the nation and is rated as one of the strongest in the nation in terms of its impact on its regional market.

While the news comes as a blow to Northern Ohio automotive retailers, the region has been faring better than the national dealer average, and in terms of units sold is on pace with 2019, according to the last two month’s sale figures released by the GCADA. In October, franchised new vehicle dealers in Northern Ohio were virtually tied with last year, selling 22,639 units in October of this year compared with 22,617 over the same time frame a year ago.

In September, the same month-to-month, year-to-year comparison had new vehicle sales up 7.55%. Meanwhile used vehicle sales totaled 19,406 in September, an increase of 11.33 percent compared to last year.

Year-to-date, new vehicle sales are still off by 6.63 percent over 2019. Year-to-date, used vehicle sales total 185,944 compared to 185,812 over the same time period a year prior, a difference of just 0.07 percent.

With the closure of the I-X Center in Cleveland, the fate of many other major shows and attractions that were held at the facility remains unclear—at least for now.