Auto shows are the highlight of the motoring calendar. Cities around the globe host these vast exhibitions, at which many of the top automotive companies launch their new vehicles or promote their new technologies.
One of the biggest auto shows in the world is the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung, known outside Germany as the IAA Frankfurt. It takes place every other year, providing a platform for motoring manufacturers to show off their new vehicular creations and automotive advanced to hundreds of thousands of people.
The annual Geneva Motor Show, on the other hand, is all about the stylish concept cars which auto companies produce for these events to draw the crowds, and with more than a million people attending over the course of the ten-day event, the Geneva Motor Show has a huge global reach.
It isn’t just the cars which attract visitors to a company’s exhibition, though. Many motoring manufacturers put on extra entertainment or gimmicks to generate interest in their new creations. And some of these gimmicks can end up looking a little out of place at an auto show.
Of course, most people attend auto shows to see the new cars, but these days, you can also enjoy some unexpected entertainment, including fun activities to keep the kids amused! The following is a list of weird things that have really happened at auto shows around the world.
25 3D Printed Cars
Auto shows are no longer just about showing off stylish concept cars or a company’s next big production vehicle. These days, many attendees at these events are just as interested in learning more about new motoring technologies as they are in seeing million-dollar supercars.
One of the most recent innovations—now a regular sight at auto shows around the world—is 3D printed cars.
These vehicles are more than just a gimmick, though, often times they are fully-functioning cars, which could be driven on the road. The same companies are also creating 3D printed car parts, which will end up reducing car repair bills for motorists.
24 Endorsements From The Animal Kingdom
There is one sure-fire way for car manufacturers to ensure that they draw a large crowd to their stand: cute animals. Adorable creatures may not have anything to do with cars, but fill the trunk of a new vehicle with puppies or kittens—not both, obviously—and visitors to the auto show won’t be able to stay away. Sometimes, auto companies get creative when it comes to the animals that they use on their stand. After all, there are several cars which are named after members of the animal kingdom, from the Ford Mustang and Bronco to the Shelby Cobra and the Volkswagen Beetle.
As well as the high-end stands, where the major auto companies get to show off their stunning concept cars as well as their latest production vehicles, many motor shows often have exhibition halls where smaller companies can demonstrate their own innovations to the industry and to the public. Amazingly, some of these visitors seem to think that these stalls are just an opportunity for them to pick up a few illicit souvenirs. Some attendees think nothing of stealing vehicle emblems and hood ornaments right off the cars as they wander around auto shows, despite the damage this does to these hugely expensive models.
22 Virtual Reality Technology
Auto shows may be a great opportunity for motoring fans to see some of the most innovative cars on the market, but just looking at those cars and actually driving those cars are very different experiences.
Car manufacturers are hardly likely to let the auto show crowds take test drives in their hugely expensive concept cars.
One way to get around this dilemma is to offer the next best thing, a virtual reality driving experience. VR is fast becoming a common sight at auto shows, although some old-school auto show fans do find the sight of rows of people wearing VR headsets a little bizarre, and not even close to the real thing, of course!
21 Random Celebrity Appearances
The cult of celebrity has even made it to the world of international motoring shows. Auto companies seem to think that the best way to make their new vehicles look good is to hire a couple of Hollywood stars to make special appearances at their stand, or maybe even to say a few words about how great they think the car is—even though the celeb probably goes everywhere in a limo! The Los Angeles Auto Show usually has the most famous faces in attendance, including TV presenter Ryan Seacrest, Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey, and tennis star Maria Sharapova.
20 Musical Performances
Music plays a significant role in auto shows, with car manufacturers using chart hits and classic tunes to help promote the style and character of their new vehicular creations. Sometimes, however, auto companies go further than just playing a song over the speaker system, and they recruit top musical performers to help draw the crowds to their stand. At the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, for example, Ford hired hip-hop stars DJ Khaled and Fat Joe to help promote the EcoSport, a stylish AWD SUV. You might think an auto show would be the last place you’d see a music concert, but apparently, you’d be wrong.
19 Brewing A Cup Of Tea From A Hydrogen Car's Water Exhaust
It’s thirsty work walking around a vast auto show for hours, but luckily there are plenty of places at all these events where attendees can buy some refreshments. But why buy an ordinary cup of tea or coffee when you can drink a cup of tea or coffee made from the excess water from a hydrogen-powered car? Cars powered by hydrogen produce clean water from their exhaust rather than noxious gases, and as hydrogen technology becomes more reliable, they are becoming a more common sight at auto shows, along with the party trick of making a hot cup of joe from the car’s only by-product.
18 Mannequin Challenge
Everyone remembers the mannequin challenge, a viral video trend from November 2016 which featured clips of people stood frozen in position like a group of shop mannequins. At the time, sports teams, celebrities, and even then First Lady Michelle Obama took part in their own mannequin challenges at the time.
Of course, the phenomenon was also used to promote good causes online.
As with all online crazes, however, the mannequin challenge was only cool for a few months, which meant that attendees at the 2017 Brussels Motor Show were rather surprised to see Porsche still using the mannequin challenge format on their stand.
17 Passenger Drone
Concept cars may be the highlight of any auto show, but increasingly, attendees are just as interested in the new automotive technologies on display as the million-dollar supercars. At the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, one of the undoubted highlights was a stylish passenger drone, designed and built by Airbus, Italdesign, and Audi. Called Pop.Up, the vehicle can act like an ordinary two-seater car on the road, but engaging the drone rotors allows motorists to rise above traffic congestion, and continue their journey in the air. Those behind the technology believe that Pop.Up could be a real option for motorists within ten years, but for now, the unusual vehicle will remain a star at auto shows around the world.
16 Basketball Stars Squeezing Into Small Cars
Go to any of the major auto shows in the US, and the chances are you will see at least one motor manufacturer using the old gag of trying to squeeze ridiculously tall basketball players into a small car. It may make for a good photo opportunity, but it doesn’t really tell prospective buyers anything useful that they need to know about the vehicle, unless the prospective buyer also happens to be 7ft tall. Still, it’s a good opportunity for basketball fans to see some of their favorite players and gets the car company some good coverage in the influential industry press.
15 Partnership Between Lexus And Sriracha
Marketing today is all about sponsorship and partnerships, but some of those partnerships just end up confusing consumers rather than encouraging them to buy actual products.
This had to be the case with the rather unusual partnership between Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, and Sriracha, a bright-red hot chili sauce.
To promote both their cars and the popular sauce, Lexus made a Sriracha car, in the same bright orange-red color, and took it to the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show with a trunk full of bottles of Sriracha. This was definitely a one-off creation, but who would have bought a Lexus Sriracha anyway?
14 Launching A Car In A Video Game
Car manufacturers are always trying to think up new ways to launch their new cars. It isn’t enough anymore to simply unveil your vehicles on an auto show stand; that’s far too boring for most attendees at auto shows. Both Ford and BMW have used video games to launch new vehicles.
Ford even launched their 2018 Raptor truck at a major European video games event, rather than at an auto show.
Drivers also got their first glimpse of the 2018 BMW M5 in teasers for the video game Need for Speed Payback, with auto show visitors later getting the chance to play the game for themselves at the BMW stand.
13 People Leaning On The Display Models
The concept cars on display at auto shows can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is why car makers usually ensure that fans have to keep their distance. However, many auto shows also have classic cars on display, remodeled and renovated cars from every decade since cars were first invented. These vehicles tend to be less protected than the super-expensive concept cars, despite the fact that their owners have put a lot of time and money into making them look good. The last thing they want is visitors leaning on their precious car, or covering it in their sticky handprints.
12 Stormtroopers Promoting Star Wars Cars
Star Wars is the most popular (and arguably the best) film franchise of all time, with millions of fans all over the world.
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, the car manufacturers decided to cash in on the success of the new Star Wars at recent auto shows.
At the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan went Star Wars crazy, launching six themed concept vehicles designed to look like X-Wing and TIE fighters, as well as a particularly dark model which looks like it was built for Kylo Ren. The stand was manned by a squad of Stormtroopers, which proved a great photo opportunity for sci-fi fans.
11 Acrobatic Performances
There are lots of ways for car manufacturers to grab the attention of passing auto show attendees—short of dressing up a bunch of actors in Stormtrooper costumes, that is. At an Algerian motor show, acrobats on stilts performed several times a day, entertaining visitors and generating a lot of interest in the Nissan booth where they were stationed. Ford also hired acrobats and street dancers to perform on their stand at the New York Auto Show in 2018, while acrobatic displays at other shows have actually managed to incorporate some of the vehicles themselves. Entertainment at auto shows isn’t just about keeping the motoring fans happy, but also their families.
10 Cars Decorated By Artists
That bright orange-red Siracha Lexus would certainly have been an eye-catching addition to any auto show, but there are other, even more, creative ways for a company to make their cars stand out from the crowd.
Some of the most famous artists in the world have decorated cars with works of art, often for use at auto shows, but sometimes simply to sell for profit!
Infamous New York graffiti artist Crash painted a Ferrari F430 in his characteristic colorful style, for display at the 2015 New York Auto Show, while Tracey Emin designed a selection of vinyl wraps for four Fiat 500s in 2007.
9 Letting Kids Run Wild
Auto shows are increasingly becoming a family affair, with activities and entertainment aimed at keeping the kids amused while dad (and mom) enjoy the cars in peace. However, if you are taking your children to a serious motor show, it is important to be considerate to other attendees who are 100% focused on the vehicles on display. The last thing any auto show visitor wants when they’re trying to get a glimpse of the newest supercar is to have to deal with a bunch of rugrats scrambling about at their feet. Keep the kids on a short leash and everyone will be happy.
8 Flying Cars
Passenger drones are far from the only airborne vehicles which have been displayed at auto shows. There have even been some genuine flying cars exhibited at such events in recent years, vehicles which look like they might be more at home in The Jetsons cartoon than at a serious motor show. The PAL-V flying car, which was launched at the 2018 Geneva Auto Show, is very different from the passenger drones. It has a maximum altitude of 11,000 feet and drivers require a pilot’s license if they are going to take the vehicle off the road and into the air.
7 Robots Promoting Cars
While the concept cars, new vehicles, and innovative motoring technology on display at auto shows don’t usually need a lot of help attracting crowds, most stands at these events are staffed by representatives from the motor manufacturers.
They are there to answer questions from visitors, as well as to try and draw more people in, which makes their booth look more popular than the competition.
Ford managed to attract the biggest crowds at several auto shows in 2017, thanks to Hank, a robot who was programmed to greet customers and keep them entertained as they waited to get a glimpse of the cars.
6 Auto Show Mascots
Another family-friendly initiative that is a relatively new sight at auto shows is the use of mascots at various events. Mascots are popular in sporting events, after all, so why not auto shows? The Philadelphia Motor Show even has the Black Tie Tailgate mascot, a teddy bear wearing a bow tie, while other events have invited along the mascots from local sports teams as another distraction to keep the kids entertained. Car companies have also embraced the mascot phenomenon; Kia brought a whole troop of robotic hamster mascots to the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2017, a tie-in with their advertising campaign at the time.
5 Scantily-Clad Models
Once upon a time, the sight of gorgeous female models, dressed in unnecessarily revealing outfits would not have been a weird thing to see at an auto show.
For decades, it has been an accepted part of the industry for women to be used as props.
However, times are changing. Not only are more women attending auto shows, but there has been a growing resistance to the use of models in many aspects of the motoring industry, from the decision to get rid of the Formula 1 Grid Girls to the decrease in the number of skimpily dressed women at auto shows.
4 Tent On Wheels
Motorhomes and camper-vans are hugely popular in the US, and while they may not be the most stylish vehicles out there, new models are still regulars at auto shows across the country.
However, a vehicle which made its debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show took sleeping on the road a step further.
Clearly designed and built for serious off-roaders, the Peugeot Rifter concept car is a rough-and-ready SUV with AWD, but best of all, it has a tent extension you can fit to the roof, enabling motorists who like to get off the beaten track to bunk down wherever they like.
3 Lego Batmobile
Detroit is known as Motor City, so it is hardly surprising that the Detroit Auto Show is one of the highlights of the American motoring industry calendar. Classic US car manufacturer Chevrolet managed to steal the show at the 2017 show when they brought a life-size Batmobile to their stand – made entirely out of Lego. The 17-foot-long Batmobile, copied from the vehicle which appeared in the Lego Batman movie, was made from an astonishing 340,000 Lego bricks and took a team of Lego enthusiasts 1,800 hours to put together. It was definitely the star of the Detroit show, proving popular with both kids and adults alike.
2 Police Dog Promoting New Cop Cars
Most of the cars which are on display at auto shows are available for anyone to buy – provided they have the cash. However, these events often also have stands showing off new military vehicles or even newly-designed cop cars. And there’s only one way to win over the crowds if you’re the designer and builder of police vehicles: have a gorgeous police dog on duty at your booth! At the Chicago Auto Show in 2015, Ford brought along a very special guest to launch of their new SUV police cruiser, Keegan, a Belgian shepherd dog, who lifted the sheet off the vehicle with his teeth.
1 Darth Vader Car
The appearance by Stormtroopers at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show was far from the only time that motoring firms have used the popularity of Star Wars to attract the crowds to their stands. Built on the chassis of a Corvette, Chevy created a Darth Vader car for the annual San Diego Comic-Con in 2014, and the vehicle has since made a few guest appearances at auto shows around the States. Styled to look like the Star Wars villain’s iconic black helmet, with lightsaber side-pipes and a red wheel trim, this is any sci-fi fan’s dream car, so long as they are on the Dark Side of the Force.