I’m not sure when it happened, exactly, but the evidence is all over the inside of my laptop-camera-bag combo. Not because of what’s there, but because of what isn’t.
As I write this column, I’m packing for the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto, which begins with media day today and runs through Feb. 25 for the public. Suits? Check. Laptop? Check. Business cards? Check. Meeting schedule? Check. Camera gear? Nope.
I recall one auto show not that many years ago where my camera gear nearly outweighed my checked baggage, and the big challenge was getting a clear line of sight to take vehicle shots on the show floor. The meandering masses are a real pain, after all.
To me, the shows were always about the cars, whether a carryover production model or an off-the-hook concept with wings and a Flux Capacitor for power.
Like grey hair taking root, the change was slow and subtle. Auto shows apparently needed to keep up with the times, which is often code for having side gigs that have nothing to do with the vehicles. Not things like a dunk tank or vendors selling belt buckles or candy apples, but meetings. Lots of meetings to discuss important things, as it turns out. At this year’s show, for example, the new Automotive Intelligence Series is, well, a series of ongoing panel discussions featuring people such as industry executives, automaker CEOs and educators. Important stuff, indeed.
At last year’s CIAS, I barely managed a quick walkaround, let alone snapping gigabytes of photos. I was simply too busy (gasp) working at our own side gig called the Automotive News Canada Congress. No shiny paint, no carbon fibre, no sweet-smelling leather and no sparkling alloy wheels wrapped in low-profile rubber. Just chairs, a stage and, yes, people the likes of GM’s Steve Carlisle, Magna International’s Don Walker and Unifor’s Jerry Dias. We planned the event again this year; it runs today.
Rather than lugging around camera gear and learning about new cars and their features, I’m now fortunate enough to be immersed in larger discussions with industry leaders on interesting, pressing and topical issues such as NAFTA and the hunt for engineers for a high-tech industry that’s blossoming in Canada.
I guess work isn’t so bad after all. Auto shows are indeed changing with the times. And the luggage is lighter, too.