April 19, 2019 9:30 pm
Updated: April 20, 2019 2:51 pm

High turnout expected at Calgary auto show despite fewer luxury manufacturers

WATCH: Tens of thousands of car enthusiasts are expected to make their way to the Calgary International Auto Show this weekend, but there are two notable absences: BMW and Mercedes-Benz. As Christa Dao reports, dealerships are looking at other ways to navigate the soft economy.


Tens of thousands of car enthusiasts are expected to make their way to the Calgary International Auto Show this weekend at the BMO centre.

There are 37 exhibitors and while there are plenty of luxury vehicles on display, some showgoers have noticed that there are two major luxury players notably absent: BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

“Those are the two — two of three [brands] I really wanted to look at,” car enthusiast Shane Swift said.

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This is the first year BMW dealerships in Calgary decided not to participate in the auto show.

According to BMW Gallery general manager Justin Ratushniak, without financial support from BMW Canada, it didn’t make sense for his dealership to participate.

Instead, the company has decided to look at other ways to showcase their own brand.

“We looked at it from a business standpoint and from our business, it’s a flagship year for BMW, we decided to pull our resources and we decided to try something different. We did our own private BMW Ultimate event,” Ratushniak said.

READ MORE: Auto sales continue downward trajectory, fall 2.5 per cent in March

The financial resources that would go to the auto show were instead re-allocated to its own BMW car event.

“We invited 1,400 people to the Big Four and launched eight of our new models,” he said. “We’ll track the success over the next quarter to see how much response we have from our event and compare it with some of what our competitors got from being at the auto show.”

According to Paul Williams, a board member with the Calgary Truck and Auto Show, there is still plenty of value in having a presence at the auto show.

Williams said the exhibition is a way to showcase multiple vehicles and provide choice for potential buyers all in one space. There’s also the big entertainment value.

“The manufacturers want that opportunity to place multiple models and be able to come out and put their best foot forward. It makes for a fun and convenient way for potential shoppers to be able to see one thing under one roof,” he said.

READ MORE: This is the best time of year to buy a car

BMW Gallery says sales are actually up this year, which is a bit of a surprise, according to one economist.

Mount Royal economy professor Anupam Das said when the economy takes a hit, luxury sales often do as well with consumers being more cautious about making large purchases.

“Their confidence level is low which means they wait until economy bounces back [to purchase those luxury items].

“The people who have jobs, and feel secure, they will still buy more of those, but if this recession continues, I think there will be a downward trend,” Das said.

Despite that dip in the economy, the auto show expects more people than ever to come out this year.

Last year, about 83,000 people attended the show in Calgary.

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