The coronavirus pandemic may have put the brakes on March’s Lehigh Valley Auto Show, forcing the event’s cancellation for the first time in its 23-year history, but organizers are already revved up for 2021.
On Wednesday, the Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Dealers Association (GLVADA) hosted a press event at Allentown’s Good Shepherd Health & Technology Center to announce that plans are in full gear for the show’s 24th anniversary. Next year’s celebration, with a theme of “Back on the Road Again,” will be held March 18-21 at Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus in Bethlehem.
Wednesday’s event also allowed organizers to present Good Shepherd Pediatrics, the beneficiary of the canceled 2020 show’s preview gala, with a $25,000 check.
“Despite the significant loss of revenue from the 2020 auto show, the franchised new car dealers of the Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Dealers Association have expressed their desire for continued support of Good Shepherd’s service to the residents of our community,” said Sam Borrelli, president of GLVADA and president of Faulkner Chevrolet Cadillac.
The auto show’s financial loss forced GLVADA to suspend its Charitable Grants program for the 2020 to 2021 year, Borrelli said. However, through previous investments in the Pennsylvania Automotive Association Foundation, it was able to honor its commitment to Good Shepherd.
“GLVADA’s generous support helps Good Shepherd Pediatrics provide life-changing rehabilitative care and support for children and families,” said Michael Spigel, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network’s new president and CEO. “Whether a family is encountering the most difficult time of their lives medically or simply seeking out new ways for their child to reach their individual goals, Good Shepherd Pediatrics is there — cheering them on, providing compassionate care and transforming lives through leading-edge rehabilitation.”
Tom Kwiatek, executive director of GLVADA, also unveiled the association’s new logo and brand identity at the event.
The new design, developed by Nazareth’s Sarott Design, features nods to the Lehigh Valley’s three cities with images of Allentown’s PPL building, the former Bethlehem Steel’s blast furnaces and Easton’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
“It’s in everybody’s best interest to invest in this region,” Kwiatek told the crowd. “… We encourage people to buy new vehicles here in the Greater Lehigh Valley, where their purchases help the local economy — keeping people including their neighbors employed, their dealerships growing and the business taxes flowing into municipalities to help their infrastructure.”
Due to expenses for outdoor tents, heating, lighting and more, it costs the GLVDA approximately $325,000 to host the annual four-day show, Kwiatek noted.
“By the time we learned of Lehigh University’s decision on March 11 of this year to prohibit large-scale events, those tents had already been erected, meaning we were obligated for the costs,” Kwiatek said. “Since the show was not presented, we lost all potential ticket revenues.”
Kwiatek on Wednesday remained upbeat, however, noting that while the 2021 show would be different than any other previous event, it would still feature “great products,” evidenced by four cutting-edge vehicles surrounding him.
The vehicles on display at Wednesday’s event included a 2021 Mercedes Benz GLA250 4Matic, 2021 Jaguar F-Type convertible P300, 2020 Cadillac XT6 and 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia.
The auto show, spanning 145,000 square feet, typically features about 300 new cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, vans and motorcycles in four venues: Lehigh’s Stabler Arena, showcasing mostly luxury vehicles; Rauch Fieldhouse, displaying mostly domestics; and two large tents, featuring mostly imports.
Next year’s show will comply with all state and local COVID-19 guidelines in place at the time, Kwiatek said.
If it is determined that hosting the 2021 show in March is not feasible for some reason, GLVADA also identified potential dates in May as a back-up plan.
Morning Call features reporter and Retail Watch columnist Ryan Kneller can be reached at 610-820-6597 or [email protected].
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