Columbus auto show’s popularity hints at economic resurgence – Columbus Dispatch

The shiny red Mazda 6 was calling Arlene Varney’s name.

The Centerburg resident spent yesterday afternoon trolling the Columbus International Auto Show
with her husband, knowing that her 2003 Cadillac DeVille could kick the bucket any day.

“It’s got 196,000 miles on it,” she said. “I’m hoping for 200,000.”

But hope doesn’t get you to work, so Varney put another 45 miles or so on the DeVille to kick
tires and slam doors at the auto show, which
opened Thursday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and closed
yesterday.

If the auto show is an indicator of the local economy, things are picking up. The exhibition
hall was filled, especially Saturday and yesterday.

According to show director Dan Zinni, the 2014 show was the most attended in the show’s history,
which extends more than 50 years. He declined to give attendance figures.

“We saw sales lulls for so long due to the recession; there’s just so much pent-up demand,”
Zinni said.

Central Ohio saw “huge increases” in vehicle sales last year, he said, and this year is shaping
up to be even better. The same can’t be said everywhere, however.

Through the first two months of 2014, central Ohio new car sales were up 8 percent over the same
period last year, according to registration data compiled by Autoviewonline.com. Nationally,
new-car sales dropped by 1 percent.

Twenty-four percent of Ohioans plan to lease or buy a vehicle this year, according to Huntington
Bank’s Midwest Economic Index.

Jeanine Wall is among them.

“I’m getting the itch,” she said, as she checked out the new Hondas with her husband, John.

She’s driven her Honda Odyssey for 13 years and likes the brand.

“They have a good product,” she said. “And I think there’s a central Ohio loyalty to Hondas
because they’re made here. I know there is in Westerville, where I live.”

Forty-one manufacturers exhibited more than 350 vehicles at the Columbus show, including a
handful of 2015 models such as the Ford Mustang, the Cadillac Escalade, the Honda Fit and Ford’s
all-aluminum F-150 pickup truck.

Not every new car struck every person’s fancy, but only one car was truly deemed “ugliest.” That
was a 1995 Dodge Neon with white quarter panels, black doors and green hood and trunk covers.

It belonged to 18-year-old Jacey Deitrich of Junction City and was the winner of the show’s
ugliest-car contest sponsored by the Central Ohio Honda Dealers, who replaced it with a new Honda
Civic LX that has a sticker price of about $20,000.

“I couldn’t say anything,” Deitrich said. “I just started crying.”

elyttle@dispatch.com

@ewlyttle

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