Joe DeSalvo,  The Florida Times-Union, February 4, 2013

Signs of the automotive industry’s impressive recovery will be quite evident on the First Coast next weekend when the hottest new models on the market will be on display at the Jacksonville International Car & Truck Show.

The annual event, sponsored by the Jacksonville Automobile Dealers Association, opens Friday for a three-day run at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

This year’s show will showcase 29 vehicle lines and more than 200 models under one roof, with dealer and factory representatives on hand to help consumers compare prices and features.

Barbara Pudney, vice president of Paragon Group, has been the show’s producer since 1999. She believes this year’s show will be especially good and definitely full of vehicles.

“We’re maxed out at 130,000 square feet,” said Pudney, whose company stages larger car shows in Boston and Denver. “We packed an awful lot for the public to come and see. In fact, we had to turn away some companies because we had no more display space [under roof].”

Show-goers will get the chance to see several redesigned 2014 models, including the Chevrolet Impala, Subaru Forester, Lincoln MKZ and GMC Sierra.

Highlighting the 2013 models slated for the show are the redesigned Buick Encore, Toyota Avalon and RAV4, as well as the highly acclaimed Cadillac ATS sedan, recently named 2013 North American Car of the Year. The 2013 Truck of the Year — the Ram 1500 — will be there, too.

There also will be two car lines making show debuts this year:

Lotus of Jacksonville will have two Evora sports cars at the show, including the all-new supercharged Evora S version, along with factory representatives.

“We’re excited to be at the Jacksonville show,” said Jake Sydorowicz, vice president and general manager of Lotus of Jacksonville and World Imports USA on Beach Boulevard. “The Intelligent Precision Shift sport coupe Evora delivers phenomenal performance, exclusive styling and incredible excitement, being matched only by its genuine affordability.”

The other new player at the show is the Wheego, an all-electric car. Nimnicht Family of Dealerships recently brought Wheego to the former Hummer store, located next to Nimnicht Buick GMC on Philips Highway.

Wheego of Jacksonville will carry both the full-speed Wheego LiFe and a low-speed vehicle, the Wheego Whip; both will be at the show.

And if you’d like to enjoy the opportunity to take a new GM or Chrysler product for a spin while at the show, you’ll be able to, as the popular Ride & Drives are back with 26 cars and trucks models available for test drives.

“The Ride & Drives are a very exciting part of the show,” Pudney said. “It’s the perfect place to understand the technology and safety features from the product specialists who are on hand.”

And, as in past years, the show will have plenty of activities and vendors for show-goers to enjoy. The show is more than just a car show — it’s a destination event for the entire family. Bring the kids for an amusement area just for them or join in on Friday night’s “Car-a-Oke” sing-a-long competition, hosted by guest DJ A.J. Neaher, a former American Idol contestant.

Drive editor Joe DeSalvo contributed to this report.


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