San Diego International Auto Show returns after 2-year pandemic layoff


After getting sideswiped by the pandemic for two consecutive years, the San Diego International Auto Show is back.

“As you know, COVID changed a lot of things and it was the first time we didn’t have an auto show in what we think is over a hundred years,” said show spokesman Richard Newendyke. “It’s fantastic to be back and there’s a lot of excitement on the floor right now.”

The show opens Friday morning and runs through Monday at the San Diego Convention Center. It includes the same features that have proved popular with local auto enthusiasts and potential new car and truck buyers, such as the ability to test drive models by Chevrolet, Ford and Volkswagen.

But the number of vehicles on display will not be as large. In the pre-pandemic 2019-2020 auto show, more than 400 vehicles from 25 car makers were showcased. This weekend’s roster runs to about 250 to 300 vehicles from 16 to 18 manufacturers on the convention floor.

That’s because the auto industry is struggling with supply chain issues and a global shortage of semiconductor microchips that has left car dealers’ lots nearly empty for the past 18 months.

The silicon chips essential for laptops, game consoles and TVs also go into the brake sensors, power steering, navigation and entertainment systems in modern-day vehicles.

“The manufacturers who provide the cars for this show have known this is coming so they’ve taken their best models and set them aside to make sure they’re here for this show,” Newendyke said. “When there are less cars in the marketplace, there are less cars in the auto show.”

Signage awaiting set up for the 2023 San Diego Auto Show.

Signage awaiting set up for the 2023 San Diego Auto Show.

(Sandy Huffaker/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

For attendees, one of the show’s most attractive aspects is simply strolling the convention floor and checking out a variety of cars and trucks in a no-pressure environment. Representatives from each car maker will be around to answer questions, but no sales are made.

“You can come here and compare, say, a Ford, a Chevy, a Toyota, a Nissan and get the best idea what’s going to be available in the car you might be interested in,” Newendyke said.

“That’s really why we have the automobile show — so that we can educate consumers and give them a chance to learn about all the cars in one area, as opposed to driving all over town … This is not a selling show. This is a place where you come if you want to find out about cars, technologies, things like that.”

A Nissan Ariya on display at the San Diego International Auto Show.

A Nissan Ariya on display at the San Diego International Auto Show. Just introduced, the all-electric SUV looks to complement the car maker’s popular Leaf in the electric vehicle space.

(Rob Nikolewski/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Just about every car maker will have EVs, or electric vehicles, on display.

Two years ago Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles in California by 2035. The California Air Resources Board earlier this year instituted target dates starting in 2026 that ramp up with increasing percentages until the 100 percent goal is reached.

“We have an area called Electric Avenue where we’ll have specifically trained people to explain all the different EV technologies,” Newendyke said.

The nine models on display at the Nissan showroom include a new all-electric sports-utility vehicle called the Ariya, rolled out to complement the Leaf, the EV compact that’s been around since December 2010. Just released for sale on Dec. 18, the Ariya goes about 300 miles between charges.

“It’s offering a larger mode of transportation for those who are looking for more trunk space and maybe more space to fit their lifestyle,” said Jannelle Grigsby of Nissan public relations.

The Toyota space includes its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai.

The show also features a mobility zone that highlights consumer-centric transportation options and the exotics vault that spotlights high-performance and super-expensive cars that most drivers only dream of ever buying.

Don Anderson of San Carlos wiped down the carbon-fiber body of his 2016 Radical XRC 500R Thursday afternoon. The low-to-ground race car can hit 185 mph, weighs 2,200 pounds with 650 horsepower and goes from zero to 60 in 2.7 seconds.

Don Anderson and his 2016 Radical XRC 500R at the Exotics Vault of the San Diego International Auto Show.

Don Anderson of San Carlos wipes down his 2016 Radical XRC 500R at the Exotics Vault of the San Diego International Auto Show.

(Rob Nikolewski/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“It’s the only one that’s street-licensed in California — forever. They won’t do it again,” Anderson said. “I just wanted the ultimate hot rod car.”

How much did he pay for it?

“Don’t ask,” said Karen, Don’s wife and crew chief.

There’s also a designated classic cars area, showing off vintage autos that underscore the show’s longtime slogan — “Where the Cars are the Stars.”

“We have a really nice collection of classic cars,” Newendyke said. “I call them works of art — a car that was new 40 or 50 years ago, and now they’ve restored it and they’re beautiful.”

The Union-Tribune is one of the San Diego International Auto Show’s primary sponsors.

San Diego International Auto Show
San Diego Convention Center
111 W. Harbor Drive

Friday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m
Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Monday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

General admission $18, military (active duty with ID) $15 (one ticket per ID), seniors age 62 and older $15, children (ages 7-12) $12, children age 6 and under free. On Sunday children 12 and under admitted free when accompanied by a paid adult.

Purchasing tickets online is encouraged, at


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