Convention center car shows
The San Diego International Auto Show returns Friday after its two-year COVID pause. Photo credit: Screen shot, sdautoshow.com

Organizers coined a phrase for the San Diego International Auto Show – “Where the Cars are the Stars” – but the stars have been missing for two years.

That changes at the San Diego Convention Center Friday when the auto show returns after two years of canceled shows due to COVID-19.

“The San Diego Auto Show is a huge celebration of San Diego County’s car culture and, finally,
after a two-year absence, we are thrilled to be back,” said Scott Webb, director of marketing and operations for the show.

The basics

Admission – purchases must be made online – costs $18 with discounts for military, seniors and children. Kids get in free Sunday for Family Day with one paid adult admission. The show continues through Monday.

What to do at the auto show

The event, California’s second-largest car show, will feature hundreds of new cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, electric vehicles, hybrids, exotics and more in a non-selling environment that includes a variety of new models not yet in showrooms or those that are in high demand and difficult to find.

There’s the hands-on aspect too, for those who want to feel the handling and performance of new vehicles during test drives or tap into the “Camp Jeep” off-road experience.

Webb called test drives “one of the most popular features at the (show),” and as for “Camp Jeep,” the feature is only available at select auto shows including San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit, New York and Chicago.

What you can test drive

(For planners, here’s a preview of some the models available for test drives:

  • Audi – e-tron, e-tron Sportback
  • Chevrolet – Silverado 1500 High Country, Equinox RS, Bolt EUV Premier
  • Ford – Bronco Sport, F-150 Lightning, Mustang Mach-E
  • Volkswagen – ID.4, Taos, Tiguan)

Electric cars

Other displays and exhibits returning to the show include Electric Avenue, a focal point for 2022 given the rapid adoption of EVs since the last San Diego auto show.

A variety of EVs will be on display in one dedicated area of the convention center, with experts available to offer guidance to consumers.


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Ellen Bullock