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Buffalo Auto Show set to get in gear

Car lovers and serious shoppers alike will pour into the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center this week.

The four-day Buffalo Auto Show opens Thursday, with more than 250 new vehicles on display. Visitors can comparison shop – or just browse – in a no-pressure setting under one roof in February. Dealers hope to stoke consumers’ interest.

“The manufacturers know it’s a good time to capture the [customer] traffic,” said Paul Stasiak, president of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, which organizes the show.

Nationally, auto sales hit a record high in 2015, with 17.47 million vehicles sold, according to Autodata Corp. Dealers are looking to build on that momentum and create enthusiasm through the show.

Packed house

The convention center’s two floors will be loaded with cars and trucks, representing more than 30 brands. Among the attractions will be models coming to showrooms this year.

Ford will have 2017 models for the Fusion, Escape and Super Duty. Lincoln will display a 2017 Continental, while Audi will have 2017 models of its A4 and Q7. Hyundai will display a 2017 Elantra.

With so many carmakers eager to display their products, the dealers group allocates floor space based on new-vehicle registration data.

The Buffalo show rarely gets the flashy concept cars displayed at shows like Detroit’s, but the event does let visitors look at vehicles they could actually buy.

Fuel influence?

Stasiak is interested to see whether $2 per gallon gas prices affect which vehicles draw crowds. But he believes Buffalo Niagara region consumers are less influenced by pump prices when it comes to vehicle choice. “Buffalo doesn’t really have a 45-minute commute to work. That’s where that person pays a little more attention (to gas prices),” he said. Customers here are more likely to think about vehicles they can rely on in adverse winter weather, Stasiak said.

Luxury looks

Gawking at high-end cars you might never be able to afford or otherwise see up close is part of the experience. Look for a Porsche 911 GT 3 RS (sticker price: $130,400), a Lotus Evora S 400, and a Zenos E10, among others.

Test drives

Toyota will again offer ride and drive test drives outside the convention center, which were more popular than you might think in midwinter Buffalo. “We put more people through ‘Ride and Drive’ than Miami” last year, Stasiak said.

Hours, tickets and parking

The show will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and next Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission prices are unchanged from last year: $10 at the door, or $8 in advance at Noco, Tops, Wegmans and Dash’s stores, or online at buffaloautoshow.com. A presale family four-pack is $30. Children age 5 and under are admitted free.

One parking option is $10 for valet parking at the convention center’s Franklin Street entrance. You can also find spaces at downtown ramps and surface lots.

Star attractions

Vehicles dominate the show, but the dealers group also uses celebrity and character appearances each year to broaden the event’s appeal.

The ex-Buffalo Bills trio of Fred Smerlas, Jim Haslett and Shane Nelson, known in their playing days as “The Bermuda Triangle,” will appear 2 to 4 p.m. next Sunday. They will sign autographs for an additional fee. Proceeds will go toward the “Cure the Blue” prostate cancer campaign.

Three Buffalo Bandits – Dhane Smith, Ryan Benesch and David Brock – plus the Bandettes are scheduled to appear 6 to 7 p.m. Friday.

For the kids, Spider-Man will appear 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday, while Captain America will be on hand 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday. GigaMaxx the Giant Robot will roam the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram display on Saturday and next Sunday.

Vendors and exhibits

General Motors’ Tonawanda and Lockport manufacturing plants will have displays, the New York State Police will promote seat-belt awareness, and Ford will have a driving simulator, among many others.

Looking ahead: If you can’t get enough of the auto show, the dealers’ group will hold the second annual edition of its outdoor show Aug. 5 to 7 at Canalside.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com