International Auto Show rolls into R.I.

International Auto Show rolls into R.I.

As in past years, visitors to the 2019 Northeast International Auto Show, at the Rhode Island Convention Center, will have the opportunity to view more than 250 vehicles from dozens of major domestic and import manufacturers, talk to product specialists and test drive the latest models from Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and Ram. The show takes place Friday, Feb. 8, from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Visitors can learn about latest tech, including advanced safety features

PROVIDENCE – Today’s cars can do almost everything, except completely take over the driving. Though fully autonomous vehicles may be right around the corner, many 2019 vehicles are already packed with advanced technology, especially safety features aimed at preventing or reducing collisions.

And those in the market for a new car aren’t complaining.

When asked what characteristics are important when purchasing a new vehicle, 65 percent of people picked safety, making it the top consideration, according to a 2018 Global Consumer Survey from Statista.

Local automobile aficionados and curious car buyers can learn about the latest technology, including safety features, at the 2019 Northeast International Auto Show, at the Rhode Island Convention Center, 1 Sabin St., Providence.

On Friday, Feb. 8, from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., visitors can expect “a whole lot of new car smell,” said DeeDee Taft, spokeswoman for the Auto Show.

Featuring more than 250 vehicles from dozens of major domestic and import manufacturers, including Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Jeep, Nissan and Toyota, the event gives visitors a chance to talk to product specialists and check out new cars, trucks, crossovers, SUVs, hybrids, alternative fuel options, as well as exotics and classics.

The show, presented by the Rhode Island Automobile Dealers Association and produced by MotorTrend Auto Shows, will include hundreds of 2019 models, such as the 2019 Jeep Wrangler (named MotorTrend’s SUV of the Year) and the 2019 Ram 1500 (named MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year).

New car buyers can bring questions for manufacturers and will have an opportunity “to get behind the wheel,” Taft said. On Friday, from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors can test drive latest models from Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and Ram.

“The great thing about this show is that everyone is welcome to talk to manufacturers and ask questions,” Taft said. “These are the experts in the industry … It’s a great opportunity to learn what’s happening and what’s new.”

Bob Tasca Jr., president of Tasca Automotive Group, which has approximately 18 dealerships throughout Rhode Island, Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts, said the show offers buyers “one place to look at all the products,” including vehicles with newer and better safety features.

Today’s cars, trucks and SUVs “are so much safer than they used to be,” said Tasca, whose family is preparing 2019 Ford and Lincoln models for viewing at the Auto Show. “There’s not a bad product out there … They’re all pretty darn good.”

While safety features used to be exclusive to luxury cars, they’re being rolled out to lower-priced cars and trucks, Tasca said.

“A few years ago, it was a big deal to have a backup camera,” he said. “Now, there’s so much technology that’s being put in vehicles today.”

Driver assistance technologies, such as blind-spot warnings and automatic emergency braking, seek to help drivers avoid collisions or at least reduce the impact of an accident. Some features come standard nowadays, while others are optional upgrades, but they all use software and hardware (such as cameras, sensors and radar) to warn motorists of safety risks that they might not have seen on their own.

“The availability of safety features is amazing now,” Taft said.

Many manufacturers “have driver assistance programs to some level,” offering features such as adaptive cruise control, parking assistance and lane-departure warning systems, she said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, 94 percent of all serious motor vehicle crashes are caused by human error or choices. “Driver assisting technologies,” the NHTSA says, “have the potential to reduce crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives.”

Once a driver experiences these features, “they’ll never buy a vehicle without them,” Tasca said.

Both Taft and Tasca pointed out that cars available to the public aren’t yet fully autonomous, but “we’re almost there.”

Not all drivers are eager for self-driving cars, but many do appreciate features that improve the way they drive. According to a 2018 survey by Consumer Reports, 51 percent of buyers looking to purchase a new car want a rearview camera or backup warning and 45 percent want a blind-spot warning system, compared to 11 percent who said they want a car with automatic acceleration, braking and steering.

In addition to safety features, today’s car buyers are also interested in fuel efficiency, connectivity with mobile devices, and electric vehicles, Taft said.

The majority of manufacturers now offer all-electric, hybrid electric or plug-in electric vehicles, and if they don’t, they have plans for them in the future, she said.

Massive trucks are out, as the mid-sized pickup makes a return, Taft said, pointing to the 2019 Ford Ranger as an example. These trucks offer “a lot of functionality” and are more fuel-efficient than bigger counterparts.

“The sedan business is getting less and less of a percentage of the market,” Tasca said. “I think people feel safer in an SUV, sitting up a little higher.”

He added that most SUVs now have all-wheel drive, a good feature for Rhode Islanders who have to deal with snowy winters.

With a showcase by duPont Registry Ferrari & Maserati of New England, the Auto Show also offers an opportunity for visitors to do a little dreaming, Taft said, by trying out luxury cars “without having any pressure” to buy.

Admission to the show is $12 for adults, $9 for senior citizens (62 and older) and $8 for students (21 and under with a school ID). Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

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The new 2019 Ford Ranger, filled with driver-assist technologies, will be one of hundreds of cars available for viewing at the 2019 Northeast International Auto Show.