Auto Show

Hang In There! Automakers host virtual auto shows for Canadians

Well, friends, it’s looking like another year of exploring the world exclusively via our screens. And that’s because nearly all the annual events we’d usually gather for have been cancelled or delayed indefinitely, including all the major international motor shows. 

Usually, these auto shows in Detroit, Tokyo, Toronto, Los Angeles, Geneva and elsewhere are opportunities for brands to showcase their new products, ideas, and innovations; and for car people to share their interest with other enthusiasts live and in-person.

But unfortunately for car lovers – and maybe even more so for carmakers – enthusiasm isn’t the only thing shared when thousands of individuals crowd into a convention centre to slide one after the other into the driver’s seat of the show’s hottest coupe. 

It’s certainly been a blow to the events industry. Some, including the Montreal and Toronto auto shows, failed to muster enough commitment or interest to host even a virtual event, after they said they would. It’s enough to make you wonder: Will the auto show as we knew it ever return?

This year, a number of brands – and even some publications (wink wink) – are attempting to capture some of the attention left in limbo by the mass cancellations. Instead of live events, they’re offering digital events that fans can attend from wherever they may be holed up these days. 

Here are four virtual auto shows that are happening, or have happened, in 2021 so far. 

Kia Canada

Kia Virtual Auto Show

Kia Virtual Auto Show

Kia Canada is hosting a month-long Virtual Auto Show Experience earlier this year, welcoming users into a 3D lobby space populated by various Kia presentations, with live chats, demonstrations, and the entire Kia lineup to click on and discover. Actual human Kia representatives are also online to answer questions and set up dealership appointments for potential shoppers.

“What began as a solution to not having in-person auto shows evolved into a contemporary, category-leading consumer experience,” said Elias El-Achhab, Kia Canada’s chief operating officer. “Our team has created a truly immersive virtual space.” The Canadian Kia Virtual Auto Show Experience event runs from the end of February until the end of April. 


2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX


Kia may have been the first brand to embrace the virtual event strategy in Canada, but it wasn’t the last. Acura Canada took a more narrative approach to its virtual experience, creating a microsite “aimed at sparking consumer excitement with snapshots of its high-performance, risk-taking heritage.” In other words, this site will teach you about Acura’s motorsport history.

And it’s actually a relatively fun way to get to know the brand’s lineup, opening with a “Symphony of Sounds” where you select a vehicle and click on a gas pedal to hear what the engine sounds like. There are some other educational videos, a timeline of Acura’s big moments in racing, and custom-design racing helmet content. But the most entertaining element is the faux-vintage 8-bit NSX racing game, Beat That, in which you rip around a “*closed course” in an ARX-05, 2020 NSX, Type S concept, 2020 RDX, 1998 Integra, and 1991 NSX.

Knowing that hundreds of thousands of Canadians would be deprived of their annual auto-show fix this year,’s experts spent an afternoon on Zoom recording the 2021 Virtual Auto Show. They each logged thousands fewer steps on their Fitbits that day than they would’ve had they been reporting live from some massive conference centre somewhere, but they covered many of the same topics. 

Ranter-in-residence Lorraine Sommerfeld hosted the event, leading conversations about the 2022 McLaren Artura supercar, which David Booth compares to the Jaguar C-X75; the improving case for electric power, which Plugged In podcast host Andrew McCredie posits is driven by the fact your average consumer can actually test one now; and the always-topical-in-North-America Ford F-150, which Jil McIntosh says is more relevant than ever thanks to hybrid power.

You can watch the highlights from the first Driving Virtual Auto Show above. 


BMW tempted Canadians to its virtual event held on Saturday, February 27 with the promise of some light M3 and M4 porn, a preview of the upcoming BMW iX and i4, Bowers & Wilkins headphone giveaways, and a free movie code from the Cineplex Store. The bait worked, drawing some 7,000 virtual attendees, nearly 1,000 more than BMW had anticipated. 

“We miss seeing fans of the brand face-to-face,” said Andrew Scott, director, BMW Brand Management in a press release. “Auto shows give us the opportunity to share our passion for BMW with the people who love our cars as much as we do. We couldn’t let a year go by without getting together with them or telling them how much we appreciate their support, so we brought our products directly into their living rooms. Digital formats are a great way for us to remain connected with our community. Our customers are our priority, and a key step in supporting that is being where they need us to be.”

The German automaker says the event fell in lockstep with the brand’s strategy to digitize its sales and marketing processes, and that the BMW Group will be spending triple-digit million-euro annual budgets up to 2025. 

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