2013 W.Va. International Auto Show brings newest cars to state - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

2013 W.Va. International Auto Show brings industry's newest cars to Charleston

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Almost anyone who has bought a car in recent years will tell you a big part of the process is consumed by one thing: Education.

Smart buyers do their homework on what the different makers are offering, what models may suit their needs best and what types of amenities, mileage and safety features are available.

But going to different dealerships can be time consuming. It can be stressful sometimes, too.

That's where the 2013 West Virginia International Auto Show comes in. The show, now in its 15th year, woos thousands of people from West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere to Charleston's Civic Center so they can check out the latest vehicle offerings in a non-selling, low-pressure environment.

"People can sit in cars, touch them, in some cases test drive them and try to compare them," said Ruth Lemmon, president of the West Virginia Automobile and Truck Dealers Association, adding that most if not all of the vehicles on display at the show are or will be available at local dealerships. "We see people who attend auto shows buy cars soon after."

The auto show is ranked one of the top regional shows in the country, according to DeeDee Taft, a spokeswoman for the auto show. While it may not generate the kind of national media attention that say the North American International Auto Show in Detroit does, the West Virginia show attracts plenty of regional attention and regional visitors.

"It is a very popular regional show," Taft said.

One of the challenges of putting on a show for 15 years is trying to keep it fresh and new. But Lemmon said this year's show offers plenty of attractions to draw crowds. In addition to featuring hundreds of cars, the 2013 show will include an appearance by NASCAR hopeful Bobby Dale Earnhardt, who moved to West Virginia several years ago to start his racing career; an 8-foot-tall Comic-bot King Robotica; the Ford Ride & Drive test area and Focus racing simulator; and the Sony a77 stereo studio, which enables participants to pretend they are driving some of the world fastest cars.

Plus, the show is getting some vehicles no one else has seen

"We just got word that we will get a 2014 Chevy Silverado," Lemmon said.

While the 2014 Silverado isn't available for sale in dealerships, seeing the early version will give potential truck buyers an idea of what is coming in the near future.

"Fortunately, manufacturers recognize the show as a great way to showoff their products," she said.

Lemmon said the biggest thing consumers seem to focus on when buying a car are safety, amenities and mileage.

"A lot of folks don't care who the car maker is. They want a vehicle with good mileage, safety features and with all of the whistles and bells."

Some of the safety features vehicles now offer include complete hands-free communication technology, sensors to prevent accidents and sleep alerts, which cause the vehicle to start beeping if it senses the driver is getting too groggy.

"It's amazing how much more sophisticated cars have become, and yet they are still affordable," she said.

Vehicles' interiors and offerings are more sophisticated, too. Lemmon said manufacturers have gotten to a point where their customers can basically customize their cars to match their lifestyle, be it a lifestyle revolving around music, technology or something else.

"Everything comes together. They now bring your whole lifestyle into the seat of the vehicle," she said.