What was with the auto show bike racks?

  • transportation, business, shopping and ownership concept - customer and salesman shaking hands outside

The Toronto International Bicycle Show goes Saturday and Sunday at Exhibition Place, but I wonder if cars will be showcased there the way bicycles were at the Toronto auto show.

If you visited the auto show, you may have noticed that many of the crossover vehicles on display had bikes on their roof racks. Why would car companies put bikes on their vehicles? After all, most of the bikes are not sold by the carmakers.

Plus, at a time when EVs, hybrids, diesels and turbocharged engines are popular, it seems a bit odd to showcase a car with a bike on the roof, one that would severely downgrade a vehicle’s drag coefficient.

So while walking through the show, I asked a few people the simple question: why is there a bike up there?

My sampling process and statistical analysis is far from market-research norms, but the answers from automakers and consumers surprised me a great deal.

Most automaker reps said the bikes were there to showcase their bike and ski racks.

Consumers said the bikes were reaching out to active customers. It makes sense for carmakers to show they care about their customers’ interests beyond engine and colour selections. For most, driving is a means to an end. For many, their vehicles are part of their lifestyle.

So it seems that one answer is “bike racks,” and the other is “cars.” But which makes the most sense?

The car does, for two reasons.

First, the consumers will be the ones to eventually make the purchase decision. Their experience will undoubtedly drive the transaction.

Second, even if my accountant agreed to let me drive a sporty R8 coupe as a primary vehicle, I would still end up in a Q7 SUV, just because it suits my needs. My car supports my lifestyle, not the other way around.

As a car buyer, I am attracted to certain brands, and I would select a vehicle that will help me do the things I want to do.

I choose bikes the same way. A $200 cruising bike or a $25,000 bespoke road bike fulfill different needs. One is about basic functional mobility; the other is about prestige, craftsmanship and performance. Interestingly enough, this was the range of bikes displayed at the show.

What is truly remarkable is how the answers given by professionals and consumers differed. I would have expected a more homogeneous feedback.

But in the end, let’s not forget that a bike rack is just that: a bike rack.

The Toronto International Bike Show takes place Saturday and Sunday at Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre.

  • What was with the auto show bike racks?

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