By Dave Halliday
EDMONTON, ALTA. – The Edmonton Motorshow has experienced tremendous growth and change in the 16 years that Bob Vilas has guided the event.
The 2015 show was his last at the helm since his assistant, Eleasha Naso, will take over for the 2016 edition.
Although Vilas will no longer be in charge of the show, he will remain as executive director of the Edmonton Motor Dealers Association for two years to ease Naso’s transition into that role.
The dealers’ association honoured him for his years of service before this year’s show opened in April.
When he began running the show, it occupied 180,000 square feet. Since then, attendance has more than doubled and the show now occupies just over 500,000 square feet of space in the Edmonton Expo Centre.
But size and attendance are not the whole story.
Over the years, new attractions such as a collector car auction and dedicated automotive accessory and commercial vehicle areas have been added to the event to broaden its appeal.
Combined with the Precious Metal Gala preview of the show, it’s all come together to make the show what he calls the automotive enthusiast’s event of the year.
The growth in the show and improvement in its financial results is providing ever-larger support to young people who want to enter the automotive trade since the proceeds are used to provide financial assistance to apprentices.
“When I got involved, there were 17 scholarships for automotive apprentices,” Vilas said. “We did 125 this past year.”
In addition, the dealers’ association has donated $230,000 to high-school automotive programs in the last three years, he said.
He believes that the show provides good value for the entertainment dollar, noting that the amount of time visitors spend at the show now is four hours, up from 45 minutes when he became involved.
After a career that involved working for Subaru, Ford and MacLaren-McCann, mostly on General Motors accounts, he is looking forward to slowing down.
He plans to stay in Edmonton to be close to family, but expects to spend more time traveling the world and riding his Honda Gold Wing F6B motorcycle.