NEW YORK – An organizer at this city’s auto show is in a good mood just before Nissan's CEO unveils an all-new ’16 Maxima sedan.

“It's a good day when a CEO like Carlos Ghosn introduces a global car here,” Chris Sams tells WardsAuto. He's a spokesman for the Greater New York Auto Dealers Assn. that stages the annual event.

Such high-level auto executive appearances and major product unveilings reflect increased stature for the New York International Auto Show. Although it bills itself as America's oldest (vintage 1900) and best-attended (typically 1.2 million visitors during a 10-day run) auto show, it hasn’t always been the newsiest.

In the 1950s, it was overall a European-car show. The Asians hadn’t arrived yet. Displayed cars included early Volkswagen Beetles and British Triumphs and MGs.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, New York show product unveilings skewed towards midcycle refreshes or niche vehicles, such as a Subaru L.L. Bean special edition.      

But that’s been changing. More and more automakers pick the New York show for top executives to preside over major unveilings. Being the media capital of the country doesn't hurt there.

Ghosn introducing the Maxima world car is one example. Ford CEO Mark Fields taking the wraps off the attention-grabbing Lincoln Continental concept car is another.

In terms of media coverage and product introductions, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit arguably is the most important of the “big four” U.S. shows. The others are Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

But New York is making its presence known. It hosted 25 press conferences this year during two media days before the public opening.

Moreover, show organizers have made it a community event, no small undertaking in a city the size of New York.

Besides the array of vehicles displayed in three exhibit halls, the show includes more than 100 automotive conferences, forums, roundtables and parties. One of those sessions is this week’s World Traffic Safety Symposium. The newly appointed head of the NHTSA, Mark Rosekind, is the scheduled keynote speaker.

“Safety remains a significant topic,” says Mark Schienberg, president of the GNYADA.

Other hot automotive topics include vehicle performance, luxury features, technology, fuel efficiency and innovations that “are pushing the boundaries further than we’ve ever seen before,” he says.

The New York show is more than just an extravaganza. It also helps its dealer organizers sell cars.

New York is one of the nation’s largest vehicle markets. Not just yellow cabs ply the city streets. So do plenty of personal-transportation vehicles that, in Manhattan anyway, seem to lean towards upscale import sedans and fullsize domestic SUVs.    

“Auto Shows are the one place that consumers can experience every new make and model – under one roof – with no pressure or sense of urgency,” Schienberg says.

More than 60% of people participating in an exit survey indicated they planned to lease or purchase a new car 12 months after visiting the show, he says. “Now that’s an important audience to be in front of.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com