Is the Easter Jeep Safari Jeep's New Auto Show?

The idyllic Moab, Utah setting makes this annual Jeep gathering an appealing alternative to traditional auto shows.

Jeep concept vehicles at the 2023 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, UtahJeep


In recent years, the Jeep brand along with its parent company, Stellantis, and a number of other automakers have scaled back their presence at traditional auto shows, in some cases dropping out of participation entirely.

At the same time, Jeep has steadily been increasing its presence at the Easter Jeep Safari, held yearly in the southwestern town of Moab, Utah. Is this Jeep's new auto show?

Moab Easter Jeep Safari Has Become a Popular Annual Jeep Event

Started by the Moab Chamber of Commerce in the 1960s as a way to drum up tourism, the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari has grown into a weeklong celebration of the Jeep brand in the off-roaders' paradise that is Moab.

Every year, from the weekend before Easter until Easter Sunday, Jeep enthusiasts from across the continent flock to Moab for a week of trail riding and socializing. Not only is this great for Moab's economy, but it's also an important time on the calendar for Jeep's aftermarket suppliers, not to mention the Jeep brand itself.

Blue and white Jeep Wrangler Magneto 3.0 4xe concept at the 2023 Easter Jeep SafariJeep

Carmakers Are Rethinking the Value of the Traditional Auto Show

In the past, in-person auto shows played a major role in automakers' product promotion plans. Traditionally set in a convention center, these events gave the public firsthand experience with all of the year's new and updated models. But the game has changed in recent years.

The proliferation of YouTube and other video content means in-person experiences now play a smaller role in driving purchasing decisions. With companies re-evaluating the need for big, expensive in-person events in the wake of COVID and increasingly wanting to control the narratives surrounding their products, they are rethinking the value of the traditional auto show.

Jeep and parent company Stellantis already opted out of this year's large electronics show in Las Vegas called CES and Chicago Auto Show, both of which took place at the beginning of each year.

Jeep leverages the ideal backdrop of Moab to reach Jeep enthusiasts directly. Jeep began incorporating the Moab Easter Jeep safari — an event not traditionally sponsored by the Jeep brand — into its yearly public relations plans back in 2008, when it debuted 10 concept vehicles in Moab during the event.

The concept unveilings have continued every year since, and the brand has recently expanded its presence to include a public-facing full model line display and media first drives of new production products, such as the V8-powered Wrangler 392 in 2021.

If you're thinking this sounds a lot like an auto show put on by Jeep, you'd be right.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer Overland concept interior at the 2023 Easter Jeep SafariJeep

Unlike a traditional auto show, where Jeep would be surrounded by competitors, the brand doesn't have to compete for the spotlight in Moab. With tens of thousands of people attending Easter Jeep Safari in recent years, the brand gets to put its products directly in front of its most ardent admirers.

On top of that, Jeep gets an opportunity to more closely associate itself with a place that is arguably both the off-road capital of the United States and one of the most beautiful places in the country. This allows Jeep to demonstrate its products on the types of terrain for which many of them are designed, and it makes for awesome photo opportunities.

Cost is also a consideration. Automakers pay a significant fee to reserve space at an auto show, and it's reasonable to think Jeep would save money by setting up shop in rural Utah instead of a downtown convention center in one of the country's large cities.

Pink Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe concept at the 2023 Easter Jeep SafariJeep

Moab Presents Opportunities and Unique Challenges

Traditionally, New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Southern California have been the unofficial hub cities for automotive journalism in the U.S. It's no coincidence these cities also play host to the four major U.S. auto shows.

With a population of just over 5,000 people, Moab is not a hub for automotive journalism, nor is it close to any of the aforementioned hub cities, with the closest, Los Angeles, being 12 hours away by car.

It likely goes without saying that this presents challenges. To garner the desired media coverage from an auto show held in Moab, Jeep must not only persuade journalists to put the extra time and effort into attending, but also convince members of the public to attend.

While Moab sees a large influx of tourists and Jeep fans during Easter Jeep Safari — figures of around 20,000 or so — that number still pales in comparison to the number of people who would walk by the Jeep booth at the Chicago Auto Show.

That said, given that Moab Easter Jeep Safari attendees are almost exclusively Jeep fans, the quality of each individual impression in Moab would be, on average, higher than at any auto show.

Jeep concept vehicles at the 2022 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, UtahJeep

For Jeep to continue with the Moab Easter Jeep Safari as its de facto auto show, it must manage unique costs and ensure that, in terms of overall value, the high-quality impressions made in Moab outweigh the high quantity of impressions made through a traditional auto show.

The auto show scene has changed significantly in recent years, and it's likely that more change will take place before the dust settles. Only Jeep knows for sure what the future holds for its auto show presence. But with traditional auto shows seemingly on their way out, it's likely that Jeep will continue to leverage the yearly Easter Jeep Safari to the fullest extent while keeping its options open.

At the very least, it seems the carpet and fluorescent lighting of Chicago's McCormick Place will take a back seat to the faded red slickrock of Moab, for the near future.

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Chris O'Neill
I am an auto-industry veteran and a current MBA candidate at the University of Utah. After moving to Utah in October 2015 and being fascinated by the unique car culture of the region, I started an Instagram project highlighting the rare and distinctive vehicles I see in the Mountain West region. I enjoy sharing with others my unique perspective and passion for all things automotive. In my free time, when I’m not thinking and writing about cars, I enjoy photography, toying with my 2011 Volkswagen GTI and 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser, and exploring Utah with my girlfriend and two dogs.