Motor Shows, in serious danger, have to reinvent themselves
The International Motor Show in Frankfurt (IAA) next September has to cope with the absence of a whole bunch of car manufacturers. Only the Germans will be all present and even they are reducing on space and costs. Is it a sign of the global decay of the car industry or do motor shows have to reinvent themselves?
“This is not an international event anymore, but a national show,” says Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, director at the Center Automotive Research (CAR). “The German car industry is in turmoil. There was the dieselgate scandal, there is the electrification backlog, and now the loss of face in Frankfurt.”
The list of absentees in Frankfurt is impressive. Three of the most prominent manufacturing groups will not be there: the Alliance (Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi), Toyota (with Lexus) and General Motors. FCA won’t be there either, PSA only delegates its German brand Opel, and Mazda, Suzuki, and Volvo are also absent.
Even renowned luxury brands like Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Maserati resigned. Bentley and Rolls-Royce aren’t present either, even though they are owned by German manufacturers (VW and BMW). Also, electric specialist, Tesla is renouncing. Korean Kia is still hesitating.
Eckehart Rottter, spokesman of the German manufacturers association (VDA) defends his show. He underlines that the IAA will innovate with conferences, unique customer experiences, like urban car tests, and so on. There will also be an enlargement to mobility as a whole.
Analyst Dudenhöffer is less optimistic. “The absentee list is simply catastrophic. It’s too late to recover, we have stranded,” he claims. Even the German brands reduce their efforts; they economize on space and costs. Not so long ago, both BMW and Daimler have repeatedly issued warnings about their financial figures and profits this year.
The malaise seems to be general. Also, Paris, Detroit, Tokyo, and even Geneva are suffering. Notorious exceptions are Bejing and Shanghai because of the importance of the Chinese market, and… Brussels.
Until now, the Brussels Motors Show still unites practically all brands. There are several reasons for this. In the first place the show is still a big selling event, be it indirectly. So, commercially, everyone has to be there.
But the Belgians are also car nuts, with a market that is proportionally bigger and also richer than any other market. After several years of record sales, even the Belgian market is regressing, but not so much (yet) that it becomes worrying for the importers. Wait and see.
Luc Chatel, president of the Plateforme Automobile (PFA, car platform) in France has given a significant example of the biggest reason for the malaise. “The manufacturers are faced with huge costs and investments; they have to choose. And he cites a French manufacturer’s CEO: “Our rule is ‘no motor show’, except if someone can convince me that we have to go. And that also goes for Paris.”
Apart from the enormous costs of motor shows, manufacturers are also turning to other events for exposure, like the CES in Las Vegas. And also they like to have more control over their communication, so they tend to do small ‘launching shows’ for their products on their own.
‘Festival of auto events’
That’s why the Mondial, the Paris Motor Show, wants to reinvent itself in 2020. The organizer of the show, AMC Promotion (owned by PFA), has joined forces with event agency Hopscotch. They want to transform the show into a ‘festival of auto events’.
The new Mondial will include spectacles and animations for all ages. Apart from the show, there will be conferences on durable mobility (Movin’on), test sites, demonstration sites for autonomous vehicles, a fashion event in line with the Paris Fashion Week.
“We won’t throw everything away,” says Chatel, “but at the same time, we have to reinvent. We have to take risks. Otherwise, we’re dead. For our clients, we have to do/offer more for less money. That’s the challenge we are confronted with.”