Uncertainty leeds to hesitation for Brussels Motor Show
On Wednesday, car importer Hyundai Belux has announced that it will not be present at the 2021 Brussels Motor Show in January. Organizer Febiac is still confident that everything will work out well, but the uncertainty around the show causes nervousness throughout the whole Belgian car scene.
Hyundai Belux is not the first importer that declared to cancel its presence at the show. The first was Mitsubishi but taken into account the drastic decision the manufacturer made about (partly) withdrawing from Europe; it was no surprise that importer Beherman was throwing in the towel.
Meanwhile, the organizers are still confident that there can be a regular Brussels Motor Show in January. They declare being prepared to take every necessary sanitary measure to have a safe show. The question is whether those measures aren’t taking the heart and soul out of the show?
The Brussels Motor Show is the biggest people-drawing event in Belgium. Every year, some 500 000 visitors come together in the Brussels exhibition halls, meaning that on peak days, there are more than 60 000 visitors.
Today, everybody is wondering how this can be possible in corona times, with all the distancing measures necessary. Of course, we’ve still four months to go, and nobody knows how the pandemic will evolve. But the decision to invest in the show and order everything necessary (stand, catering, personnel…) has to be taken in the coming weeks.
On the 22nd of September, there is an important meeting of the Show committee where the crucial decisions have to be made. For almost all participants, the investment is enormous; the return has to be accordingly.
Most importers realize one third or even more of their yearly sales at the show, due to the impressive amount of visitors and potential buyers that attend the show. But is it worth the investment when visitor numbers are halved and visiting times limited?
No insurance, no reassurance
The problem for the participants is that it is almost impossible to get an insurance against a possible cancellation. “It is impossible to have an insurance, but the cost of it is as high as what you have to invest in participating,” says Stéphane Sertang, CEO of Ginion Group (selling BMW, Mini, Volvo, Ferrari, McLaren, Rolls-Royce,…), and vice-president of the organizing committee.
On the other hand, it’s the sales realized at the beginning of this year, at the Brussels Motor Show in January 2020, that have partly saved for an important number of importers the disastrous results due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sector federation Febiac, the organizer of the show, stays optimistic. It points out that practically all importers have subscribed to their participation already, be it with a possible withdrawal clause included.
What makes a reasonably big importer like Hyundai Belux decide to make such an important decision and skip the show? The more so that they have a very important première on the market at the end of this year, their new Tucson SUV.
“At the moment, we don’t have any certainty about the fact if the show will take place and, if so, how it will be organized,” says Wim Doms, spokesman of Hyundai Belux. “Hyundai was urged to decide now because it had to make the first investments given participation.”
“We decided to invest our money in another way,” he continues. “There will be events to launch our products, but much more targeted on the right audience. The rest of the money we will invest in further digitalization and maybe even in client rebates on the products.”
As the majority of motor shows have been canceled in 2020 and a major show like Geneva isn’t taking place in March 2021 either, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Brussels Motor Show to come forward. A lot of manufacturers have already promised model premières in January that would otherwise never be attributed to Brussels.
Secondly, January is the car month in Belgium; many people are focused on the car right then. For an object that is criticized more and more by a growing number of people, this yearly car feast is crucial for the sector.
The key question remains: if a show is organized according to the safety measures involved by the corona crisis, will there be enough visitors ready to come, and will they be offered enough time to visit the entire show?
The organizers find themselves in a catch 22 situation. At the one hand, they have a unique opportunity to put ‘their’ show in the (international) picture; at the other hand, will it really be safe enough and officially allowed to organize an event of this magnitude at a time the corona crisis most probably won’t be over yet?