Brussels Motor Show: ‘ugly duckling’ is one of the survivors

The 100th-anniversary edition of the Brussels Motor Show (BMS, 14 to 22 January 2023) will show at least 14 world or European premieres and 48 Belgian ones. Of course, this has to do with the absence of the (live) show for a couple of years, but also with the painful exit of some of its more prestigious competitors.

For decades, the BMS has been the ‘ugly duckling’ among the motor shows. Too early in the year, in a too-small country, and particularly too much of a ‘fancy fair’ and too little of a serious motor show. That was the international perception, and only CEOs and other important international people who visited the show once (often accidentally) saw that it was more than that.

Decay everywhere

Meanwhile, prestigious international shows have simply disappeared or are suffering heavily. Frankfurt’s prestigious and arrogant IAA is gone forever; Munich has tried to take over with a different (mobility) concept that caused mixed feelings. For the 4th time in a row, the Geneva Motor Show has been canceled.

The latest Paris Motor Show (in October last year) was far from being a ‘Mondial’; in fact, it was a genuine flop. When even a brand with a 110% French DNA, like Citroën, isn’t showing up on its ‘home turf”, you have a serious problem. Detroit has been moving from January to June to save what is left of it and to rethink the formula. Except for the Chinese, maybe, all other shows are suffering too.

Premiere country

The same is true for the BMS, and the organizers (the manufacturers and importers association Febiac) have rightly chosen to change the BMS into a more compact (in space and in time) and more eventful happening.

Of course, with so many international motor shows disappearing, Brussels has never seen so many premieres, and even the Car of the Year (COTY) award has moved to the European capital for its official ceremony this year.

Not all world premieres will be of the same importance, of course, but the fact that they are there already makes a visit worthwhile. The organizers are prudently expecting some 300 000 visitors for their downsized show, but we have the impression it could be more. Belgians are still car lovers, and January has been the ‘car month’ in this country for ages.

That’s why 95% of the market has decided to be present in Brussels and go for the hefty investment. From the big names, only Volvo is completely absent, and prestigious brands like JLR and Mercedes-Benz are only present in the prestigious ‘side show’ the Avenue. But all the others are there, trying to persuade the individual buyers – the show is primarily aimed at them – to go for a new (electrified) car.

Private buyers are the usual visitors of the show; they often come to the expo halls in Brussels with the whole family and make a ‘day out’ of it. That’s why the organizers have planned many side events and exhibitions, with the already mentioned ‘Avenue’ exhibiting more exotic cars and the central ‘Patio’ reminiscing 100 years of car history through 15 icons and the explanation that goes with it. Apart from the premieres, there will also be 12 concept cars or prototypes to observe at this year’s show.

A detailed plan of the Brussels Motor Show layout /Febiac


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