We’ve even seen mainstream automakers walking away from auto shows.
I mean, the only thing in our history that has been anything like it was World War Two.
When we come out of this, nothing, I believe nothing will be quite the same as we went into it.
New York, scrapped.
Detroit, Paris, and hell, even a physical in-person CES have all been scuttled like an old ship.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 auto show circuit is bleaker than the prospects of funding your retirement with scratch-off lottery tickets.
Really the only show we’ve covered this year was Chicago way back in February before the entire world imploded.
Obviously there are far bigger issues to deal with right now than a few canceled car events.
Still, this whole situation got me thinking, how has the COVID-19 crisis affected auto show some of which were already struggling and how will they change going forward?
Well, to get to the bottom of those two questions, I reached out to some experts, We’ve seen a sharp decline over the last few decades and number of what you’d call top tier auto shows particularly abroad, where we used to have shows in London and Amsterdam and particularly in Turin, Italy.
That were major news making events.
If you look at Europe now there’s really well for the moment only two, we have the Geneva show every spring.
We used to have Frankfurt and Paris alternate every Autumn, and Frankfurt has gone away, although there’s likely to be some other German replacement.
But it’s not just a reduction in the number of overall global shows.
Auto makers have been much more selective of which events they actually participate in.
And some of them have pulled out of some pretty big auto shows in recent years.
For good reason,>> Hideously expensive to put on an auto show, press conference, you’re talking, over a million dollars just to get somebody up on stage and a car up on stage and that’s before you hire Hire the caterers or the D list celebrity that goes with it.
And all the other dog and pony show stuff that typically accompanies that.
That’s a million dollars that has nothing to do with the display itself.
And the the cost of putting one of Those together.>> One import manufacturer that brought a celebrity in for an off site preview at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show I was recently told spent over $8 million.
And there have been reports of some manufacturers spending well over $10 million at some international shows like Geneva.
You have got to sell a lot of cars to cover a bill like that.
And as automakers continue making huge investments in other areas like autonomy and ease, every dollar they spend on auto shows is going to be scrutinized more and more.
They’re going to have to see solid returns on those investments and For that reason, car companies may actually be better hosting their own private media events.
In dissecting, for instance, the Ford Bronco coverage for us, there’s simply no way that vehicle could have gotten the same amount of coverage had it debuted at say the Detroit Auto Show.
Or the Geneva Motor Show.
And the reason why is you’ve got so many other things as a journalist that you have to pay attention to.
You’ve got all the other debuts both on the reveal days and in the run up to the show that you couldn’t necessarily devote all the resources to that vehicle that you can when it’s a standalone event.
We did multiple videos we did probably a dozen articles and features and stuff on that vehicle.
Could have never done it in the course of a normal Auto Show.
And that shows
There is so much more to these events than just press conferences and news coverage.
There’s a whole other side of the coin one that we in the media often forget about, and it’s one that’s arguably more important consumers.
You guys are here for the media preview and we’re happy you’re here for the media preview.
We love the fact that you’re here.
But the show starts on Saturday morning, when there’s lines of people waiting to get in an hour before the show opens.
And they ran back to see what they came to see.
I mean, literally ran.
that’s the kind of excitement and anticipation.
And here in Chicago, we’d never let a Get off the fact that it’s about the consumer that auto shows are about the consumer.
We love our mini preview where we put a lot of effort and investment into our immediate preview.
But we know it’s,
It’s about the consumer show.
There’s too much data out there that suggests they do attract people who will buy cars.
And it’s a way for somebody who hasn’t already locked down a specific model to go and, you know the colloquialism Kick the tires.
So, auto shows have a purpose.
The question is, what type of auto shows will survive?.
In the age of Coronavirus, car companies and event planners alike.
have to change how they do things.
Now Dave tells me at the Chicago show they’re doing a number of things, including going to online only ticket sales with reserved time slots.
They’re also looking for companies that can take people’s temperatures on mass so they can see if anyone has a fever in the crowd.
Beyond all of that they’re also spreading things out there making the show physically larger to put Greater distance between people to of course, lessen the likelihood of disease transmission.
I reached out to a number of different car companies to try and get a sense of what their plans are going forward and at least amongst the companies I talked to, there is kind of a general consensus Many of them seem to be taking a taking a wait and see approach.
If auto shows return, they will participate, but things are gonna be different.
So the assumption is that if we’re there, we’re gonna be there in a way that was a little bit different than what we’ve done in the past.
So as I mentioned earlier, we may have had a wheel stand with an iPad where you can learn more about the car those will be gone.
But more space in between the vehicles are vehicle staff that’s there to keep them shiny and fresh.
We’ll be spending a lot more time on a more frequent basis going in and sanitize any touch points on the vehicle, whether it’s door handles the glass, that type of thing
At least at the Toyota standard sounds like you can expect way fewer interactive displays and much cleaner vehicles which Honestly is not a bad thing.
But it is very bullish on auto shows we’re going to continue to make it a part of our mix.
We’re going to continue to offer immersive experiences leveraging technology like augmented reality, like other types of ways of learning about the product lineup, because ultimately, it’s a it’s a great way to connect with a consumer who’s willing to open their mind and hear about it.
It remains to be seen when auto shows will return with the Coronavirus, still ravaging several states right now and no effective cure available.
It may be a while before they’re actually a thing again, and even when they do reopen, will the public and members of the press even want to attend them to risk getting sick?
I’m not so sure.
Part of me wonders if we’ll ever be business as usual again.>> I don’t think the normal is gone forever.
I have to believe that as I’m not really, a serial optimist, but I think just to keep everybody’s head above water, we can’t think that this is the end of auto shows and of media events and
Kind of outdoor life as we know it.
I think everything is grenaded for the year, and I think for probably the first half of next year,
But what the pandemic has done has forced a lot of change to accelerate.
Accelerate dramatically and it has made it more likely that some things will be gone for good or it will be significantly reduced and change.
So for example, auto shows I expect that we will almost certainly not see the auto shows the way they were when we went into the pandemic.
I think some will survive.
But I think we’ll see a lot more alternative ways to market vehicles to pitch them to introduce them to sell to consumers, including online and including non traditional events, whether it be the Texas State Fair, Consumer Electronics Show or what have you.
Auto shows are certainly down but they are not out.
In the future, and for reasons beyond just Coronavirus, there may be fewer of them and they may look a lot different from what we’re used to.
But as events that cater to both media and consumers, well, it sounds like they’re far from dead.