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The Future of Car Shows : Coronavirus and the Auto Industry

Wenling01 | Dreamstime.com

By Tuesday, 10 March 2020 08:05 AM Current | Bio | Archive

With the cancellation of the Geneva Auto Show, what will the future of auto shows look like? Will they even exist?

I examined the high costs of auto shows and the impact to brands, media and consumers. I spoke with about the future of auto shows with Paul Brian. Paul is my co-host on the “His Turn - Her Turn” show, and also has 20 years of experience running the Chicago Auto Show, along with extensive radio, television and automotive experience.

He suggested that auto shows are impacted by the "butterfly effect,” meaning that cancellation of one show and the talking amongst the media and consumer about other shows, could lead to other cancellations based on fear of the virus and not facts. At this point, the mainstream media has fully embraced coronavirus as exciting and luring new viewers by scaring them. The financial impact can truly damage multiple industries for many years.

Geneva is one of the “beauty contest” shows where many of the automotive design houses pull the curtain back on some of their wildest offerings, but more reserved-in-design, yet important-from-a-business-standpoint offerings from global auto makers also unveil significant production models.

The show’s organizers initially said they were going to press forward with the expo, but gave themselves an out by stating they would closely monitor the situation and act accordingly and in the best interests of the public. As it turns out, the Swiss government made the decision, banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people. But the money to move into the Palexpo center was already spent — and now lost. I can tell you that shows have traditionally served as an important means of connecting with the public. I can further tell you they’re expensive. Very expensive.

So when the Geneva show was cancelled just a few days before it was to stage its media preview, the question shifted to how the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) would react. Because Geneva was canceled, it left the automakers to unveil their cars primarily via live webcasts from their own home offices around the world. More than 50 reveals were scheduled for the Swiss event.

Even a mere decade ago, the impact would have been far more disastrous. Why? Simple: The internet. Streaming. Targeting and directly approaching journalists to “attend” their unveilings from the comfort of their home or office by simply clicking into it. The cancellation of Geneva was not just a harbinger of things to come in how vehicles are to be presented, but it put a brick on the accelerator pedal of a trend that was already in motion.

Will this change auto shows forever? This remains to be seen. The very large budgets could be redirected to other areas to increase sales and exposure. The auto show model is changing. The ability to stage a product introduction anywhere, any time, and to very specific, targeted audiences has changed forever.

Factory support for larger scale shows such as Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, etc. will dwindle and more cars-on-carpet shows for consumers will remain for the time being, but organizers will need to respond to the changes as Detroit has done.

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach® is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. Post your comments on Twitter: @LaurenFix or on her Facebook Page.

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With the cancellation of the Geneva Auto Show, what will the future of auto shows look like? Will they even exist?
auto, shows, car, coronavirus
Tuesday, 10 March 2020 08:05 AM
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