Auto Shows: Evolution or Diminishing Relevance in the Modern Automotive Industry?

Auto Shows: Evolution or Diminishing Relevance in the Modern Automotive Industry?

Auto shows have been around for years to connect car manufacturers to end-users, media and car enthusiasts. Unveiling new vehicles give media and car enthusiast a front-row seat to what the vehicle has to offer. However, in recent years many car brands have strayed from auto shows and taken a variety of routes for the launches. The change in pattern begs the question that whether it is an attempt to diversify and evolve their marketing and branding strategies or have auto shows seized to serve their purpose.

Let us have a look at the various reasons that have initiated this change in trend to understand this better. The issue must be looked at from three angles including the customers, the car brands and the auto show organizers.

Interactive Experience

In the past, automakers planned their schedules according to the auto show calendar deciding which vehicle will be revealed at a particular show. Now, manufacturers have begun to realize the potential of moving beyond the auto shows and experiment. Information has become accessible so, car hobbyists, as well as consumers, can find every detail online. Manufacturers have realized that attending a showcasing at an auto show is not the only option they have anymore. Instead, to pique their interest now they must be offered a different interactive experience.

Growing Competition

With social media, traditional media houses, art fairs, music fests and auto shows, staying relevant has become a major factor for brands. The growing competition has convinced manufacturers to shift focus by looking beyond auto shows. The auto shows are still part of the mix, but leading manufacturers are allotting their resources and time more strategically to auto shows. Every year they are analyzing the market trends and local market dynamics.

Expense at Auto-shows

Auto shows are a hub of car brands making some manufacturers debate that their new launches are overshadowed in the crowd. Booking a spot at an auto-show costs a hefty sum and some automakers are opting out to cut cost. For some car manufacturers, conducting a press conference at the auto shows is an expense that no longer makes sense.

Attendance at Auto Shows

While there has been a shift in the mindset of car manufacturers, it seems that auto shows remain a hot spot for customers owing to the unique car experience. In the past few years, the attendance at auto shows has not witnessed a dramatic decline validating that they are still relevant. More than 1 million attendees have been reported at the biennial Paris show in 2016 and 2018. The findings of Foresight Research suggest that in 2018 two-thirds of the attendees at auto shows planned on purchasing a vehicle given that the auto shows were the only chance of looking at the vehicle closely.

Do auto shows need to evolve to remain relevant or fear diminishing with emerging changes in market dynamics and technology innovation?

Although the attendance has not haltered (indicating the consumer mindset regarding auto shows), manufacturers have begun looking the other way. They are putting in efforts to experiment by orchestrating private shows exclusively catering to their brand. The strategy has been adopted by industry leaders such as Mercedes Benz that skipped the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in 2019 and hosted a private event on the sidelines. Other European brands Volvo, Porsche, Audi, Land Rover, BMW, and Jaguar also chose not to attend the event. Other major shows held in Paris, Geneva and Frankfurt have also witnessed similar responses from leading brands.

Considering the interest of consumers attending these shows, auto shows cannot be completely ruled out. Instead, a middle ground needs to be explored and auto show organizers can play an important role to restore balance. As brands branch out, auto show organizers need to focus on a change in event proceedings itself.  Re-evaluating the format of the show may offer car manufacturers the edge they are seeking for their launches.

Some auto shows have taken the cue and are making efforts to upgrade their program to restore the faith of car brands in the effectiveness and ROI of auto shows. The North American International Auto Show announced that the 2019 show was the last one of its kind and the next show will be revamped. One major change announced was shifting the event from January to June. The shift will allow a warmer climate for outdoor activities giving a fresh spin to the show. The organizers had revealed changes such as riverfront displays, closed-off roads for test-drive, monologues inspired by TED talk, dedicated spots for emerging driver-assistance and safety technologies.


COVID-19 did come as a major setback to auto-shows in 2020 with many organizers canceling the events. However, in 2021 many organizers are looking to carry on with social distancing SOPs in place. It will be interesting to see the changes that are introduced, if the coming years will revolutionize auto shows and how auto-makers perceive them for their brand.

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