Another auto show bites the dust, temporarily. The New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) has been postponed from April to late August, hardly prime time for a car show, on account of concerns about the novel coronavirus outbreak. That makes three major auto shows called off recently: in China, the mid-February Beijing International Automotive Exhibition (Auto China 2020) was postponed from its April 21 opening date with no makeup date announced. The Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) with public days March 5-15 was canceled in late February, the week before press days were to begin.
Now New York is a goner, at least from its customary dates starting on Good Friday, two days before Easter, and running 10 days, plus press days the Wednesday and Thursday before. The new dates are Friday, August 28 through Sunday, September 6, 2020 (Labor Day weekend), with two press days before the show opens. This is hardly prime time for an auto show. But it’s not easy to find two-plus weeks open for setup, media days, the show’s 10-day run, and teardown at a major convention center.
Lots of Tech Shows Cancelled
Auto shows are not alone. Lots of other technology events were canceled, including:
- Mobile World Congress (Feb. 24-27, Barcelona).
- The annual developer conferences for Facebook (F8, May 5-6, in Silicon Valley) and Google (Google I/O, May 12-14, Mountain View)
- SXSW (South by Southwest, March 13-22, Austin)
- Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (weekends of April 10 and April 16, Indio, Californa)
- E3 (Electronics Entertainment Expo, June 9-11, Los Angeles)
There is some fear MWC may implode because of losses racked up by smaller vendors. Most attendees love Barcelona (other than the pickpockets), nestled at the eastern edge of Spain along the Mediterranean.
The Threat to Auto Shows
The auto shows are a special case because they’re facing pressures unlike those experienced by developer conferences or conference/music festivals (SXSW, Coachella). There’s a growing angst about why auto shows exist at all.
Auto shows are three events in one. In advance of the shows are one or two days of press conferences, parties, and drinking, called the media and analyst days. Then there’s a day of insider previews or advance looks for some of the public and a formal dinner where dealers and spouses can dress up; this is often tied to a charity. Then there are about 10 days of public events.
One threat is that the public can learn a lot about new cars online including background information, plus pricing and shopping strategies. There’s less need to visit the dealer until you’re ready to buy. Also, as newer generations of kids grow up, cars seem less mystical, and auto shows less interesting, than they were for their parents and grandparents.
Also, automakers using marketing tools honed online to reach out to the most likely prospects and entice them with a $50 gift card for visiting the dealer and doing a test drive. For high-end cars, they may be “experiential marketing” events in the parking lot of a sports stadium where drivers race (so to speak) through pylon courses and eat a nice lunch under a canopy. The money for that has to come from somewhere and it may be from automaker auto show budgets.
Automakers at most major shows set up nice booths for the press days then turn them over to the dealers. If auto shows lose value in the eyes of automakers, dealers and dealer associations fear there’ll be less automaker support for future shows.
With the cancellations, there have been no major and only two mid-major shows this year, Washington and Chicago. The third, Miami, is skipping from November 2019 to February 2020 once Detroit’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) moved from January (last show in 2019) to June 2020 (planned for June 9-20).
All this came about because the Detroit show grew weaker, in part because luxury / sport brands (Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche especially) found little buyer support in Michigan, not surprising when you can get an excellent friends/family discount on a Cadillac, Lincoln, or GMC Denali upscale vehicle. Detroit also wound up losing its modest tech aura to the CES show the week before in Las Vegas. And the weather was often poor. Detroit’s Automobili-D tech exhibit wound up being less of a media draw than was LA’s Automobility focus, a sort of trade show/conference running parallel to the press days.
All this affects tech moving forward in this sense: Auto shows and CES are about exchanging ideas, poaching workers, and showcasing technology in a party town where there’s no snow. On that score, Detroit versus Las Vegas, it was Sin City 2, Detroit 0. The Los Angeles show does the next-best job of blending tech into its show. Interestingly, even as auto manufacturing in Michigan has not been growing, the state remains a center of innovation for all the world’s automakers, components suppliers such as Magna, and for smaller tech conferences not part of auto shows.
What’s Happening in New York
Tuesday, the New York show posted:
As a result of the ongoing health concerns from the spread of the coronavirus in the region, the New York International Auto Show has been rescheduled to August 28 – September 6, 2020. Press days are August 26 & 27, 2020. “We are taking this extraordinary step to help protect our attendees, exhibitors and all participants from the coronavirus,” said Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, the organization that owns and operates the New York Auto Show.“For 120 years, ‘the show must go on’ has been heavily embedded in our DNA, and while the decision to move the show dates didn’t come easy, our top priority remains with the health and well-being of all those involved in this historic event. We have already been in communication with many of our exhibitors and partners and are confident that the new dates for the 2020 Show will make for another successful event,” Schienberg added.
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