Gloom in Paris as Auto Shows Face Increasing Tests of Modern Relevance

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Paris Auto Show

Auto shows as we once knew them have become one of the first major casualties of the leveling off of the global automotive boom, with the growing digitization of automobiles—and of product information online—proving accessories to the act.

Latest case in point is the biennial Paris Auto Show, where emptier exhibit areas and press scrums underscored the fact that major automakers have begun abandoning even some of the premier shows.

The scene in Paris follows a morose summer in Detroit where the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) resigned itself to the same headwinds and decided to move from its longstanding annual January position to a very different exhibit in June, beginning in 2020. The hope is that the restaging will staunch the outflow of brands from NAIAS that, for this year, already includes major German luxury marques.

And the dirge in Paris anticipates an edgy new season of major US auto shows that begins with the Los Angeles show in November, continues with the Detroit exhibit, extends to the annual Chicago show in February and the New York auto show in March.

JT#1 du Mondial Paris Motor Show

JT#1 du Mondial Paris Motor ShowAu sommaire de ce premier JT de l'édition 2018 du Mondial Paris Motor Show le splendide concept e-Legend de Peugeot, la nouvelle BMW Série 3 et, côté deux roues, la FTR 1200 Custom de l'Américain Indian. On participera aussi à la table ronde de la mobilité de demain avec Tomorrow In Motion, avant de prendre une bouffée d'exotisme sur le stand du constructeur chinois GAC. Place ensuite à la superbe Parade des 120 ans d’innovation du Mondial de l’Auto, avant de terminer ce JT par le premier coup d'coeur d’un de nos reporters influenceurs : bienvenue au Mondial Paris Motor Show !

Posted by Mondial de l'Auto on Thursday, October 4, 2018

“Auto shows aren’t dead,” as Jason Stein of Automotive News observed this week, attending the Paris show. “But they are forever changed.”

Or, as Stein put it, Paris was “the first show of the Cancellation Era, in which automakers shun large, multimillion-dollar stands in steamy, high-ceiling exhibition halls in favor of private, invite-only locales in the gorgeous European countryside for the launch of a flagship vehicle.”

In other words, more brands are simply deciding to check out of auto shows, forgoing the huge expenses of mounting multi-million-dollar exhibits, of jetting a gaggle of top- and middle-level executives to man the booths and of holding press conferences. Plus, staging one-off, single-brand events instead helps automakers gain focused attention from the press instead of having to compete for it at an auto show.

Throw in the fact that, with the increasing digitization of the automobile, traditional auto shows now have to compete fiercely with major tech shows that also want to be able to reveal developments in transportation solutions along with consumer electronics and smartphones. These include the Consumer Electronics Show annually in Las Vegas, which takes place in January right before NAIAS, and the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The Paris show, like other legacy auto shows, “needs to makes sense from a return perspective because it is a marketing tool,” PSA CEO Carlos Tavares told Stein. “A motor show is a marketing tool as much as a motorsports program, as much as an advertisement on TV, as much as a social media campaign, as much as an advertisement in a newspaper.”

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