These days, nothing is sacred when it comes to saving money and in 2009, auto shows will be in the crosshairs of ailing carmakers.
Forgoing auto shows is a logical move. In recent years, the displays have grown ever more lavish and ever bigger. The costs for the car companies have risen exponentially. And the sheer size and showiness of the stands has done exactly what the companies wanted to avoid: detract attention from the products.
Now, the global recession is causing an abrupt end to that trend. Several companies are no longer sure they will be at the Tokyo auto show in October. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors have said they will definitely pull out. Others may scale back their participation. And the organizers are even considering cancelling or postponing the event.
In Frankfurt and Geneva, companies such as Daimler, BMW and Chrysler plan to reduce the scope of their usually large displays.
And many will forgo big press events, leaving the cars to convey the message.
The Detroit auto show was the first to signal this new trend. Companies such as Nissan and Mitsubishi werent present at all. GM and Chrysler had opted for a minimal amount of show on their stands. BMW was doing without its traditional second floor. Many CEOs stayed home.
Skipping a show can save a carmaker millions of euros. Thats money that can be spent on more effective marketing. Or its money that can be used to speed up the development of new products that are urgently needed to turn the business around.
All this doesnt mean that auto shows will go away.
On the contrary. Detroit provided proof of the viability of the concept.
The show, which opened amid the worst crisis the US auto industry has ever faced, clearly demonstrated that you do not need elaborate displays to showcase attractive cars. If the product is good, it will shine, even when parked on a simple carpet.
So get ready for a new kind of auto show in 2009. A show that will have smaller stands and less glitter. A show that that will be less dominated by the biggest players. A show that will have more physical space for Chinese companies and suppliers in the main display areas. And a show with fewer top executives around.
For years, auto executives have said that the product should be central at an auto show. Now theyre moving closer to achieving that.
Oh yes, and one piece of advice: Dont skimp on the lighting. A car parked on a stand, languishing in the shadows, is the saddest sight you can encounter at an auto show.