In January 1989 Nissan used the Detroit auto show to launch its premium brand, Infiniti.
Neither Nissan nor Infiniti was in the Motor City this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that significant event. Aggressive cost cutting forced the Japanese automaker to withdraw both brands shortly before the show -- even though Nissan already had paid for the space.
Seeing first hand how Nissan and Infinitis empty space was filled provides a sign of what we most likely will see at future auto shows during these difficult times: more space for the little guys.
Lotus and Aston Martin took over Nissan-Infinitis massive location, but the British sports car makers filled less than half the space.
One reason for this was that neither brand had enough time to create an elaborate display. Even if they did, it is unlikely they would have invested the money or the resources to create a massive stand. So the pricey Lotus and Aston Martin models were simply parked on a carpet.
Pragmatic? Yes. Impressive? No.
Perhaps Nissan was wise to stay away because then no one could have compared this years display with those of past years.
The reason I say this is because the saddest sight at the show came on entering the North area of the main hall. This is where the ailing Detroit Three had their stands.
In the past, it appeared that General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler would pay any price to have the largest, most amazing displays at the show. This year all three had drastically reduced the size and grandeur of their exhibiting spaces.
The empty square meters of prime real estate were filled by small Chinese carmakers BYD and Brilliance Jinbei Automotive. Until this year, the Chinese brands were located in low-traffic areas such as the exhibition halls basement. During a time of recession, auto show organizers are placing long-established-but-suffering giants alongside small newcomers.
Will we soon see this repeated in the market?