AMSTERDAM -- With its survival at stake, the auto show that takes place here in April will adopt a brave new format.
Instead of giving each automaker its own stand, the organizers of Amsterdam RAI have created themed areas -- specific areas for SUVs or convertibles, for example -- where competitors cars are parked next to each other.
But the idea already has been rejected by several major automakers as damaging to their brands.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Renault, Fiat and some Japanese carmakers including Honda and Nissan have said no to the concept.
But other automakers see the sense in having a second-tier auto show use a cheaper cost structure in hard times.
Major auto shows are struggling to justify their cost structures to automakers in the current poor economic climate. That means regional auto shows are having an even harder time convincing automakers to attend. Barcelonas show was on the brink of cancellation at press time. Amsterdams low-cost model could become the benchmark for smaller auto shows to survive.
One exhibitor after another (was canceling) participation in the show, said Fernand Molenschot, automotive project manager for Amsterdam RAI.
But if you cancel a show as a whole, you risk that it will never happen again.
With the shows survival at stake, the organizers invited all the bosses of Dutch car distributors to suggest a solution.
The 70 percent solution
Building auto show stands takes 50 percent of an exhibitors auto show budget, which can be in excess of 1 million per brand. By displaying vehicles by type, rather than by brand, Molenschot estimates cost savings of as much as 70 percent over conventional show stands.
The concept for the Amsterdam show focuses on a catwalk theater, which offers a rotating 15-minute performance of cars and fashion for an audience of up to 2,000.
In surrounding halls, exhibitors will have areas themed for convertibles, SUVs and adventure, luxury and sports, family and travel, city and compact mobility, and green innovation. One exhibition hall is reserved for individual brand lounges.
We like the idea, and we believe in this concept because it is attractive for the public, said Jacques Geijsen, spokesman for Pon Group, Dutch distributor for VW group brands and Porsche.
Other carmakers disagree.
We think that our brand values will not be strongly enough represented if our products stand next to our competitors models, said Janet Richter, spokeswoman for Renault Nederland.
Molenschot is surprised by the negative reaction.
He said: In these cost-cutting days, how can you turn down an idea that saves 70 percent?