Many European cities have lost their auto shows in recent years. The big exhibitions once held in places such as Turin, London and Madrid are now part of history.
Others such as the Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bologna and Brussels shows have downsized because they cannot compete with Europe’s Big Three – Frankfurt, Paris and Geneva.
Automakers have focused their money and marketing on these three Tier 1 exhibitions as the costs of participating in shows has skyrocketed in recent years while the European auto industry suffered its worst downturn since World War II.
Despite the industry’s woes, there was a promising innovation in June in a city where industry executives and designers from around the world once gathered every other year to see debuts from design houses such as Bertone, Ghia, I.De.A. Institute, Italdesign Giugiaro, Michelotti, Pininfarina and Vignale.
Turin’s Parco Valentino auto show, which ran June 11-14, attracted 25 automakers, 10 design houses and almost 350,000 visitors. The event aimed to recreate the magical atmosphere enjoyed by automotive enthusiasts every summer at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed held on the grounds of the 17th century Goodwood House in southern England.
The exhibition’s cost-effective format highlighted a possible way to give Tier 2 auto shows a new lease of life. Participating automakers paid 8,000 euros to display a single car.
The participation cost rose to 32,000 euros for four vehicles, the maximum organizers allowed each brand. Executives told me that their costs for taking part were just 5 percent of the investment needed to exhibit in a major show.
The Parco Valentino event reunited two of Turin’s past automotive glories. Firstly, production cars and concept models were displayed along the avenues of the Valentino park, reviving memories of the Turin international auto show held in the nearby Valentino exposition center from 1900 to 1982.
Secondly, the Valentino Gran Prix, a race staged from 1935 to 1954, was revived with a 15km-long parade of historic racecars that ended at the Palace of Venaria.
Andrea Levy, an entrepreneur and passionate car enthusiast, created a non-profit company to stage the show. “Seeing families enjoying new cars was my biggest satisfaction,” he told me.
Levy thinks the Parco Valentino show “reconnected” new cars with people, but he has no plans to test this formula elsewhere. “My task is to make the 2016 event a better one,” he said. “I am totally concentrated on Turin right now.”
The event won positive feedback from major automakers. BMW Italy CEO Sergio Solero said the show brought the local public closer to today’s automobiles.
He praised the layout, in which similar-size stands were lined up side by side in contrast to major auto shows where the big automakers spend millions to make their exhibition areas stand out from their neighbors'.
“We especially liked the idea of putting the car back at center of things. The protagonists were the automobiles themselves and not the way the stand was set up,” he said.