While the COVID-19 pandemic has put most auto shows in Europe and the United States in the grave or on life support, China is expected to avoid a similar fate, a top executive at supplier ZF Friedrichshafen said.
"In China, auto shows are about more than just tech. You sell cars at auto shows here," Holger Klein, who is ZF's board member for Asia Pacific, told Automotive News Europe via video chat from his office in Shanghai. "That is why there are a lot of auto shows here and why automakers come in addition to the other benefits you get from attending."
Those other benefits include showcasing new models and outlining a company's plans for the world's largest vehicle market.
Klein knows, however, that this year's Shanghai show will be very different because travel restrictions will make it impossible for most auto executives from places such as Detroit, Wolfsburg and Munich to attend.
Therefore, ZF will rely on videoconferencing and virtual tours to "bring" many of its customers to this year's Shanghai show, where the supplier plans to showcase its a range of solutions for the so-called software-defined vehicle, starting April 19.
While Klein believes big shows in Shanghai and Beijing will continue, he's less confident about events elsewhere in the world.
"It will depend on whether automakers decide to use a different way to introduce their latest models in the future," he said. "This was already starting to happen before the pandemic as a number of automakers would hold a pre-event ahead of the actual show."
When he was asked whether he expects automakers to use virtual tools more often in the future, he provided a one-word answer: "Certainly."