BERLIN -- Volkswagen Group is limiting its presence at the hybrid virtual/real world IAA auto show in Munich this September to the company's three German brands: Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche.
The company's Czech brand Skoda and Spanish brand Seat will be absent from the show.
The news was first reported in the German business newspaper Handlesblatt. The German Press Agency (DPA) received a statement from VW defending the decision.
"With our three leading brands, the Group nevertheless has a strong presence," VW said in the statement.
VW Group's reduced presence is the latest in a series of setbacks for the IAA, which decided two years ago to move from its longtime home in Frankfurt to Munich amid falling visitor numbers and protests from environmental activists.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of virtually all conventions in 2020, including the IAA.
The 2021 half virtual/half real-world IAA auto show is planned for September 7-12. It is expected to go ahead without the benefit of the follow-up attraction of Munich's annual Octoberfest, which was recently canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
The IAA's organizer, the VDA, is determined to have a successful show. The VDA's financing is dependent to a large degree on the profits it earns through its trade show business.
VDA spokeswoman Nina Wendorff told Automotive News Europe via email that part of the IAA Mobility concept is that the show does not necessarily focus on big brand presentations, but rather mobility solutions in all facets.
"IAA Mobility is changing from a pure car show to a mobility platform," Wendorff said. "From large brand presentations to mobility solutions and exciting premieres: from e-bikes, e-scooters, bicycles, electric cars to public transport."
Wendorff said the VDA was "very confident" IAA Mobility could take place because by September, the vaccination situation would have improved "significantly" and she said the remaining risk of infection can be well controlled. "We are planning to use smart infection control concepts at IAA," she said.
These include requiring that all visitors wear mouth and nose protection, complementary on-site testing, admission control and ensuring adequate space is maintained between attendees, and contract tracing of visitors, as well as an IAA app that can send out messages to attendees.
Wendorff noted the IAA hygiene concept was developed with and approved by the Bavarian state government and the city of Munich.
The digital half of the IAA will be supported by virtual events to increase the show's reach and "make it more attractive for exhibitors and visitors", including the ability for automakers to target groups with marketing messages via text, images and video on various digital channels.
Gartner analyst Pedro Pacheco said although it is important that IAA proves to be a success to show the way forward for other traditional auto shows, automakers have long started to branch out into different types of events.
"This tells me automakers are ready to pivot how they invest their event budget depending on which events prove to have the most traction," he told Automotive News Europe via email. "It's clear that traditional auto shows are not the future," Pacheco said.
So far only a handful of non-German automakers, including Toyota, Renault, Hyundai, and Chinese brands, have said they will be present at the Munich show. Ford's German unit will also take part.
Local politicians have said the IAA likely will be able to go ahead amid the pandemic because of the organizers' planned health and safety measures, and increasing vaccinations.
"I am looking forward to the IAA and possible other trade shows this year," Bavaria's Economics Minister, Hubert Aiwanger, told the Merkur newspaper.
Clemens Baumgaertner, the city of Munich's economics boss, said: "I am of the opinion that we can hold an IAA."