The Future of Car Events

Whether car shows, presentations, outings, or classic car meets, automotive events are an integral part of the automotive world. For a hundred years or so, car fans marked their calendars in advance and planned the attendance. Car manufacturers would invest enormous sums into making a memorable appearance, showcasing the newest models using beautiful girls, expensive scenography, and celebrities. However, days of glamorous Auto Shows, shiny new models exposed on the stands, and brochures handed by hostesses are apparently behind us. The world of car events is rapidly changing, and such events appear obsolete. But what exactly happened, and what is the future of car events? Here is our take on the topic.

The Rise Of Auto Shows

Auto shows as we know them date to the early 20th century and the dawn of the automotive age. The first such event was held in New York in 1900 and followed by the famous British International Motor Show at Crystal Palace in 1903. Very soon, similar events were organised in Geneve (1905), Paris, and Torino. For 100 years, car shows were the automotive events of the highest order, not just for car companies but also for motoring journalists and visitors. With each year, car shows grew more extensive and more dazzling, often eating a big chunk of a manufacturer’s annual marketing budgets.

The Decline

However, entering the 21st century, car manufacturers slowly grew tired of such events. The number of dates shrunk, and major car companies invested mainly into the top five shows (Detroit, Paris, Frankfurt, Geneve, and Tokyo). The global pandemic of 2020 swiftly cancelled all the shows as many other car events. Some might think that Covid-19 killed automobile shows, but the truth is that this was only the last nail in the coffin and that the decline of such events had started years ago.

The first signs appeared in the early 2000s when managers of Mondial de l’Automobile Paris and International Motor Show Frankfurt even agreed not to be held in the same year. It was a smart move in order to secure the number of premieres, attendance of big names, and relevance. However, even though the number of visitors grew annually, car companies realised that car shows became expensive logistical nightmares with no actual use in promoting the brand or the models. Marketing guys realised that online premieres reached a far more considerable number of potential customers, provide interested parties with more information, and are incredibly less expensive. In 2019, BMW and Mercedes cancelled their attendance at Detroit Auto Show, causing a big deal of controversy. After all, the American market is of utmost importance for both companies, but they decided not to appear.

Simply releasing a set of pictures, videos, and few well-written articles about the new models through social media channels proved far more effective. Not just for car companies but also the car public, as well. It’s far easier and more convenient just downloading the press pack and having all of the relevant information in seconds than fighting your way through an enormous crowd of people to pick up a printed brochure. But does this mean that this is the end of car shows as we know them?

What is The Future?

There are several reasons why a car show, as an event, will never go away, but it will be profoundly transformed. Since there are so many companies and so many new car releases each year, there needs to be an annual event that will gather all the premieres for more accessible coverage. In the past, this was a physical car show, but in the future, it will likely be an online or hybrid type event that will be streamed on various platforms, languages, and time zones. Not only will it be more convenient, but it will reach a larger number of potential customers and fans.

Secondly, since the auto industry is one of the most significant global industry segments, immensely important for national BDP, the biggest car-producing countries like Germany, America or Japan will retain some kind of national event to promote their brands.

This is where the car industry needs to borrow from the consumer electronics and fashion world. As you probably know, companies like Apple or Samsung have dedicated and highly publicised events on which they promote new products and updates. Although those events are held with real-life attendees, they are also streamed to tens of millions of people worldwide. There is no reason why any of the major companies cannot independently host one or two such events every year to present the current model range, concept cars, racing models or announce significant changes in company strategy. Companies like General Motors, Volkswagen, or Stellantis Group, which have a dozen brands under one ownership, can have their own car show since they have so many models to showcase and promote.

Some car fans think that the whole concept of car events of the future lacks one crucial ingredient: seeing the brand new model in person, sitting in it, and getting the feel of new lines and appearance. Yes, you cannot have that sensation when you are streaming the car show, but with evolutions in technology and particularly virtual and augmented reality the experience could become much more like an in-person event.

The Future Has Already Arrived

The future is already here, and there are digital events that already set the standards in the car industry. The best implication of digital and virtual car events of the highest order is the SEMA360 which was held in November of 2020 amid a global pandemic. As you know, SEMA is the world’s biggest aftermarket show with thousands of participants, specially built cars, and hundreds of different products all presented in one place. The nature of the SEMA show and products presented here is very much based on a direct visual approach and live presentations. That was precisely the most significant challenge when trying to establish this event in COVID-19 circumstances. The innovative solution was SEMA360 which wasn’t just a site with all premieres but a whole interactive platform designed to allow the exhibitors to present their products or services, browse through categories with ease, and search the products in a matter of seconds. Besides that, SEMA360 offered the chance to leave comments, interact with other visitors, post questions and communicate directly with the companies. The concept proved very successful, and it will be repeated in 2021, as well. WDA was proud to take part in SEMA360, helping to launch the game-changing Rimfinity brand.

Rimfinity at SEMA

Just a couple of weeks before the groundbreaking SEMA360 event, Maserati used digital media o launch its latest sports car, the MC20. This wasn’t the first car reveal that could be watched online, but it was the first such event without any press members and designed solely as a virtual presentation. Since 2020 was not exactly the best year in the automotive industry, introducing a thoroughbred sports car from one of the world’s renewed companies was a big deal, and more than 10,000 people watched it. Interestingly, the MC20 presentation featured some visual moments not before seen in such events, showing that virtual presentations open new possibilities in directing and executing. This means that car companies have a new way of expressing their creativity and presenting the latest models directly to the customers.

maserati mc20 online launch

Are we on the brink of the new age of automotive marketing? We certainly think so.

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