For Carmakers, Auto Shows Are No Longer Can’t-Miss Events

For Carmakers, Auto Shows Are No Longer Can’t-Miss Events


Furthermore, the roster of no-shows so far announced for Detroit this coming January, before the switch, is already formidable: Volvo, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, among others, have already confirmed that they won’t attend. Of course, many no-show companies send scouts to assess the competition.

What used to be obligatory attendance at big-time shows, to attract thousands of media types in one place, is now past.

“If we don’t have a proper unveil for a show, we won’t go,” said Mark Dahnke, a spokesman for Audi.

He likes to mention the adoption of a “launch cadence,” and Audi’s conviction that bringing journalists to a one-off event, to spend a day or two with the car, is the more effective road to press attention. To that end, Audi recently invited 1,200 auto writers to San Francisco for the introduction of the E-tron, an electric S.U.V.

“If you do have a big reveal, the media doesn’t have enough time to digest properly what you’re doing,” Mr. Dahnke said, referring to auto-show introductions. Reporters “are covering 10 or 15 different brands in a day, and it causes you not to be able to cover a larger topic that might be more complex.”

For some manufacturers, the return isn’t worth the investment. A major presence at a show, with a display and newsconference — plus lighting, music, catering and the other accouterments — can cost a half-million dollars or much more.

Often the funds are funneled elsewhere. Pointed messages and high-resolution artwork and clips are targeted to consumers though Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.


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