Already planning to skip the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next January, BMW is reportedly planning to sharply scale back its presence at European events like the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, according to a German news report, and it could abandon some of those entirely, as well.
The news comes as automakers large and small start to rethink their commitment to traditional auto shows which, the latest thinking goes, don’t generate the bang-for-the-buck they once did. At the same time, manufacturers are being offered a range of new alternatives, whether tech-focused events like CES or even one-brand shows that avoid the need for a carmaker to share the stage with competitors.
BMW is planning to slash as much as 75% of its 2019 auto show budget, reports the German business publication Handelsblatt. At the Frankfurt Motor Show, where BMW had previously gone so far as constructing an indoor driving track, it will have just a 10,000 square foot display at the next event down from 36,000 in 2017.
Automakers have been rethinking their auto show strategies for the last decade. Initially, that was driven by the economic realities of the U.S. Great Recession and a concurrent collapse of the European car market. Nissan, for one, pulled out of a number of key shows, including Detroit, though it eventually came back.
(BMW pulling out of 2019 Detroit Auto Show. Click Here for the story.)
But, with few exceptions, the major global shows have begun to see an across-the-board industry retrenchment, and recent moves could signal that the pace will accelerate.
Shortly after the North American International Auto Show wrapped up its annual run in January, Mercedes-Benz announced it would pull out next year. Weeks later, BMW said it would also skip the 2019 NAIAS.
“This decision,” it said in a statement, “was made as BMW Group is constantly examining our presence at trade-shows and other engagements, while, at the same time, also exploring alternative platforms and formats.”
The Detroit show, in particular, has been seen as especially vulnerable, and for a variety of reasons, including high production costs and the fact that it takes place in the dead of winter. Automakers have also questioned whether it’s worth as much as $5 million or more to put up a stand in a city where local motorists remain fiercely loyal to domestic brands.
(Mercedes-Benz dropping out of 2019 NAIAS. Click Here to find out why.)
But even more worldly shows are now coming under fire. The Frankfurt Motor Show is one of the Continent’s biggest, with an array of standalone halls that stretch nearly two-thirds of a mile from one end of the conference center to the other. While most of the brands found in Europe set up displays, German marques, in particular, have long engaged in auto show one-upmanship, competing to see who could create the more extravagant event. BMW has gone as far as putting a track on the mezzanine of its hall so media and consumers alike could see its latest products in action.
But, if the well-sourced Handelsblatt report is accurate, the 2019 Frankfurt display will be less than a third the size of past years and focus almost exclusively on BMW’s latest models.
The publication said the plan calls for BMW to spend between €5 to €6 million, or $6.1 million to $7.3 million, on European shows in 2019, down from €25 million euros, or $30 million, in prior years.
It would surprise few industry observers if the carmaker even pulled out of more shows, whether in Europe or other major markets. Particularly at risk are the annual spring event in Geneva, and the Paris Motor Show which alternates with Frankfurt every other year.
Equally likely, several industry sources tell TheDetroitBureau.com, is that other brands, such as Mercedes, could now feel comfortable slashing their own budgets. Luxury makers, in particular, have been moving to more selective, pick-and-choose strategies when it comes to traditional auto shows.
On the other hand, automakers, in general, have been stepping up their presence at alternatives like the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as well as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. That transition has been accelerating as the industry puts more and more focus on in-vehicle technologies, electrified powertrains and autonomous driving.
(Click Here to see why Detroit’s NAIAS may be moving to October.)