Having just come off the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place, we can say that we still love car shows, but the enthusiasm overall seems to have waned. News just hit the interwebs that Mercedes-Benz may not show up at the Detroit Auto Show next year, a sign of the recent trends that big carmakers no longer find it worth the huge expense of showing their wares to the masses. In 2016 Jaguar, Land Rover, MINI and Tesla decided not to go to the Detroit Auto Show. In 2017, Porsche dropped out. In 2018, Porsche, Mazda, and Volvo were no-shows at NAIAS.
But it's not just Detroit that's getting the shaft. Overall, luxury brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini are showing their wares at more exclusive shows like Monterey Car Week's Pebble Beach. Those two Italian brands haven't been at the Chicago Auto Show for just about as long as we can remember.
More and more, brick and mortar car shows are taking hits from manufacturers because they're seen as less relevant. Really, only the Consumer Electronics Show is seeing an uptick in car manufacturer presence because of the rise of in-car technology as a must-have. Plus, the cost of showing up to take up real estate at an auto show can be prohibitively expensive, causing automakers to weigh their presence heavily as marketing budgets get pinched and especially when automotive sales take a dip.
Mercedes has done just that for the 2019 NAIAS (North American International Auto Show). Though it's touting its new G-Class SUV, that doesn't necessarily equate to showing up in Detroit next year. A Merc insider stated to Automotive News that, "We have to look at whether a trade show like Detroit fits with the cadence of our launch calendar and whether there's a more effective format for our needs. The G-Class was the perfect product to debut this year, but the likelihood we will be in Detroit next January is very slim."
We're not alone in feeling abandoned here in the states. Last year, a whopping ten manufacturers decided to skip the huge Frankfurt Auto Show: Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jeep, Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Nissan, Infiniti, Mitsubishi, and Volvo. Attendance dropped a massive 13 percent that year, and there's no sign of that decline abating anytime soon.
It looks like it's no longer assumed that all of the mainstream carmakers will show up, and convention centers, who profit handsomely from such events, will find themselves in desperate need to fill space with a different kind of show when auto shows become a thing of the past. It's certain that the automotive landscape is changing, and we're not sure how things will pan out, especially with the rise of autonomous vehicles.