Are Traditional Motor Shows Becoming A Dying Breed?

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Nine major manufacturers won't be attending Frankfurt this year.

This year's Frankfurt Auto Show is now only a few weeks away, a show that's always been one of the most important events on the motor show calendar. While there are still plenty of significant car reveals to look forward to like the much-anticipated Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar and the new BMW M5, many major manufacturers will be skipping the show this year. As Automotive News Europe reports, DS, Infiniti, Peugeot, Jeep, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Mitsubishi, Volvo, and Nissan will all be curiously absent.

Why have these major manufacturers pulled out of one of the biggest auto shows of the year? Quite simply, some carmakers can no longer justify the huge costs required to attend the show – particularly when you could argue that auto show appearances don't have a significant effect on sales anymore in the digital age. I would question what the translation rate is between attendance on public days to transactions," said IHS Markit Analyst Ian Fletcher. "I bet most customers now are happier to do research online." He has a point. After all, online marketing has become increasingly instrumental for automakers.

You can see why some automakers may struggle to justify spending millions on a static display at a convention center when consumers can find all the information they need online in seconds. A lot of cars are being revealed online weeks before the shows anyway. Instead, automakers are starting to invest in less conventional motoring events with more public interaction like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which hosted the debuts of the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 and the all-powerful Porsche 911 GT2 RS this year. The event attracts around 200,000 visitors compared to the 931,700 people who attended the 2015 Frankfurt show. Goodwood also has a far wider reach on social media.

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Compared to Frankfurt, it costs automakers about three times less to attend Goodwood. It's also hard to stand out from the crowd in a congested auto show, which is why we're starting to see automakers host their own launch events to generate more publicity. Jaguar recently launched the new E-Pace in London, Audi launched its flagship A8 sedan at a Barcelona media event, and Rolls-Royce revealed the new Phantom at a prestigious exhibition. Will there always be a place for traditional auto shows? Probably, but manufacturers are clearly starting to become less reliant on them.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom. Image via Rolls-Royce

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