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What’s next for auto shows? Rescheduled 2025 Detroit show may point the way.

The age of great auto shows may be ending. If it does, it won’t be because the Detroit auto show moved from winter to fall and back, or because of competition from the CES show in Las Vegas.

It’ll be because the world’s automakers wanted auto shows to return to their one-time status as local events hosted and paid for by dealers, not the megabuck international attractions they evolved into over the last 50 years.

C-suites from Munich to Detroit to Toyota City morphed quaint local sales fairs into splashy global media events, with everything from celebrity appearances to animal tricks. Dodge once drove a herd of longhorn cattle down Washington Boulevard in Detroit, for cryin’ out loud.

More: Detroit auto show to return to its January roots

A handful of lucky cities around the world — principally Detroit; Geneva; Frankfurt, Germany; Tokyo, Paris and Shanghai — played host to shows that drew throngs of executives, politicians, and entertainers, followed by huge crowds coming to see exciting new vehicles and elaborate displays and stage shows.

Headed for a crash

“The great old auto shows had new production cars and concept vehicles being revealed,” said Jamie Butters, executive editor of Automotive News. “Both of those have moved to other venues.”

The pandemic accelerated automakers’ moves away from auto shows for major vehicle unveilings. Experts said Detroit narrowly missed becoming an early global COVID-19 hotspot when the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which puts the show on, canceled the January 2020 edition in favor of a move to summer. DADA expected the next show would be an old-time spectacular in June, when crowds from around the world would spill out of Detroit’s riverfront convention center to enjoy outdoor events.

The best laid plans …

The pandemic raged. Big indoor gatherings became inconceivable. Detroit’s next full auto show didn’t happen until September 2022. When it resumed, the fabled North American International Auto Show Detroit was a shadow of the event that highlighted Michigan’s winter calendar for decades. The 2023 show wasn’t much better.

The same went for nearly all the big-time auto shows. The Frankfurt auto show, once the world’s largest, shut down and was replaced by a new tech show in Munich. The century-old Geneva show took three years off, moved from Switzerland to Qatar and didn’t resume until 2023. China and Japan bunkered down. The world’s automakers stumbled through parts shortages and waves of virus spikes.

What’s next?

It all accelerated automakers’ trend away from auto shows, where competition for attention had become cutthroat and prices had skyrocketed to the point that stands with teak floors and million-dollar prices were common. Automakers switched to stand-alone events, trading audience size for the comfort of knowing their new vehicle wouldn’t be upstaged by a better one from the next company on the news conference schedule. Some vehicle unveilings became virtual online experiences.

“How people shop and get information and how companies leverage technology have all changed,” said Michigan State University associate marketing professor Ayalla Ruvio. “Consumers expect to get information online. Now, they’re well into the buying process by the time they go to an auto show.

“It’s not about the media. Consumers come to an auto show now for experiences. The focus must be on making it more interactive. Fun, especially for kids.”

Automakers weren’t wrong to push for hands-on experiences in the Detroit summer 2020 show that didn’t happen, but their imagination fell short. Technology can make indoor events equally exciting. People want to get into cars and experience new features and get indoor test drives that mimic the excitement of going off-road and more.

“Kids are increasingly in charge of the buying decision at earlier and earlier ages,” she said. “Young people integrate the real and virtual world as a single experience,” she added.

Will Detroit automakers step up?

Despite all that, vestiges of the old news-making auto show remain in other major automaking nations. Shows in Munich and Tokyo last year allowed automakers to showcase their latest designs and technologies. The CES electronics show in Las Vegas last week had the unveiling of Honda’s first internally developed electric vehicles, a Volkswagen infotainment system using ChatGPT artificial intelligence, and an electric air taxi from Hyundai and more. None of the Detroit automakers attended CES, with Stellantis pulling out at the last moment, when the former Chrysler Group brands also announced it would skip the Chicago auto show in February.

The Detroit Three automakers could use the 2025 North American International Auto Show in Detroit to make some noise, though. DADA’s holding time for news conferences, including announcement of the coveted North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year awards.

Oriented mostly toward shoppers, the reimagined show should present an affordable platform for automakers to steal a few headlines in the post-holiday news lull.

Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731 or mmphelan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletterBecome a subscriber.

This article was originally published by a www.freep.com . Read the Original article here. .

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