QOTD: A Show-stopping Virus to Prove Pointlessness?

The virus that’s on everyone’s lips is having an incredible economic impact throughout the world. Auto shows have thus far been disrupted by the virus outbreak, too, and I’ve begun wondering: At the end of the day, do they actually matter?

As we’ve previously reported on several occasions, manufacturers are set to lose billions of dollars due to COVID-19. People in quarantine don’t head out to their local dealer to buy a new ride. And factories which build cars can’t keep busy if the supply chain is unable to provide parts. So factories become idled. Since people really shouldn’t be gathering in large numbers during an outbreak, auto shows that get the product out in front of the media and consumers are being delayed or cancelled. First to fall was the Geneva show, cancelled at the last minute a couple of weeks ago. The New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) was delayed just yesterday afternoon. It’ll now take place in August, after the newly-retimed North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

But in the end, do the cancellations and delays make a difference in the grand scheme of cars?

In the past, auto shows were a great way to reveal new product and get across information about a brand’s offerings. Here in 2020, new product reveals are often spoiled by leaks, as Ford learned this week with both its upcoming Bronco-badged SUVs. Everybody’s got their own camera and computer in their pocket; they’ve seen the reveal before it happens.

To that point, the necessity of information distribution to the free-shrimp-loving media and buy-your-own public has waned as well. Any consumer can go to an OEM’s website or one of 4,300 car information sites to glean free, detailed information on any model they choose; no need to visit a crowded convention hall and pay for less complete information.

The only benefits still remaining from auto shows are lead generation for dealers, and physical product time for consumers. The former is assuredly much more important than the latter. I think the modern take on an auto show should be the digital-only format approach designated as Plan B by the organizers of the Geneva show. Journalists will be angry when OEMs take away their free booze and trips to the show, but they’ll cover all the new product anyway. And now journalists will use the superior pictures provided by the press kit, instead of their hastily snapped images from between visits to the open bar. Dealers will adjust, and to secure leads might improve the terrible sales tactics and garbage websites they foist upon consumers. OEMs save a lot of money — it’s a win-win.

I think that, in the end, the death of physical auto shows would be a forgettable and seldom-missed blip on the radar. What say you?

[Image: NAIAS]

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