'Are motor shows dead or alive? Car manufacturers don't seem to know'

No car manufacturer seems to know whether or not the humble motor show is going to thrive to be killed off, says Mike Rutherford

OPINION Genesis

Confused about the future for homegrown and international motor shows? Me too. Even some leading car manufacturers can’t seem to decide whether they’re for or against.

For example, a month ago in Korea a spokesman from Hyundai Motor Europe assured me that motor shows are toast. Yet in the same week the company, plus sister brand Kia, starred at the Seoul show with several new cars, a couple of them highly significant. Then, weeks later, the same Hyundai-Kia-Genesis (H-K-G) Group unveiled a fleet of important, fresh models at the New York and Shanghai shows.

New York Motor Show 2019: news round-up 

And this month, at the London Motor & Tech Show, Kia will exhibit at least one pre-production product – the Soul EV – that doesn’t land in UK showrooms or hit our roads until late 2019.

For heaven’s sake, the H-K-G clan has around 1,000 designers physically creating an average of one new car per week (not all of them full-scale production versions, of course). Where better to display these future models in the metal than in front of hundreds of millions of motorists who pay to attend shows, before potentially paying again to purchase new cars? 

Germany’s VW Group contradicts itself in a similar fashion. One minute its chairman, Herbert Diess, says “motor shows are dead”; the next he’s spending millions attending, er, motor shows. If he really believes in the death of the car exhibition, presumably he and his mainly German brands will boycott this September’s Frankfurt Motor Show? I think not.

America’s Tesla is another firm that hasn’t thought through its approach to motor shows. Last summer it boasted a brilliantly designed and built stand at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, the world’s poshest ‘motor show’. Yet by winter Tesla’s LA show ‘exhibit’ looked more like an upholstered shipping container, and in spring 2019 the company couldn’t even be bothered to rock up for the New York show, which annually attracts one million-plus visitors – many of them wealthy and itching to buy.

The argument goes that car makers have allegedly discovered better ways to spend their billions in the pursuit of increased sales. Some pay eye-wateringly large sums to lazily slap their logos on sporting events or sportsmen. But for what? When you see Chevrolet’s name on the shirt of a Manchester United player, does this make you want to buy a car from that ailing US manufacturer? Hardly. Especially as it has withdrawn from the UK market. Honestly, the £47million a year Chevrolet blows by plonking its logo on Man U shirts would be better spent on rugged and reusable motor show stands and personnel. 

Yet another lesson in how not to do things came a few days ago, when Tesla’s Elon Musk staged his own little no-cost online ‘motor show’ and sales spiel, which included his laughable contention that “it’s financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla”.

With woefully misleading lines like this, who needs a proper stand, with proper cars and proper sales execs, at proper motor shows? He does. And, given Tesla’s $702m first-quarter loss this year, so do his increasingly baffled existing and potential customers.

If you enjoyed reading Mike's column then head to our opinion page for more from Mike and editor-in-chief Steve Fowler...

Recommended

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
'Joe Biden is now America's most important auto industry dude'
Ford F150 Joe Biden
Opinion

'Joe Biden is now America's most important auto industry dude'

Mike Rutherford thinks Joe Biden deserves praise for his hands-on approach to the American car industry
30 May 2021
'This really is a great time to buy a new car'
Opinion dealership
Opinion

'This really is a great time to buy a new car'

Steve Fowler points out some great new car deals to be had in post-lockdown
14 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021
Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police
police speed gun
News

Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police

Lack of road traffic police officers in the UK is making it easy for drivers to break the law, according to a survey of 15,500 British motorists
16 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
New 2021 Hyundai Tucson N-Line hybrid and PHEV on sale now
Hyundai Tuscon N Line - front
Hyundai Tucson

New 2021 Hyundai Tucson N-Line hybrid and PHEV on sale now

Hyundai names price for new Tucson N-Line hybrid duo with plug-in offering 38 miles of electric running
18 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New Mercedes-AMG S 63 spied in minimal camouflage
Mercedes-AMG S 63
Mercedes S-Class

New Mercedes-AMG S 63 spied in minimal camouflage

AMG will soon launch a tuned version of Mercedes’s flagship limousine, probably powered by a 603bhp twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine
18 Jun 2021
Dacia unveils new badge design
Dacia badge
Dacia

Dacia unveils new badge design

The new Dacia branding will feature on the company’s cars from 2022, with the Bigster being the first candidate
17 Jun 2021
Porsche unveils next-generation PCM infotainment system with Android Auto 
Porsche Communication Management 6.0 911
Porsche

Porsche unveils next-generation PCM infotainment system with Android Auto 

Porsche’s sixth-generation touchscreen will be rolled out across the firm’s line-up, adding new connectivity features and natural voice control
17 Jun 2021