IAA 2019

Pete Kelly, Managing Director

13 September 2019

IAA 2019

Show or no show?

There is no doubting that the IAA is still one of the world’s largest shows for the car industry. The grounds are vast (I walked over 17 kilometres on my first day there this year) and most of the cavernous halls are full of exhibitors. But there was also an unmistakable feeling that this year’s show was smaller, less extravagant and more subdued than previous events.

“In fact, the introduction of a heritage section may well have been one way to hold the visitors’ interest.”

A number of OEMs chose not to be present this year. Brands that are reliant on Europe for many of their sales, such as Peugeot, Citroën, Fiat and Volvo, were absent. This creates a potential problem for show organisers if there are fewer shiny and exciting new cars to entice the paying public on open days. In fact, the introduction of a heritage section may well have been one way to hold the visitors’ interest. There is no question this is a global trend, with other famous motor shows making changes in a bid to keep interest and attendance high. The Detroit show, for example, is moving to the summer, from January, in order to freshen its appeal.

OEMs are increasingly using other channels to promote their products. Online and social media campaigns, and separate individual events, are competing with the big shows for finite marketing resources. While a big show cancellation may not be imminent, this declining trend may ultimately lead to fewer very large events of this kind.

IAA 2019

This is not to say that there was not some eye-catching activity. The new Land Rover Defender drove on to the stand on a 45% incline from somewhere near the roof. Meanwhile, the Mercedes-Benz hall, utilising the full height of the Festhalle for effect, along with what must be some of the biggest LED display screens in existence, created a stunning and zen-like space. And EV product activity is moving into the mainstream, most notably with Volkswagen’s launch of the ID.3, though there were plenty of others.

Perhaps the backdrop of slowing global auto sales – and a host of other risks – has also led to a little belt-tightening in this area, and the event will come roaring back in two years’ time. But it is hard not to think that the biggest shows of this kind may already be in the past.