What will future car shows look like after COVID-19?

By Kijiji Autos

As the global coronavirus pandemic continues to affect everyday life, many public events, including concerts, sporting competitions and car shows have been cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future. For some industries, COVID-19 simply represents a storm to be weathered, while for others, like car manufacturers, it is difficult to imagine that events will return in the same form. So then, what new changes will need to be made?

Will car shows survive the pandemic?

Although car shows have been taking place since the late nineteenth century, their popularity in Canada and the United States has begun to particularly wane over the past decade. With the rapid growth and widespread accessibility of the internet, the model of the static-vehicle show no longer excites consumers as it once did. Instead, drivers can view and compare vehicles online in a matter of clicks, and are able to sit in and test drive new automobiles at the dealership without paying for a ticket to the show.

Unfortunately for those dedicated car fans, the COVID-19 pandemic will make it difficult for auto shows around the world to make a strong return. Heightened restrictions on public gatherings and contact between people pose obvious health and safety obstacles, but they don't have to signal the end — car shows will simply have to evolve.

Auto shows after COVID-19

Seeing as the current timeline related to COVID-19 is still up in the air, it's difficult for us to know how and when 2021 car shows, like the Canadian National Auto Show or the North American International Auto Show, might return. However, it's fair to assume that the days when thousands of attendees, staff and exhibitors congregated in vast halls without social distance are certainly behind us. While practical changes to the event sites and mandatory masks could allow for safe interactions, overall attendance and enthusiasm at car shows would likely continue to dwindle unless significant changes are made.

Virtual events offer carmakers an inventive opportunity to show new models and highlight the future of automobiles. The all-new 2021 Ford Bronco was revealed in an exciting online debut that garnered a fair amount of attention from the public and press. Alternatively, a number of exhibitors have pivoted to virtual press conferences to reach global audiences. Normally revealed at the New York International Auto Show, the 2020 World Car Awards were announced digitally instead.

No matter how inventive they might be, digital events like these aren't able to connect carmakers with consumers as effectively as traditional auto shows. While production, organizational and attendance costs are undoubtedly lower for all involved in a virtual environment, it's hard to predict if these savings can offset the excitement that's generated from an in-person event. As experts suggest, we can only wait and see what changes auto shows might make and whether or not they will work in the long run.

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