The Auto Show As We Know It Is Dying

Photo credit AP
Photo credit AP

The age when automakers would set aside several weeks seven or eight times a year for a huge trade show at a convention center to unveil the Lincoln Continental or Hyundai Tucson or whatever before a scrum of enthralled reporters appears to be on the way out. In fact, the Los Angeles Auto Show is evolving in an interesting way in response to this.


Automotive News reports that starting this November, the LA Auto Show—the last major show of the year, not to mention the one with the most pleasant weather—will be “rebranded” as AutoMobility LA, a trade show integrated with the related Connected Car Expo to be a huge look at the future of transportation and mobility.

Think more tech, startup and regulatory stuff, and less new car and concept car unveilings, Automotive News reports.

The resulting four-day trade show — followed by a more conventional public show — will look beyond the traditional sheet metal introductions by automakers and incorporate disparate elements of the mobility movement, including car designers, tech startups, government officials, dealers and venture-capital investors.

Organizers hope the mash-up will lead to more partnerships like the Lyft/General Motors pact, which originated with a meeting at last year’s show.

“AutoMobility LA is the natural evolution of what we’ve already been doing — it is a platform where the industry can learn and connect, while also remaining a proven stage for global auto reveals and game-changing announcements,” said Lisa Kaz, CEO of the L.A. Auto Show.

I know this sounds like anathema to traditional car enthusiasts, but hear me out: this is actually a smart, progressive move on the part of the LA Auto Show organizers, and it makes a ton of sense when you really think about it.

The LA show seldom carries as much hype or excitement in the way of new car unveilings the way the Detroit and Frankfurt and Geneva shows do, and this shift towards technology and mobility—much of which is driven by the startups in California as they team with automakers—allows the show to get out in front of the big developments in the auto industry.

It’s also important to note that auto shows are good for two things: revealing new and concept cars, and parking a bunch of cars in the convention centers for people to ogle, sit in and dream about buying. (That’s the fun part of the auto show. The first part, not so much, if you’re a journalist.)

That’s why there’s still a ton of regional auto shows at various cities put on by your local dealers, even if they don’t have the news and car reveals that the Detroit and New York shows might. The good news is the LA Auto Show will still have the more conventional public show after the mobility event.


But the reveals and the news are the problem. Pretend, for a second, that it’s the 1980s, and you’re reading Jalopnik on some sort of printed newsletter delivered to your home, place of business or dentist’s office. Back then it was a lot easier for automakers to plan their unveiling schedules around big, brick-and-mortar events without fear of leaks on Twitter, Instagram, Chinese websites, lucky smartphone camera shots or magazine fuck-ups.

And an insane amount of work goes into putting auto shows on, perhaps more than automakers get in terms of payoff for the logistics involved.

The internet has changed the way cars get revealed to the world. Now an automaker can put out photos and a press release any time they want. More than a few auto shows have diminished in importance over the years—when was the last time something really notable came out of the Chicago Auto Show?


And as Automotive News notes, standalone events like the ones where the latest Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro were revealed are taking the place of auto show unveilings because they don’t have to share attention with other cars and they’re cheaper to put on:

The move comes at a time when auto shows around the world are struggling to retain their grip on high-profile product introductions and global media attention.

Automakers are increasingly turning to cheaper off-site venues and technology showcases such as CES to debut new products, where they can more tightly control the message without having to compete for attention. Detroit’s auto show has added a mobility expo for 2017, with more space devoted to startups and advanced technologies.


More than likely we’ll be seeing fewer and fewer auto shows and fewer ones with throngs of photographers and bloggers fighting for a view of the refreshed Mitsubishi Mirage or whatever, and shows built around the business side of the industry.

I certainly won’t miss the coffee, and you’re still likely to get to sit in the new cars. Everybody wins.


Editor-in-Chief @ Jalopnik, 2015-2019.


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