The Frankfurt Motor Show's Fate Looks Pretty Gloomy

Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty)

Things didn’t look good for the Frankfurt Motor Show even before the event took place this year—but now that it’s over, it’s pretty clear. This particular show is about as doomed as you can get without completely folding.

Big name automakers like Renault, Nissan, Toyota, Peugeot, Fiat, and Ferrari completely skipped out on this one, Automotive News reports. And if that weren’t bad enough, climate protestors set up outside the venue, which highlighted a pretty big disparity between German auto enthusiasts and environmentalists. Even new electric cars fell flat.

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And the attendance numbers were definitely impacted. Here’s more from Automotive News:

This year’s show, which ended Sunday, had 560,000 visitors, according to the VDA. This compares with 810,000 when the biennial event was last held in 2017 amid Volkswagen Group’s diesel crisis and talk of driving bans in polluted city centers.

Already then there was a discussion about whether the show had right format because visitor numbers had fallen from 931,700 in 2015, the highest attendance in eight years.

Even the CEO of Opel remained entirely unimpressed:

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The whole ‘auto show’ thing just doesn’t seem as in vogue as it used to be. These multi-day celebrations of automotive tech have been steadily declining around the world, from Detroit to Paris.

There’s a lot of speculation about why, but it seems likely that auto shows have been made more and more irrelevant in the information age. Automakers can control their press releases and car launches very easily over the internet, which can make press events at the auto show itself pretty irrelevant. Companies have really stepped up their game recently with awesome photo shoots and videos accompanying their big releases. It’s enough to scratch the itch of mild car enthusiasts.

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The Powers That Be at Frankfurt are already looking into ways to make the show more interesting:

In a statement, VDA President Bernhard Mattes said the association was very satisfied with the public interest in the show, saying the event attained “new dimensions” in videos on social media. “In the digital age, what counts is no longer solely the number of square meters covered, but relevance,” he said.

Mattes said the association plans to rejuvenate the show’s format by giving it more of a theme park feeling and taking the concept of mobility from the trade fair grounds into the city to engage people in their daily lives.

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Would a theme park feel be enough to draw in a crowd despite climate change woes and a pretty general automotive malaise? It doesn’t seem convincing. But it might just be the only way the Frankfurt Auto Show could return to give it another shot.

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About the author

Elizabeth Blackstock

Staff writer. Motorsport fanatic. Proud owner of a 2013 Mazda 2.