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Munich Picked to Succeed Frankfurt Auto Show

Can the new location bring back exhibitors and jumpstart attendance?
#BMW #AlfaRomeo #Audi

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Germany’s biennial auto show has a new home. Starting next year, the event will be held in Munich—ending the show’s 69-year run in Frankfurt.

In January, VDA, the German auto industry trade group that organizes the show, announced plans to relocate the event after a 31% dip in attendance at the 2019 Frankfurt show. In addition to Munich, Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Hannover and Stuttgart submitted proposals to take it over.

Mobility Showcase

Munich was selected over Berlin and Hamburg (the two other finalists) in part for its "attractive” downtown locations, surrounding infrastructure and planning expertise, according to VDA.

The proximity of BMW and Audi’s headquarters also may have scored points.

Moving forward, VDA aims to transform the show beyond static car displays. The vision includes test drives and a broader array of mobility services and showcasing smart city technologies at venues throughout Munich.

Dwindling Returns

Frankfurt, which had billed itself as the world’s largest vehicle show, saw attendance plunge from 931,000 in 2015 to 810,000 in 2017 and just 550,000 last year.

About two dozen carmakers opted not to participate in 2019. The list of no-shows included international heavyweights (Toyota, Nissan, Jeep and Volvo) as well as several Euro-centric brands (Alfa Romeo, Citroen, DS, Fiat and Peugeot).

The 2019 show also was hampered by environmental activists, who partially blocked the entrance to the show during the opening weekend in protest of fuel-thirsty SUVs.

Relevancy

It’s not just Frankfurt. Carmakers are shifting away from direct participation at costly auto shows around the world. Instead, they are increasingly turning to cheaper, stand-alone new-car debuts and fair-like events that offer more consumer interaction options.

This has sent traditional shows scrambling to reinvent themselves. Last year, Tokyo took a step in that direction, with an effort to market the auto show more like a theme park—blending new car displays with a variety of entertainment and interactive activities. The change sparked a 70% jump in attendance to 1.3 million people (including paid and free admission) over a 12-day run. But the question is how much car-shopping was done amid all the fun and games.

Meanwhile, the cancellation of this week’s Geneva auto show—due to concerns over the coronavirus—is making a case for virtual shows. In lieu of press conferences and physical displays, carmakers are live-streaming unveilings of their latest models.

The next major test will be the revamped Detroit auto show. In addition to switching the timing of the event from January to early June, show organizers are planning a host of outdoor mobility-related events throughout downtown Detroit.

Munich won’t get its turn until September 2021. Like Frankfurt, it will continue to alternate with Paris, which is on tap for this autumn.

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