Though facing tough economic times and with no end in sight as auto sales continue to decline, several big name carmakers who pulled out of the Detroit Auto Show participated in the 101st Chicago Auto Show this week in order to strut their stuff and stay in the game.
Auto shows are generally where carmakers unveil and display their newest, hottest vehicles to both industry rivals and the press. But with the current economic crisis affecting this industry on every level, many carmakers have opted out of attending auto shows to reduce expenses.
Auto shows are a form of marketing, and when money is tight, marketing and advertising are the first things that get the axe. For the first time in a long time, major companies sat out Industry Week in Vegas, and the Big 3 failed to run a single ad during the Super Bowl, the biggest ad event of the year.
And that’s why so many industry experts were surprised to find Nissan, Suzuki, Land Rover, Rolls Royce and Infiniti exhibiting their cars on the Chicago Auto Show’s floor at McCormick Place. Just one month ago, you couldn’t find them in the Detroit Cobo Center, although the Detroit Show is considered to be more popular and prestigious than the event in Chicago.
“Except Porsche and Chinese carmakers, almost all have been here,” said Mark Scarpelli, chairman of the 2009 Chicago Auto Show.
“There are big differences between the Chicago Auto Show and Detroit. Chicago is a consumer show. It is the biggest physical layout among any auto shows in North America. This is the show that gets the most attendance from the consumers. It can get the people behind the wheels and get them into the dealer’s showrooms to buy cars. But the Detroit Auto Show is more of a media and presence of automakers showing their new cars,” Scarpelli explained.
According to the introduction materials provided by the organizing committee, the Chicago Auto Show, first staged in 1901, is the largest auto show in North America and has been held more times than any other auto exposition on the continent. It is reported that the show draws about one million visitors each year.
“We have been gratified that companies have been looking for ways to stay in the show rather than reasons to leave,” said Jerry Cizek, general manager of the Chicago Auto Show.
Cizek noted that while some exhibitors have downsized their exhibits, the Chicago show has not seen the kind of exhibitor exodus experienced by other shows. The key to that success, according to Cizek, is that the Chicago Auto Show sells cars and trucks. For an industry starving for success, that’s an important strength to own.