Managers of the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS), hoping that a new study would prove the worth of Canada’s largest trade show, have had no immediate impact on at least two automakers that planned to pull out of the 2020 event.
The findings, which show that the event influences car-shopping purchases and draws affluent, highly educated consumers, are part of a broader look at 56 North American auto shows in 2019. The study was conducted by Foresight Research, a Michigan-base company that specializes in providing data for car companies based on auto shows’ attendance.
“We found it very encouraging that the data ... not only corroborate ours, but even goes further than what our studies have shown,” said Jason Campbell, general manager of CIAS. “It’s a positive story and one we want to share with all our manufacturers.”
But Volvo Car Canada and Mercedes-Benz, which recently announced they were withdrawing from the auto show circuit, appeared unmoved.
“As we look to the future,” said Volvo spokeswoman Amanda Ignatius, “we are invested in seeking out formats outside of the auto-show circuit … Consumers can expect to see a number of ... events and partnerships happening across Canada that will allow Volvo Cars to reach new audiences.”
The CIAS portion of the study involved responses from about 200 people who attended the show. Among its key findings:
- 33 per cent of CIAS show attendees added a brand to their consideration list within 12 months;
- 18 per cent of attendees bought a brand they were not considering prior to the show; one in five buyers attended the show before their recent purchase;
- 48 per cent had household incomes in excess of $100,000;
- 72 per cent had university degrees;
- The average visitor spent almost 4 3/4 hours at the show.
CIAS conducts its own research annually, but the Foresight study was key to validating the automakers’ investment in auto shows, said Campbell.
“In today’s day and age, everyone is looking twice as critical at all of their spends. It’s only reasonable [for them] to say, ‘we like the study that you’ve provided, but we’d like to see it from a third party.’
“There is a greater demand for transparency, a greater demand from data, from manufacturers and we recognize we need to be able to share that to ensure they have the tools they need when they are talking with their global operations headquarters to say this is why it’s important to be at Toronto as a show.”
The report comes as Mercedes-Benz and Volvo announced they would not be participating in next year’s Toronto and Montreal auto shows. The move is part of a global trend of automakers seeking alternatives to unveil new product and reach the media.
FINE-TUNE MARKETING DOLLARS
Virginie Aubert, vice-president, marketing at Mercedes, said the carmaker is “standing by” its decision to leave the auto show circuit, despite the Foresight report’s findings.
“Mercedes-Benz Canada continuously evaluates our events portfolio to ensure that each of our initiatives provides the best opportunities to fulfill our strategic priorities,” Aubert said in an email. “After careful consideration, we decided to no longer participate in Canadian auto shows as of 2020 ... Mercedes-Benz Canada is ... preparing a series of programs in 2020 that will showcase our ... vehicle lineup ... .”
Volvo’s Ignatius said the decision to leave auto shows aligns with a global corporate directive, although the automaker’s dealers will participate in the Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec City events.
At Polestar, Volvo’s electric-vehicle brand, Canadian Manager Hugues Bissonnette, said vehicle launches should not be planned around existing events, such as auto shows.
“There’s an electric-car show in Montreal, and perhaps that’s the right place to be for us. But from a traditional auto-show standpoint, that’s not where we want to be.”
Sam Fiorani, vice-president, global solutions at AutoForecast Solutions, said auto shows are competing with social media for shrinking marketing dollars.
“A blogger will get more attention from a car maker’s marketing department than a regional car show when the eyeballs of millennials are influenced more by what they see online than the experience of visiting a car show,” he said. “With marketing budgets being cut dramatically at the risk of losing potential buyers, it’s cheaper to send money to online personalities than old-school print media or even car shows.”
Steve Bruyn, CEO atForesightResearch, called the move by automakers to ditch auto shows “short sighted.”
He estimated that 6.5 million households or 10 million people attended the 56 North American auto shows included in his 2019 study. Of those households, 69 per cent were in the market to buy a car, which amounts to 4.5 million buying decisions.
“This is a very, very big opportunity for any car company to prospect,” Bruyn said. “Canada is one-tenth the size of the U.S., so call that close to hal million prospects [potential customers in the Canadian markets that are in th market to buy a car. On top of that abo 1.3 million [American car consumers] are intending to buy a luxury purchase That’s probably somewhere between 100,000-150,000 people in those Canadia markets.”
HYUNDAI SEES AUTO-SHOW VALUE
Don Romano, CEO of Hyundai Auto Canada, said his company spends $2 million to $2.5 million for a new display every three years.
He said the yearly cost to refurbish a display every year is $300,000 to $500,000.
But, the Foresight report into the 2019 CIAS confirms his confidence in auto shows as an effective marketing tool to reach consumers, Romano said.
“It re-affirmed my belief that the auto show plays an important role in generating interest and demand for our products. When you look at the major manufacturers like Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, Honda...we’r all there. We’re not pulling out at this stage. I don’t see any reason to.”
The auto show offers consumers the opportunity to see vehicles without fac ing pressure from sales staff, he said.
“It’s one of the few places you can g without having to worry about buying today or buying at all. I think the whol buying experience today has become a challenge for a lot of people who just want to check things out ... People love cars.It’s still a passion point.”