Organizers of the Montreal and Toronto auto shows have scrapped their plans to transition to a virtual platform from in-person, physical exhibits for 2021 due to a lack of automaker participation.
The Montreal auto show’s virtual program was scheduled for January 20 to 24, 2021, and was to replace the live show originally scheduled for January 15 to 24, which was cancelled due to COVID-19. The live version of the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto was to be held from February 12 to 22, 2021, and the digital platform was intended to run over that same time period.
Both shows were working together and collaborating with show directors in markets across Canada to create a platform that could be implemented nationwide, CIAS General Manager Jason Campbell told Automotive News Canada. However, Montreal International Auto Show Executive Director Luis Pereira said “quite a few” automakers chose not to participate in the new format.
Campbell said those manufacturers who sat out chose instead to direct their digital funding into standalone initiatives, and the virtual show was no longer financially viable among the automakers who did show interest.
“A number of [manufacturers] wanted to stay focused on their own internal presentations digitally … and felt that they would really rather wait until we can do something live,” Campbell said.
Barring continued restrictions due to the coronavirus, both shows intend to return to the live presentation format in 2022. Campbell said manufacturers have indicated interest in returning to an in-person platform.
“The enthusiasm to return to live events is one that bodes well for us,” Campbell said. “For years, we've been told by manufacturers [to] get much more into the virtual space. What this is showing us clearly is the hunger to get people to sit in the vehicle, touch, feel, and experience that.”
The Montreal auto show is now in the early stages of developing a combination of broadcast television and webcasts for product presentations in late January as a way to connect with the local audience that would typically visit the show, according to Executive Director Luis Pereira.
“Our next plan is working on what else we can do for our dealers because ultimately this is what it's for,” Pereira said.
Campbell said alternative communication formats are being considered for CIAS as well, but no decisions have been made.
“We're currently assessing how we best communicate with our enthusiasts and our audience at the time when they would traditionally enjoy the live show,” he said.