Twitter says the number of Canadians talking about new cars and trucks on the social media platform continues to rise as automakers turn to the outlet to launch vehicles amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
But all that online buzz won’t kill auto shows, says a key organizer of the largest auto show in Canada.
"Twitter and the use of other new social media has exploded, and will continue to do so, but that doesn’t take away from the fact people want to meet and greet and explore things in person,” said Jason Campbell, general manager of the Canadian International AutoShow.
Daily Canadian Tweet volumes about vehicles grew by 14 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with third-quarter levels, the company said Wednesday. Tweet volumes rose even further in January, up 20 per cent versus daily fourth-quarter levels in 2020. Twitter didn’t disclose the actual number of tweets per day, other than to say “ tens of thousands of Canadians come to Twitter to talk autos.”
Twitter says its research shows 76 per cent of Canadians on its platform have delayed purchases because of COVID-19.
“However, the same study also shows that vehicles are one of the top items that they intend to buy when ready,” the company said in a statement. “Vehicles rank just below travel but ahead of other categories such as electronics and home furnishings in these areas.”
That consumer intention is in line with other studies, including recent monthly reports by the Conference Board of Canada.
While consumers have stayed home and auto shows been put on hold, the automakers have turned to virtual launches and shows of their own, some of them using Twitter as a host.
For example, Cadillac used Twitter to debut the Lyriq EV SUV, GMC to unveil the Hummer EV and Ford broadcast the Mustang Mach-E introduction on the platform.
When asked, 91 per cent of Canadians on Twitter said they want brands to inform and share launches of new products there while 60 per cent of respondents “feel more connected to other people when they watch a live stream event.”
But Twitter was just one of several places the trio of brands brought new vehicles to a mass audience. They still used network television and YouTube, for example.
And Kia Canada just this week opened its own Virtual Auto Show Experience, which will run online at a dedicated link from Feb. 22 through April 30. Organizers of the Toronto and Montreal auto shows decided to cancel 2021 in-person and online events.
“I do believe, firmly, that we will get back to live shows based on all the manufacturers discussions we’ve had to date. It was difficult to try and get a virtual auto show in the fall and winter months,” Campbell said.
The CIAS attempted to move online this year, but Campbell said automakers couldn’t see investing in their own websites and virtual launches as well as similar online exhibitions at digital auto shows.
“I think many manufacturers have done a great job presenting their vehicles online. They had no choice.”
He said automaker presentations online “have been getting better as time goes on.”
Campbell is currently in talks with automakers on how to best integrate the experiences they’ve gained over the last 11 months into the next live CIAS.
“It’s a fact of life. I think everybody is more digitally savvy and aware. You see all ranges of society having a much more fulfilled or bigger understanding of technology works,” he said. “But every brand we’ve spoken to is keen to come back to live events whenever that is possible. We’re hopeful that can be in 2022.”