The auto show season is rolling in Canada without some key automakers, but many of those remaining appear committed, although their approaches and attitudes are definitely changing.
Honda, despite internal company debate over whether to stay on the show circuit, has doubled down with a new booth that’s lighter on cars and heavier on interactive displays highlighting its history, manufacturing footprint and plans to reduce greenhouse gases. The booth first appeared at the Montreal auto show in January and a similar setup is planned for the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto, Feb. 14-23.
“There’s still a lot of people that come to auto shows,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Honda Canada’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing. “I think that what we want to do is make it more entertaining for them, addressing their need for entertainment and doing something different and more coming.”
Honda Canada CEO Dave Gardner challenged marketing staff to justify spending resources on auto shows as the automaker invests large amounts into electrification, he said.
“I think it’s a very positive sign that we will be [staying at auto shows], but it was put in question,” Leclerc said. “I think our challenge from our president was to say, ‘Give me a reason to stay the course on auto shows.’”
Honda also debuted a new stand at the Los Angeles Auto Show featuring bright lights, trees and plants alongside its vehicles and displays highlighting the company’s safety features, racing heritage and accessories, among other topics.
AUTO SHOW NO-SHOWS
Automaker exits from auto shows worldwide are due to pressure to cut costs and find other ways to connect with customers, often through the use of social media.
Audi, MercedesBenz and Volvo skipped Montreal, and the latter two will be no-shows at CIAS. Across the border, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit moved its event to June from January and promised lower setup costs in a bid to win back automakers.
A Volvo Canada spokeswoman said the brand would participate in a variety of events across Canada that “allow us to reach new audiences and also showcase our products.” She pointed to Volvo’s attendance at January’s Interior Design Show in Toronto, where a Volvo XC60 plug-in hybrid crossover was on display.
Despite the loss of Mercedes and Volvo, Toronto’s auto show, which drew 357,745 people in 2019, is better positioned to retain automakers than its larger international counterpart because it is a less expensive, consumer-driven event, said Jason Campbell, CIAS general manager.
While the Detroit show, for instance, remained a major draw for consumers in 2019, media coverage has suffered because of several high-profile automaker dropouts, he said.
“Those are the shows which are very much facing the biggest challenge from manufacturing withdrawals because the nature of media has changed so dramatically in the last even three to four years.”
McLaren and the local exotic-vehicle dealer Grand Touring Automobiles will take up the real estate vacated by Mercedes and Volvo in Toronto, Campbell said. The Grand Touring space will include three vehicles making Canadian autoshow debuts, including the Bugatti La Voiture Noir.
The auto show wants to bring Mercedes and Volvo back to Toronto in the future, Campbell said, adding that the show’s location in one of North America’s largest and wealthiest markets makes it ideal for premium brands to sell vehicles.
‘CAN’T STOP’ NEW TACTICS