Covid-19 canceled the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2020. Now that the show is back, some automakers have decided they didn’t need it anyway.
Audi, Cadillac, Lotus, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo will skip the LA Convention Center this year. Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Rolls-Royce gave it up long ago.
Acura revealed an Integra prototype on Nov. 11, a week before the show’s opening.
BMW will show a select group of reporters its big news: A new, high-powered, hybrid-electric concept vehicle is to be announced publicly on Nov. 29, a day after the show ends.
Even California-based Tesla (not yet departed for Texas), Lucid, and Rivian are announcing new models and grand initial public offerings on their own schedules rather than saving such news to coincide with events in the global trade show calendar.
Ford has been doing that for a while.
“Our new Detroit Motor Show is our [own] reveal,” Ford Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley told reporters during this year’s third-quarter earnings call.
“That starts the clock on reservations, and you have to do it early enough so your industrial system gets informed by the results of your reservation. That’s the closed loop that has to happen.”
Put simply: The world is digital now. So automakers are, too.
“The old days of being at a show just to have a presence are long gone,” says Stephanie Brinley, the principal automotive analyst for IHS Markit.
“For automakers with cars going into market, alternate approaches to getting the word out needed to be taken. Auto shows are now just one of several alternatives for introducing a new vehicle.”
LA’s million-square-foot convention center will nonetheless boast some familiar faces.
Porsche will show the Mission R concept that was the belle of the ball at the still-thriving IAA Mobility car show in Munich.
It will also show a new edition of the Panamera, a new Taycan GTS, and the already announced, upcoming Cayman GT4 RS and Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport.
Land Rover will show the new model-year Range Rover.
Chevrolet will display the 2022 Silverado ZR2 and the 2023 Corvette Z06 unveiled for the media last month.
Kia and Hyundai will debut electric vehicle concepts the EV9 and Seven, respectively.
Subaru will debut the Solterra EV it already showed in Tokyo; Mazda will debut a new crossover called the CX-50.
An event light on major announcements – new economy EVs notwithstanding, model year refreshes, and novel variants on existing models are not exactly breaking news – means that headlines will be dominated by brands considered newcomers or relative unknowns.
That suits Lisa Kaz, the owner and CEO of the LA Auto Show.
In fact, she says, proliferating electrification means auto shows are more essential than ever for teaching consumers about the new technology and for helping them cross-shop against a host of brands all in one place.
It is similar to 100 years ago, when auto shows were used to introduce and educate the public about a new type of transportation: the automobile.
“Electrification is the biggest change within the automotive industry in the last 100 years, [and] the auto show offers the consumer a wonderful way to learn about and experience these new electric vehicles,” says Kaz.
Many brands attending the show are planning extensive customer-oriented experiences, such as Jeep’s 25,000-square-foot “off-road” exhibit and Subaru’s immersive 180-degree LED wall and LED floor that will replicate the sights, sounds, and even smells of the wilderness across two levels of viewing.
Subaru even boasts an interactive cave spotlighting “no-touch” technology, as well as “Subaru Loves Pets” daily adoption events.
“In terms of customer interaction, auto shows remain significant,” Brinley says.
Opportunity to Shine
The newcomers are eager to take advantage of the brand openings.
“VinFast views the show as a perfect stage to demonstrate its commitment to promoting the global trend of green transportation and encouraging electrification,” Vinfast CEO Michael Lohscheller said about his company’s decision to join the auto show.
Scratching your head? Vinfast is Vietnam’s first global automaker and will show two electric SUV models, the VF e35 and VF e36.
Chinese-owned EdisonFuture will debut an all-electric van called the EF1-V and an electric truck called the EF1-T.
LA-based Biliti Electric will show a tiny three-wheeled GMW Taskman. Bremach, an obscure Italian brand now located near Las Vegas and selling vehicles sourced from Russia, will also show a 2022 4×4 SUV.
Closer to home for LA show attendees, Southern California-based Mullen Automotive will debut the FIVE electric SUV.
Mullen was the company behind the little-known Mullen GT, which in the early 2000s was one of the first electric sports cars in the market.
LA-based Fisker, in the latest of its reimaginings and iterations, will debut the “production intent” version of the Ocean SUV it debuted as a concept in early 2020, Fisker spokesperson Simon Sproule said in an email.
The company founded by Henrik Fisker has started building Ocean prototypes in Graz, Austria.
Production of the consumer version will start in November 2022 – just in time for what could be the return of the auto show.
According to Brinley’s analysis, it’s too early to entirely count out the auto show just yet.
“By 2023, we may begin to see what the next phase is for auto shows,” she says.
“It will be different – but unlikely to be dead.”