BMW Deals Detroit A Blow With Exit From North American International Auto Show

By Doron Levin - Forbes

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, hit hard last month with the exit of Mercedes-Benz as an exhibitor, will lose BMW as well, the German automaker announced on Friday.


In a prepared statement, BMW said “In order to communicate our ideas and plans regarding future mobility in the best way – and achieve the greatest possible visibility for our products, technologies and innovations –  we are constantly examining our trade-show and engagements, while also exploring alternative platforms and formats.”  BMW declined to elaborate on the withdrawal.

The decision will be a blow to the Detroit show’s sponsor, the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, and to the city, which owns the Cobo Hall convention center where the show is held.

BMW’s strongest markets are on the coasts of the United States, especially the West Coast.  The exit of the top German automakers potentially give General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., the top U.S. automakers, a chance to become more dominant at the mid-winter gathering.

Along with other European and Japanese automakers, BMW has increased its presence at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, reflecting rising consumer and media interest in technologies such as electrification and autonomous driving. This year, NAIAS altered its opening date to avoid conflict with CES, which meant it coincided with Martin Luther King Day.

While BMW and other automakers over the years have debuted new models and product innovations at auto shows such as that in Detroit, the industry increasingly is staging private media events in order to focus media attention and avoid sharing the spotlight with announcements from rival manufacturers.

“Mercedes-Benz participation at future auto shows and trade fairs will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” said Daimler AG last month.  In recent years, manufacturers including Porsche, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover.

"I shouldn't even have to answer the question; of course, it was," Dieter Zetsche, Daimler CEO,  told Automotive News when asked whether leaving NAIAS was difficult.  Zetsche said Mercedes doesn’t have a vehicle debut that coincides with the Detroit show.

"And of course, the decisions was not primarily made by me, but finally, I had to follow the rationale."  Zetsche hinted that Mercedes could return the following year, depending on the automaker’s schedule for introducing new products.

Like NAIAS, the CES show is held in early January; both shows attract thousands of journalists from around the world, stimulating attendance.  Major auto shows held in Chicago, New York, Detroit and Los Angeles in recent years have struggled to maintain relevance to media, which covers the rise of personal mobility technology on a continuous basis rather than at exhibitions. But auto shows continue to attract large numbers of shoppers as well as a public interested in seeing and touching the industry’s latest models.