Frankfurt sick notes - why so many manufacturers were a no-show at IAA 2017

Published: 13 September 2017

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Motor shows are a useful barometer for the alert state of the car industry, and sometimes it can be telling which firms are conspicuous by their absence.

At Frankfurt this year there were no fewer than 11 major manufacturers that chose not to spend the cash displaying their cars to the public, with many eschewing the German biennial show in favour of the annual Geneva motor show.

We approached them all and asked one simple question:

Why aren’t you at Frankfurt IAA in 2017?

Volvo was one of the first to pull the plug on investing in the Frankfurt IAA back in 2014. A company spokesperson said:

‘In 2014, Volvo Cars took the decision to reduce its motor show activities, and as such now has a presence at one motor show in Europe – Geneva – each year.

‘Instead of following the traditional motor show calendar, Volvo is targeting a stronger, more individual approach to both the media and its customers.’

Volvo XC40 concept

Volvo’s next big launch is the XC40 compact SUV, pictured above. 

Infiniti is also committing to Geneva alone, citing business reasons: ‘Following an in-depth review of events and motor show strategy, Infiniti has decided that it will only participate in one, tier-one automotive show in Europe per year.

‘As a result, we will attend the 2017 Geneva Motor Show in March but not the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. The organisers of the Frankfurt Motor Show have been informed of our decision.

‘Infiniti remains committed to participating in major European automotive shows. However, we will continually monitor which shows provide the best opportunity to engage with our consumers and advance our business goals.’

The rise of the influencers

Infiniti’s sister company Nissan predictably had a similar outlook, refocusing resource towards ‘influencers’ and bespoke Nissan events in lieu of traditional methods of product communication:

‘We are continually evaluating how and where we reach our customers and tell our story. The decision to not attend the Frankfurt motor show in 2017 follows a full review at global level of our event and show strategy to facilitate maximum brand visibility and impact for the Nissan and Infiniti brands.

‘Moving forward, we will adopt a flexible strategy to achieve this objective using a combination of automotive, consumer and dedicated Nissan events and partnerships to broaden our reach and appeal amongst influencers and wider consumers.’

Nissan Leaf relaunched for 2018

Nissan’s next important product launch is an all-new Leaf EV (pictured above), expected to break cover at the Tokyo motor show in October.

A spokeperson from DS told us that its decision not to show anything was attributed to its product cycles. ‘We displayed so much at Geneva that we’ve fallen into a bit of a product valley’, a spokesperson told CAR. ‘Previously there was an assumed obligation to attend, but not now. It’s a tactical decision.’

DS’s sister company Peugeot wasn’t at the show either, but Citroen had a trio of new models on its stand.

The power of three

Mitsubishi’s statement from HQ in Japan also shows a commitment to the ‘big three’ international car shows: ‘In today’s global environment of new media, interactive marketing tools and ever-changing customers’ behaviour, Mitsubishi Motors has decided to gradually shift its focus from traditional forms of engagement to a more effective approach.

‘As a starting point, MMC’s attendance of global motor shows (except for Tokyo, Geneva and Beijing/Shanghai) is now being reconsidered, leading to the decision not to attend the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.

‘A few months before the global launch of Eclipse Cross (pictured below) – the first of a new generation of Mitsubishi Motors automobiles – this shift also reflects a redefined Brand profile calling for more targeted forms of public exposure.’

Mistubishi Eclipse Cross will launch in 2018

Morgan’s response was a little more concise: ‘We won’t be at Frankfurt; Geneva is our only European factory show of the year.’ 

So there we have it. As budgets shrink and economies feel the pinch, spend has to be more tactical, and marketing is easy meat for the bean-counters if it’s not doing the job.

Motor shows need to be smarter if they want to compete – which is why Goodwood’s Moving Motor Show is such an interesting proposition. What better way to encourage new cars sales than getting potential buyers behind the wheel and driving your new metal?

The following companies have not responded at time of publication:

Peugeot, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Aston Martin

Read more in our A-Z of the Frankfurt motor show 2017

By Gareth Evans

Contributor, historic racer and now running sister title Motor Cycle News's website