auto show
Photo: ET Auto

In 2020, almost all major auto shows internationally were cancelled due to COVID-19 and the associated travel restrictions and social distancing requirements. As the pandemic slowly but surely recedes, some of the world’s most prominent auto shows have been penciled into the calendar, albeit not in the same capacity as in previous years. 

Known as the premier auto show in the world, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was canceled for the first time in 60 years in 2020. It’s returning for the third Sunday in August from Carmel, California but there will be some huge names from past years that aren’t present. At this time, it does not appear Mercedes-Benz will send its usual concept cars and luxury vehicles for a display, nor will Rolls-Royce according to a source. Other carmakers like McLaren and Lamborghini expect to reduce the size of their display with McLaren’s spokesperson, Roger Ormisher, saying, “We are focusing on our customers this year.”

But other carmakers are planning a full return to the Pebble Beach event. Christophe Georges, the president and CEO of Bentley Motors Inc. said, “During the past year, small events and digital discussions were appropriate, but people want, and need, real interactions again. Monterey Car Week is an opportunity to welcome Bentley customers, to meet and collaborate with them. We share our plans for the future and welcome their reactions, and we look forward to doing so again this year.” 

Geneva International Motor Show to return in February 

The 2021 iteration of the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) was canceled due to the pandemic but has opened registrations for the 2022 version from Feb 19 to 27. Their website says that “this show promises to be an exciting evolution, which is reported to be substantially different from the past, assuming favorable pandemic conditions.” 

Detroit to hose Motor Bella after canceling NAIAS 

The world-famous North American International Auto Show was initially postponed from its summer 2020 event until the summer of 2021, but the show was eventually canceled altogether for the year rather than risk packing the TCF Center with people. In its place, Detroit will run the inaugural Motor Bella event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, MI for an open-air, interactive experience from Sept 21 to 26. 

Executive Director Rod Alberts said, “While auto shows remain an important platform to promote new mobility innovations and to help people make major vehicle purchase decisions, the traditional auto show model is changing. We cannot ignore the major disruptions caused by the pandemic and the impact it has had on budgets. As such, we will be providing an amazing experience to the media, the auto industry and the public in a cost-effective way.” 

Modest success for 2021 car shows so far 

Late spring has seen several auto shows already proceed including the Atlanta International Auto Show and the Jacksonville International Auto Show. In Jacksonville, a limited number of vehicles still drew an estimated 80% of pre-pandemic crowds for the event held May 7 to 9. Put on by the Jacksonville Automobile Dealers Association for the past 22 years, it was labeled a success. Its organizer Lowell Briggs said, “The amount of support we’ve received from the Jacksonville Automobile Dealers Association is incredible. They really helped populate this show with some of the most exciting new vehicles on the market today and people are responding to that.’’ 

The 2021 Atlanta International Auto Show also proceeded on April 14 to 18 with social distancing, screening, and mask requirements. As expected, carmakers used the venue to unveil new models or trims including the Jeep Wagoneer’s official step into the spotlight. 

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