“Frankfurt in September, a city full of car crazy people from all over Europe, but no Saab at the IAA. However, few will notice it. “ So far, so true. Saabsunited reports that Saab will NOT have a booth at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Which is a good thing, because the cost saved for a decent display at the IAA can easily cover a good part of the monthly payroll at Saab. Currently, there is no money for the payroll – which has turned into a bit of a tradition at the storied Swedish carmaker. If I’d have the money just for the hyperinflated hotel rooms for a whole crew, I could retire comfortably. It’s THAT expensive. However, Saab has not given up on Frankfurt. Which is a bad thing.
Before we continue, let me disabuse blogger-turned-budding-car-propagandist Steven Wade of the ill-advised notion that what we do is all for the clicks. And that – by extension – “the media” is to blame for Saab’s woes. Jack Baruth’s only vaguely car-related guitar rant pulled-in more clicks than the average Saab story – by an order of several magnitudes. Actually, if we’d just be whoring after clicks, we should have stopped covering Saab long ago. People either seem to be tired of the topic, or their mouse gets stuck when it hovers over “Saab.” Actually, if you are still reading this, you are in a tiny minority. However, we are chroniclers of the auto industry and we serve even the tiniest minorities. We’ll cover every brand until it dies (actually, like any good news outlet, we already have a nice Saab eulogy ready to go – written by the master of passed-away cars.)
But back to Frankfurt:
Indeed, if a car company does not show up in Frankfurt, people won’t notice. In that orgy of vehicular pomp and circumstance, where major car companies don’t rent booths but complete exhibition halls, not showing up is better than having a half-baked booth in a corner. Of course, if Volkswagen wouldn’t show up, old IAA hands would talk: “Where is VW? Don’t they usually have Halle Drei?” But someone who has barely made 30,000 cars last year and next to none this year will be missed as much as a much larger Rongchen Huatai or Ziyang Nanjun – as in NOT.
The only thing you absolutely should not do in this case: Remind people of your absence.
And this is exactly what Saab seems to have planned. According to the faithful at Saabsunited, “Saab is planning to shows presence before the exhibition entrances, at the parking lots and on the Frankfurt hot spots.”
My unpaid and unsolicited advice to Saab: Forget it. “Before the exhibition entrances,” you will be shooed away, and ticketed or towed if you don’t move. The Messe Frankfurt is owned by the city of Frankfurt and the State of Hesse. They also command a sizable police force, and they have experience with squatters. If you want to make an appearance at the parking lots, good luck. You will drown in oceans of cars. The only people who might notice you are the ones who can’t find their own car. They will look at the 93, mumble “no, that’s not mine either” and stumble on. Even the parking fees can get prohibitive.
Worst of all, the few people who notice you will be reminded that you can’t get in. You’ll receive as much sympathy from the crowd as the yokel from Dreieich or Dietzenbach who gets the onceover from the doorman of the hot nightclub, and with a last look at the shoes, the doorman says: “Sorry, members only.”
If you want to preserve the last ounce of dignity: Don’t subject yourself to that torture. If you absolutely must: I know some BDSM studios in Frankfurt who will denigrate you away from the public eye (albeit at likewise inflated Messe-prices.)
And while I am doling out free advice: From a lifelong car propagandist-turned-blogger to a lifelong blogger-turned-car propagandist: Crisis PR is the pinnacle of the fine art of spin and propaganda. Many are called, but few are chosen. Blaming the media is the worst you can do in that case. You need every friend you can get. When the world around you is on fire, don’t flame. If you think the whole Swedish Press is against you: Tough – you lost your last friends. Leave it to Eric Geers. That’s what he gets paid for. I hope he still does.