By on February 15, 2018

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

Amid the Chicago Auto Show hoopla last week came reports that Mercedes-Benz was considering dropping out of next year’s Detroit Auto Show, news that has since been confirmed. I was invited to a dinner with journalists by an OEM during the Chicago show, and while eating, the PR guy posed a question – “Does the auto show still matter to you guys?”

Immediately, all in attendance agreed that the shows are as important as ever to consumers and the dealers who sell them cars. Which makes sense – the shows are usually run by dealer associations, with the intent of generating sales leads.

For us in the media, though, it’s been an open question. Thanks to changes in technology and how both journalists and PR departments do their jobs, many journalists now find it easier (and cheaper) to cover the shows from home (especially if they snagged embargoed material in advance).

Not to mention that automakers are increasingly spending time and money on off-site reveals (granted, those reveals are still based around the dates of the auto show press days, since the OEMs know journalists will be in town) and sometimes unveiling vehicles well outside of show dates. Ford unveiled the latest Mustang during the public days of last year’s Detroit show, and GMC is doing a major event for the 2019 Sierra in Detroit in a couple of weeks, instead of unveiling it at an auto show.

Auto show media days still hold value for the media, in my opinion. They’re useful for networking, gathering info on background, listening for rumors, photography, and video work, among other things. You’ll notice, though, that with exception of photo and video, none of those things really have a lot to do with “breaking news.”

What say you, dear reader? Are you combing TTAC and our competitors’ sites for info during each press day? Does what happen during the media days affect your decision to go to a show? Do the unveilings influence your buying process? Or are media days simply irrelevant now?

The PR guy who hosted us in Chicago reps a brand that skipped Detroit this year, one of several that didn’t go to Cobo. Yet his brand, and most of the others that skipped Detroit, had a presence in Chicago. I was told that some OEMs will skip a show if they don’t have a product to announce because it’s not a good sales market for them – but they will come to cities that are strong markets. So if a brand doesn’t do well in Detroit but sells lots of cars in Chicago or New York, they’ll skip Detroit (unless they have an announcement to make) and spend the money on a stand in one of those cities.

That makes sense from a business perspective, but it does limit that brand’s exposure to media and consumers. Or maybe not, at least from a media perspective, if those media days matter less than they did 10 or 15 years ago.

Consumer days aren’t going away anytime soon, but perhaps our editorial calendar will look vastly different in five years’ time. Weigh in below.

[Image: TTAC]

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18 Comments on “QOTD: Do Auto Show Media Days Matter to the Consumer?...”

  • avatar

    I like to be “in the know” and will scavenge all resources for data on media days, for all major auto show coverage. This partially defines my lifeblood interest as an auto enthusiast. As soon as new car info is teased or revealed, my social contacts and my discussion forums light up with chatter. I call this normal life – at least for this car guy. I may not necessarily be triggered to buy a new car every year, but I am among the “go to” guys when anyone in my family/social network has a new car interest. And, I haven’t missed a Houston auto show since 1986. Obsessed, committed, aware…or whatever.

  • avatar

    I think these events are more to get the press excited about future actual launches than anything else.

    The general public I don’t think has much interest in knowing preliminary information on a car that’s not gonna be released for many months. To the extent they pay attention to the automotive press at all, I’m going to guess the articles that get the most page hits are the ones with actual test drives in them.

    Of course, if the tester has been wined and dined a few months back with the manufacturer telling him/her how special they are while deploying a hand-built prototype and showing off a bunch of powerpoints, maybe they’ll be more inclined to give the real thing a more-positive review.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree to some degree. I personally do not care if a new Rav4 is in the works or a new trim has been released for the Tahoe, but I understand some folks may find this information interesting. I would find any information regarding hot hatches, affordable sports cars, etc., to be important and I will continue to follow the developments of these vehicles.

      But TTAC does not appeal to the general public so we are probably outliers.

  • avatar

    I need to see pictures from the journos on the floor; press release pictures are practically all edited and not shot in a flattering way. There’s nothing like seeing the cars in person under the lights of the show, the way they make a good paint color pop, so pictures from the shows I can’t attend are the next best thing.

    Besides that, the different camera lenses used by various magazines’ photographers offer better perspectives compared to the “flat” press release photos.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I want the information. That the source of the information is coming from a reveal at an auto show doesn’t matter to me. If the reveal happens in the middle of June or with dozens of other reveals all in one week, I won’t remember which was which in a couple weeks.

  • avatar

    Don’t stop going, guys! If not for your attendance, how would I know sufficiently in advance that this year’s NAIAS was going to be all about the trucks? Good early intel informing my decision to skip this year.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I don’t want to stop going! I look forward to press days. But if the OEMs don’t find it worth it they may find other ways to do reveals. Like Ford did with that Mustang — a surprise during consumer days. They may start doing off-site reveals outside of show days, as is the case with the Sierra. Or at regional press association meetings — I’ve been to a few of these.

      Not that the occasional off-site reveal is bad — automakers want to hog the spotlight and that’s one way to do it — but it could be that all automakers decide another way is better.

  • avatar

    I think media days/new car launches obtainable online are the only things relevant to most consumers.

    Locked doors, cars roped off, pushy or less knowledgeable sales people, crowds, congestion, noise, travel, overall cost including the minor part, entrance fee, wrong time of year weather wise in the north. I’m sure I missed some things. Why go.

    • 0 avatar


      Agreed. Waste of time for the points you mentioned and others.
      Went to a show 5 years ago. The brand I really wanted to see wasnt on site.

      Most of the new cars are a big step back ward.
      New Ford Escape 5 years ago. Great visibilty to bunker style out ward view.
      New Equinox 6 months ago. HENCHO for 50% of the units. and 40% hencho content. Also, all GM cars have Start Stop the CANNOT BE turned off. You may like it. I dont. I wont buy a car with start stop. (all to save 2 gallons a year. PLAAAA EEEESE)

      Sister HATES her Caddy XT 5. After six months, she says she would not have bought if she knew she could nit defeat STAT-STOP

  • avatar

    No, they are not important – anymore. Now, by the time media day comes around, we have all seen the “leaked” photos and sometimes already know the specs. So what’s the point of media days??

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      That was the genesis of the question. The advanced notices makes it coverable from home for many. Plus the automakers trying to get away from “noise” by holding off-sites — it will be interesting to see if things change (a move back to on-site events, no more info advance) to bring press days back to what they were.

  • avatar

    The press days are probably not necessary, but I don’t think manufacturers should be skipping public shows. People want to sit and touch cars. It’s where I many times narrow down my selection to an initial list for test driving.

  • avatar

    Meh on Media Days.

    I am however eagerly anticipating the unveiling of the 2019 Sierra on March 1st just to see if their is enough differentiation to justify getting its own reveal as GM has been claiming.

    I think the 2019 MY is going to be an interesting time to be truck shopping because both RAM and Chevy/GMC will be selling the “old” truck alongside the “new” truck.

  • avatar

    Come see the CRX for participation trophy winners.

  • avatar

    This discussion is being held in just about every industry. Are trade shows worth the money spent, and if you do decide to exhibit, which shows give you the most bang for the buck?

    Gibson decided to not exhibit at the big NAMM show in Anaheim last month. Instead they showed their new guitars at the CES show in Vegas. Sound familiar? Car companies have been using the Consumer Eletronics Show as they’ve rushed into technology, with the LA, Detroit and Chicago shows losing out on some reveals to CES.

    I agree with Peter DeLorenzo that they should move the NAIAS from January to June, in part to create some separation from the CES, but also because Detroit is a much better place to visit in June than in January.

    Back when all new models went on sale in September and magazines had lead times of months, it made sense to do car reveals in January. Now, new models are introduced year-round.

  • avatar

    If I’m shopping or thinking about buying a car and that car is on my list, then, yes, I’m interested. Otherwise it’s just general entertainrment.

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