By on September 16, 2020

Not that people have any leftover hope of enjoying what was once considered a normal life, but the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) is moving entirely online for 2021. It’s French Canadian equivalent Salon International de l’Auto de Montréal (MIAS) has also been relegated to the digital world as a way to kick off another year of absolutely nothing happening.

Obviously, this is being done to protect the world from itself and ensure the country remains on the mend indefinitely. But some provinces are said to be easing lockdown restrictions and reopening schools, suggesting the world may not be a practical joke played entirely at our collective expense. There’s a palpable fear among event organizers, however, especially if theirs happens to be indoors and include words like “international” in the title. Nobody wants to be the person who relaunched COVID-19 around the world, even if contagion rates have dropped and hospitals have better ways of treating the virus.

The Canadian International AutoShow announced Tuesday it is going solely virtual in 2021, citing the pandemic and governmental regulations that currently limit the number of people that can congregate in Ottawa to just 50 if they’re doing so indoors (100 outdoors). Timely, because Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet literally just said it wanted to review decreasing that number as people decided to take the government up on the increased limit that went through in July. Apparently, allowing people to do exactly what health officials said was okay may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in densely populated cities.

“With restrictions to public gatherings in Ontario limited for the foreseeable future, our annual automotive showcase that attracts more than 330,000 visitors on average each year simply couldn’t be considered at this time,” CIAS general manager Jason Campbell said in a prepared statement. “The AutoShow has become a must-visit showcase for both new car buyers and automotive enthusiasts alike, and we’re still committed to ensuring that the hundreds of thousands who would normally visit the show in person to learn, explore and be fascinated by the latest innovations on offer will continue to be able to engage with this great event  just in a new, more widely accessible way.”

Since events like these are less about vehicle debuts and interacting with the media than getting locals hyped about fresh automotive products, one has to wonder what the point of a digital event is when customers could just browse the vehicles on any other website. But CIAS has promised to offer something more than a bunch of photographs without elaborating further. However, more details are supposed to be made available in the weeks to come.

Organizers also couldn’t help but include some cringe-inducing mention of the “new normal” we’ve been cornered into accepting. Here’s some advice to event organizers and the people that manage public relations for businesses, nobody likes hearing about how we’re going to be living in a world where everything is perpetually closed. Just tell us the virus is being a real bear and the government doesn’t want people doing the mass gathering thing  then provide a sliver of hope that next year might be different.

“The pandemic is forcing us to fully embrace a digital future that has become the norm,” David McClean, Director of Marketing at the AutoShow, explained. “We’re engaged with all manufacturers, sponsors and exhibitors to continue telling their story through our new virtual AutoShow. It will be the World’s first virtual AutoShow and run as a true event  one that excites and drives the new car consumer market in the critical spring buying season. As the automotive landscape changes, the Canadian International AutoShow changes with it, leading the way in terms of how the automotive world connects with consumers.”

The host, Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, told us that the goal was to hold an in-person show in February 2022. But who knows anymore.

Montréal was a bit more explicit. It said a free virtual edition of the smaller show will be held online from January 20th through the 24th and feature a 3-D floor plan allowing “attendees” hop between exhibitors. Experts will be on hand to chat with interested parties.

“It would have been easy to make the decision to just skip a year, but we wanted to keep this tradition going in January despite the absence of the in-person event,” MIAS President Francois Boisvert said. “Our goal, above all, is to stay true to our mission, and to continue offering Quebecers, a platform that allows them to discover a complete offer of the automotive market, and assist them in their mobility choices, all presented in one place.”

[Image: ACHPF/Shutterstock]

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