If one of the world’s biggest car manufacturers decides not to attend one of the world’s most prestigious motor shows, should the organisers be getting worried?
The Mondial de l’Automobile, also known as the Paris Motor Show, gets under way tomorrow. For 16 days, it will play host to the great and good of the global motor industry.
First held in 1898, it now takes place once every two years, alternating with the equally high-profile Frankfurt Motor Show.
Traditionally, it provides an opportunity for manufacturers to wheel out their gleaming new models, indulge their engineers’ flights of fancy by producing outlandish and futuristic concept cars, and generally bask in the media spotlight.
But this year, the Detroit giant Ford will not be going. Nor will Mazda or Volvo. A whole host of luxury brands, including Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Aston Martin will also be giving it a miss.
So what’s going on? Cost is likely to be a major factor.
The big motor shows are certainly spectacular – BMW even had an elevated test track running through its stand at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year, for example – but they certainly don’t come cheap.
Accurate figures are hard to come by, but the big brands can spend millions in an effort to upstage their rivals.
On top of that, although journalists flock to the show, there’s a great deal of competition for headlines. So rather than simply hold press conferences, carmakers host elaborate “media evenings” at exotic venues around the city.
Ford clearly thinks it can spend its money better. Instead of attending the show, it will be hosting its own media event at its European headquarters in Cologne in late November.
It says it will be able to use the occasion to “show new vehicles and talk about our move from being an auto company to being an auto and mobility company”.
Volvo has also moved away from car shows, preferring to focus on marketing its cars through online channels, as well as hosting its own events.
And let’s not forget that as the distinction between car and technology companies becomes increasingly blurred, more and more vehicles are being launched at tech fairs, like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Nevertheless, the Paris Motor Show should still provide plenty of hype this year – and much of it will surround the continuing development of electric cars.
Volkswagen, for example, says it will be presenting an electric car that has “the potential to make history with its completely new vehicle concept”.
Details are pretty sketchy, but it is expected to look rather like a futuristic VW Golf.
More importantly, VW’s brand CEO Herbert Diess recently told the German magazine WitschftsWoche it would have a range of 400-600km (250-370 miles) and would be capable of taking a full charge in 15 minutes.