Here's why car shows are doomed

Call me the prophet of doom. Geneva's fate is sealed.

The traditional news-stand-style car show is doomed.

It doesn’t matter which show you care to mention – Geneva, Frankfurt, or Detroit – they all suffer from the same problem:

They’re about cars.

T​he problem with modern car shows, is that they're about cars...


What've you been sniffing? They’re supposed to be about cars. They’re CAR shows.

Hear me out.

Cars are great, but they’re machines. Cold, inanimate hunks of metal and rubber, held together with screws and welds. Sure, some of them make tremendous noises, and others are capable of tearing holes in the space-time continuum, but at the end of the day, they’re still machines.

And why would anyone consider travelling hundreds of kilometres to a car show when they could simply see the things online for free?

Sure, dedicated enthusiasts will make the journey, but what about the everyday person who can’t tell a Nissan Micra apart from a GTR? What’s going to get them through the door?

No, cars are great, but they’re not enough.

So, what’s your solution? Get rid of the cars?

Not exactly.

G​o on.

Interestingly, while car shows may be under threat, ‘car meets’ appear to be flourishing.

I suggest car-show executives take a leaf out of the car-meet book of success.

'​Car meets'?

Yes, ‘car meets’.

Y’know. Where you take your car to a nondescript car-park to meet with fellow enthusiasts and chow down on a kebab (or six).

Aside from the drugs and presence of tetanus, they’re brilliant.

S​ounds "brilliant"...

Alright, so car meets aren’t perfect either BUT they must be doing something right considering their increasing appeal.

W​hat is it they're doing right?

They are focused on people.

Sit down for a moment. I’ve got a story to tell.

About a month ago I had the privilege of visiting Motorclassica – Australia’s premier annual automotive exhibition – and it was absolutely fantastic.

It had everything. New machinery, Pre-War Bentleys, glorious American muscle cars…

But you know what my favourite part was? The people.

See, at its core, Motorclassica isn’t merely about promoting the latest and greatest feats of engineering. It’s about uniting like-minded people. Passionate people.

Classic Mini-owners lounged in the sun, talking about their prized possessions to anyone who so much as glanced in their direction. Retired veterans wheeled around the exhibition gawking at the cars of their youth. Young school lads posed for photos in front of Pistas and R34 Skylines alike.

My favourite sight was of an elderly man who sat perched on the sill of his Mercedes 300SL, his gull-wing acting as a sunshade, surrounded by cheery mates on camper chairs.

It is still very much a ‘show’ in the traditional sense, however, Motorclassica’s genius lies in its ability to incorporate the communal focus of car-meets in order to create an inclusive atmosphere.

True passion is contagious. And shows like Motorclassica are filled with passionate people.

Y​ou may be on to something here.

I think so too.

See, the problem with many modern car shows is that they tend to remove humans from the equation. Their focus is on mind-numbing technology and anal innovation. Fascinating, yes, but those things aren’t enticing enough to prompt me to take the two-hour commute to my nearest exhibition centre; the prospect of meeting like-minded individuals, however, is.

I’ve long held the philosophy that people make cars great. We give them life through the stories we tell, the records we break with them, the adventures we take them on.

"P​eople make cars great." I like that

Me too.

The problem with many modern car shows is that they’re all about cars.

And while cars are good, people are better.

Geneva, Frankfurt, and Detroit: Take note.

W​hat do you think? Get shouting in the comments below!

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Comments (17)

  • Car shows will always and forever be a thing but car meets... that’s fantastic. It’s putting the man back in the car, not the machinery that makes the car. It used to be the people who made the cars by hand and drive them now it’s all about self driving cars and mass production of cars. These car meets is really bringing back that human magic back into the car.

      10 months ago
  • That's always been the problem with autoshows. The cars you truly want to get up and personal with are always roped off and locked. Here in Toronto they have a whole section dedicated to "exotic" vehicles. But you can't even get 5ft within touching distance.

    If you go out to the race track or a local car meet, you get to see all those cars up close and personal. You can ask questions to actual owners of the vehicles. See what kind of quirks there are to that particular model. Car meets and race track events are always more entertaining than attending a general autoshow.

    I get why the general public go to them. They want to cross shop general cars and don't have the time to go dealership to dealership. But with internet accessibility, I've seen the autoshow content dwindle.

      10 months ago
  • Doomed i wouldn't say, but yes i do agree. Having parking spots filled with people and special cars from normal owners. Just like a car meet would make it more interesting.

      10 months ago
  • I tend to agree. Car meets are great because you get real car lovers. Car shows will increasingly involve EV's so there is no point.

      10 months ago
  • Judging from the number of likes and comments, I have to say you are right, car shows are doomed... :) :) :)

    And I have to confess I have the fear that it is not even your aritcle :) as it raises some pretty valid arguments...

    I am still hooked on these shows and attend at least 5-6 major ones (that takes an entire day easily, like Frankfurt, or the major classic car shows, I ran a detailed calendar in my bucket list: ).

    I have been going to shows regularly for about 4-5 years (and occasionally since about 2005). In the past 2-3 years there is alarming trend of getting rid of what is not necessary: like paper brochures, hostesses, and most recently cars (yes, cars, there were hardly any e.g. at the VW's or Merc's stage ) ).

    What the article is missing out a bit, is that car shows need money, and this money comes from selling cars. As the car shows faded in the crisis stricken late 2000s, we are heading toward another crisis, and companies are stockpiling.

    So while they are not that eager to burn 2-3 million euros on a gigantic stage in Frankfurt, they go local and show presence at smaller shows. At Classics there is still a booming market and factories deliver impressive stages to underpin their legends...

      10 months ago
    • You raise some fascinating points, mate.

      Finances definitely come into it too.

        10 months ago