- Audi, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, is skipping the 2019 North American International Auto Show held in Detroit in January, Automotive News reported. Volkswagen still plans to attend the 2019 auto show, the publication said. Audi plans to be at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, but then choose shows on a case-by-case or product-cycle basis going forward.
- BMW and Mercedes-Benz, two of Audi's rivals, have also announced that they will not attend the Detroit Auto Show. In past years, automakers including Mazda, Mini, Volvo, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Jaguar and Land Rover have not attended because of high costs and plans to redistribute their marketing budgets.
- Decisions like Audi's underpin how costly, crowded trade shows are losing relevance in the digital age when it's easier for carmakers to meet customers with content directly on social media and other channels, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. Crain's cited an example from last year where BMW unveiled a new car model in a video game before taking it on the traditional promotional circuit. The Detroit show and its kin also face greater competition from less traditional shows like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is focused broadly on technology, per Crain's.
Audi's pulling out of the Detroit Auto Show depicts, in miniature, how legacy marketing institutions are struggling to keep an edge in an age where offering personalized, relevant content is easier than ever for brands and demands far fewer gatekeepers. While the news is specific to the automotive space, its a sentiment felt across the marketing industry, where more players are beginning to question the value of what are often incredibly costly live events that have more limited reach than, say, live-streaming on a platform like YouTube or Instagram.
It's also a trend that's emerged as more car companies try to remake themselves as technology companies amid an increasing demand for modernized and mobile-ready vehicle fleets and also newer offerings like self-driving cars — hence the surge in interest for CES. At the Las Vegas show this year, Toyota unveiled the e-Palette, a glassed-in, self-driving vehicle that could be used by companies — early partners include Uber, Amazon and Pizza Hut — to make deliveries or provide other services. Ford also announced a pilot program with delivery company Postmates to explore how self-driving cars can help retailers and restaurants.
Such disruptions hitting the auto industry now are unsurprising. U.S. car sales dropped 1.8% in 2017, the first slip since 2009, according to Autodata numbers cited in CNN Money. Marketers are looking to lure younger, more tech-savvy consumers like millennials, in particular, who are buying fewer cars than previous generations.