Are Auto Show Press Conferences Still Important?


I won’t deny that an auto show is important. Chicago, for example, is the largest consumer-visited show in the country. People go to auto shows for a variety of reasons, and even the smaller shows have some great attendance numbers. Cleveland and Houston are prime examples of that.

But what about the media days? Before the official start of the big auto shows, automakers are joined by the automotive media and cars are revealed. Usually these are grandiose events. For the longest time they were a big deal. But are they still a big deal? Are they even necessary?

Making news during this auto show was a decision by Ford to have an off-site, embargoed backgrounder at their campus in Dearborn. This was to be held during the middle of the day on the only real media day of the show. These journalists, if they chose to attend, would be missing several press conferences during the show.

There was, predictably, backlash. The event was moved to Tuesday.

If you even took the Ford event out of the story, the 2017 North American International Auto Show was pretty light on the news this year. Sure, cars like the redesigned Camry and all-new Stinger GT are important and newsworthy, but the show wasn’t like some of the shows of the past.

Interestingly, there was just as much news on the days surrounding the show than the media day itself. Ford revealed the 2018 Ford F-150 to America as they watched the football games. Dodge announced the upcoming Challenger SRT Demon several days after the show.

Apple used to attend trade shows the way that automakers now attend auto shows. Then they realized something important; if they held their own events they’d get more media coverage and could completely control the message.

Why would I, as someone looking to make news, want to share the news cycle with all the other auto makers making news during a show? When Ford revealed the 2015 Mustang at a solo event in December, it was all that was talked about until just before the auto show in January.

If you’re going to play in the auto show media day sandbox, I agree you need to be respectful to everyone else and their time, but what’s stopping an OEM from flying in some journalists and having a private event? I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of that in the future.

Of course, that leaves out the little guy. If you’re just getting started in automotive media, you likely wouldn’t be on that list to attend the special event. Getting access to an auto show is far easier than it is to get on an invite list. Heck, the auto shows are HOW many auto writers get their start and then eventually get on the press lists. It ultimately would be a shame to see that access go away.

What do you all think?

Chad Kirchner
the authorChad Kirchner
In addition to Chad Kirchner's work here, he's a freelance automotive journalist for outlets around the world.

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