Can the Auto Expo become truly global?
The Detroit Motor Show was once the world's largest, most important motor show. More significant than Frankfurt, Geneva and even Paris! With, of course, Detroit being the centre of the world's automotive industry, it was but expected that the complementing motor show would be the largest and most important. It was also probably the reason the Detroit Show was held before any other. It's the first motor show of the year and that the weather could be hell for show goers made no dent on any egos. Detroit opened and was celebrated with a bang and of course, the launches and reveals were the talk of the automotive world. This year, however, Detroit wore a more humble look. The cars weren't so fantastical and everything seemed to be focussed on getting the wheels spinning faster in Detroit.
With the decline of the auto industry in Detroit, the spotlight on it dimmed. In fact, several global manufacturers have done larger, more prestigious reveals and launches at the Los Angeles Motor Show. I was at Detroit this year and the only significant global launch happened to be of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The rest of the launches, several of which made global headlines, weren't in the same league as the E-Class. So yes, while some of Detroit's sparkle seems to be coming back, there is also growing importance being lavished between the Los Angeles and New York shows.
The distinction of being the most important motor show in the world I believe has moved over to the Germans, especially Frankfurt. However, I do sense some shift happening there as well. The most dominant player at the Frankfurt Motor Show is the Volkswagen Group. However, the recent diesel emission scandals have not just left Volkswagen red in the face but also devoid of the clout and respect they enjoyed in the past. The scandal has also raised several questions at the VW alliances, be it Audi, Porsche, Seat or Skoda. All of them enjoyed enormous respect at the European motor shows, now all they do is dole out apologies and suggest make-goods.
Volkswagen's issues and a spate of new launches, model refreshes and upgrades have given rivals Mercedes-Benz a slight edge. However, I suspect the power centre that the Frankfurt Motor Show is, will slowly move elsewhere.
That power centre, I believe, is creeping towards China, where both Shanghai and Beijing are making their best attempts to grow larger and more important. The difference between China and Europe is that the Chinese motor shows have an enormous number of local players. That in itself is a huge number, and as soon as more globally accepted practices come into play (by that I mean no cheap imitations), China could be huge.
In sheer floor space, both Shanghai and Beijing are already touted to be as large as any motor show in the world. This is, of course, a market that's 20 million cars per year strong, so some amount of deference must be dished out to China. Except, no global manufacture has brought a launch or reveal of global significance to either city. I had a feeling that an event of a global magnitude would have happened in these last couple of years, but the Chinese market has been going through a bad phase and that means global attention is again getting diverted elsewhere.
This gives an opportunity to see some action at our very own motor show. But, we haven't scaled those peaks yet. The recent policy issues are a deterrent yet again to most global manufacturers. Neither they nor we can figure out just how is it that policy can change overnight. Consistency and a more positive outlook are key to the Indian automotive industry's growth. Yes, there are issues that need addressing but a clear path needs to be identified to incite change, not a knee-jerk reaction. There is tremendous global interest in India and most manufacturers are very keen to kickstart larger, more exciting programmes. Given the right conditions and the proper economic environment, I can easily see the Auto Expo growing as a motor show of global importance. However, we need to open our doors to the world, with fewer restraints. Right now, it's still very local, probably far more local than even China and it's holding us back!
We're at the India Expo Mart, Greater Noida, reporting live from the most important motor show in the subcontinent. Click here for more updates from the 2016 Auto Expo.
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