There’s little about Californian automaker Tesla Motors which could be considered conventional. Focused on building fast, safe, and high-tech electric cars, it has made something of a name for itself in recent years by ignoring the conventions of the automotive industry and doing things its own special way.
It doesn’t use franchised dealerships to sell its cars. Its design cycles are influenced more by software than hardware. And rather than wait until a new model year to bring a new feature to market, it rolls out new features and technology as and when they’re ready.
Now Tesla is shunning another big automotive industry tradition: the auto show. And it’s doing so by shunning the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this coming January, the largest and probably most influential auto show in the U.S.
The reason? As Automotive News (subscription required) explained yesterday, a North American International Auto Show spokesperson claims that Tesla decided to drop out of exhibiting in Detroit because the timing of the show did not coincide with any new vehicles being planned by the brand. Indeed, with the Tesla Model S now an established brand and the Tesla Model X production already ramping up following its production debut in September, Tesla has more important things on its schedule.
These include finishing the Tesla Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada, accelerating development of its autopilot autonomous driving features for customers of the Model S and Model X electric cars, and of course, readying the highly-anticipated Model 3 electric car for its planned spring debut at a special Tesla event, the date for which has yet to be fixed.
With sales of its Model S and Model X continuing an upward trend and money still tight, it makes sense for Tesla not to put in an appearance.
Of course, there are perhaps other reasons why Tesla decided not to attend. Last year, as Automotive News reminds us, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a new law backed by the auto dealer industry which banned automakers from carrying out direct sales to customers in the state.
That law, backed by some of Detroit’s biggest automakers, essentially makes it impossible for Tesla to own and operate Tesla Stores, where customers can come in and find out about Tesla, book a test-drive and place an order.
Instead, would-be customers have to attend a Tesla-themed gallery instead, where staff are allowed to talk with customers about the generalities of owning an electric car, but are not allowed to offer customers any specific advice on buying a brand-new Tesla, cannot take payment or reservations or even book in a customers’ car for service.
But it’s not just Tesla dropping out of a position at the North American International Auto Show this year. British brand Jaguar Land Rover is also shunning the massive event, as is BMW’s MINI brand. Like Tesla, neither brand have new vehicles to show and have instead decided to focus on other shows and events instead.
Ten years ago missing a show like NAIAS would have been considered a major omission on the part of the automaker deciding not to attend. But in recent years, automotive shows have lost a lot of their appeal as automakers turn their attention to other methods of announcing and unveiling products.
Indeed, just a few days before NAIAS, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — a show which has dramatically increased in size in recent years — has become the go-to place for automakers looking to demonstrate their latest in-car technology or automotive. For publications like Transport Evolved, CES is actually the better show to go to, since it provides more content of interest to tech-savvy readers who are interested in autonomous drive and alternative fuels than traditional auto shows, which is why we’re going to CES in January rather than NAIAS.
It’s not just us however. As cars become more about the technology inside the car rather than what’s under the hood, we think there’s going to be a relentless march of automakers ditching traditional auto shows in favor of gadget ones. But which brands will be next? And will Tesla lose out by not being in Detroit?
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