LOS ANGELES, Nov 18 (Reuters) - What a difference two years
make. The 2019 Los Angeles auto show featured a parade of
vehicle debuts, a flurry of press conferences and other events
in the opening two days, along with hundreds of thousands of
people eager to see new cars.
Fast forward to 2021, with Los Angeles the first major U.S.
auto show since the start of the pandemic. The Los Angeles Auto
Show kicked off on Wednesday with a single day of press events,
and while crowds are expected, they are likely to be much
smaller, and some automakers are even skipping the show.
The show illustrates how the pandemic has accelerated
automakers' shift toward the online world, as consumers buy more
vehicles on the internet.
Honda and BMW both skipped the show in
favor of separate, earlier events. Honda showed off a
reincarnation of its iconic Integra prototype sedan.
"That was an event that was exclusively ours. We find that
we don't have to compete like you do on the press days of an
auto show to get the attention," Honda executive vice president
Dave Gardner told Reuters on a Zoom interview.
Korean automaker Kia expressed a similar view.
"The pandemic has taught us that we can work differently.
... There will be auto shows still in the future, but there'll
be also different types of presentations," Karim Habib, head of
Kia Design Center, told Reuters at the show.
Kia and affiliate Hyundai Motor were among the few
automakers that debuted electric SUV concepts at the show,
showcasing their large sport electric vehicles, and flying in
executives, including chief executives, from their Seoul
headquarters to Los Angeles.
"Auto shows used to be very, very popular for automakers to
make a big media splash. That has changed with social media and
with other forms of access to the media by consumers," Brett
Smith, technology director at Center for Automotive Research,
said. "I think the pandemic was maybe the last straw in this."
The LA Auto Show will open to the public for 10 days
"The online reservations have not been as strong as 2019,
but strong enough that we believe we're going to have a great
year," David Fortin, head of consumer marketing at Los Angeles
Auto Show, told Reuters. "There's still no way, I think, to
capture that kind of moment outside of an auto show."
Smaller companies see a positive side to the changes.
"I don't mind if somebody doesn't show up here. It gives
more attention to us," Henrik Fisker, CEO of electric vehicle
startup Fisker, told Reuters.
He said his Ocean SUV is a "sexy sports car" best seen in
person. "I know I'm zoomed out. I don't think I enjoy any more
sitting just looking at computers and pictures. I want to see
the real stuff," Fisker said.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Peter Henderson and