To Edmunds.com analyst Ivan Drury, Saab's exhibit at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit was a perfect example of how automakers are being more prudent about participating in the big shows
Saab's tactic was to be at the big Detroit show, without being at the big Detroit show: The company wasn't an official exhibitor at the NAIAS show. Instead, it set up a tent outside the show, across the street from the Cobo Center.
I remember, Saab didn't go into the auto show itself, but set up a stand outside, Drury told the International Business Times in a phone interview Thursday. It was interesting how they were trying to latch on to the prestige of having their vehicles in the show, but also trying to save money.
Although Saab was under considerable financial strain -- it had been fighting insolvency through 2011 before filing for bankruptcy Dec. 19 -- other companies have also been more selective about participating in shows.
This year, British brands Jaguar and Land Rover, both owned by Indian conglomerate Tata Motors, said they would both skip the Detroit Auto Show in favor of the Auto Expo in New Delhi, India. Both events are being held in January.
To analysts, the dropout means the Detroit Auto Show will take a bit of a hit, especially in a global sense, because it loses out on two international players. For automakers, the move appears to be in line with recent trends, as they target markets where they can make the biggest impact.
If you look at years prior, it would be pretty much unheard of, Drury said. In recent years, automakers have been watching their budgets a lot closer. They're paying more attention to which shows to attend and which not to attend.
For Jaguar and Land Rover, New Delhi is the choice of destination for several reasons.
Firstly, the expo in New Delhi and the Detroit Auto Show conflict in their timing. The show in Detroit begins Jan. 9, and the expo starts two days earlier.
Secondly, Jaguar and Land Rover already introduced their Jaguar C-X16 and Land Rover DC100 concept vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show just a month ago, in November.
Thirdly, there is a bigger opportunity to expand in the growing Indian market versus the U.S. market, especially if it's on home turf.
It is one of the economies that is picking up, Drury said of the Indian auto market. It makes sense that they would opt out of Detroit's show. It makes sense for an Indian company to focus more over there.
Smaller, niche-marketed automakers will be the most likely to follow Jaguar and Land Rover's leads, such as Mitsubishi and Suzuki, Drury said. For larger automakers constantly competing with one another for a bigger market share, it's more of a risk. Nissan, in fact, will return to exhibit in Detroit after a two-year absence.
For automakers with niche stuff, it's about who buys cars in the area, Drury said. And, is that area really picking up in sales? If you're focusing on a market that's expanding, that's the way to go. But in a flat or contracting market, it's not an effective way to spend advertising dollars.