The Decline of Trade Shows in the Car Business: A Shift from Education to Entertainment and its Consequences

Trade shows have long been a staple in the car business, providing opportunities for vendors, dealerships, and industry professionals to network, learn, and stay updated on the latest trends. However, many argue that trade shows have transformed into social gatherings, focused more on wining and dining dealership staff than offering valuable insights and growth opportunities. With 23 years of experience as a vendor in the car business, I’ve witnessed this firsthand and would like to share my thoughts and observations.

While I understand the appeal of social gatherings, I must emphasize that many vendors hosting these events have ulterior motives. Their primary intention is to extract money from your pockets rather than genuinely fostering connections or sharing valuable insights. Although some may consider my perspective to be less exciting, my primary focus remains on selling cars and driving business success, not on attending social gatherings with dubious intentions.

The Shift in Speaking Engagements:

A significant change in trade shows is the nature of speaking engagements. Once informative and unbiased, these presentations now favor the highest bidder. The biggest spenders at the trade show often secure the most sought-after time slots, while smaller vendors are relegated to back rooms with sparse attendance.

Moreover, the content of these speaking engagements has deteriorated. Presentations often resemble thinly veiled sales pitches, promoting the speaker’s own product instead of offering valuable information or recommending the best solutions for dealerships. This shift has eroded trust and diminished the overall value of these events.

The Social Extravaganza:

The increasing number of parties, dinners, and shows at trade shows has turned these events into social extravaganzas, where learning is eclipsed by entertainment. Dealership staff are frequently invited to these events, which can lead them to forget the original purpose of attending the trade show. The emphasis on entertainment and networking can undermine the potential for knowledge transfer and skill development.

In my opinion, parties and dinners should be banned, and only dealership owners should be allowed to attend any after-show gatherings. This would help refocus the attention of dealership staff on learning and ensure that the money spent on these events benefits the dealership.

The Lack of Innovation and Learning:

Year after year, trade shows in the car business seem to feature the same vendors offering the same information as in previous events. The lack of innovation and learning is disheartening and has contributed to the car business lagging behind in technology. Despite being a massive industry with significant profit and revenue, the car business has access to some of the worst software of any industry. One would expect this sector to be a technology leader rather than a straggler.

report by McKinsey & Company stresses the importance of innovation and technological advancement for the automotive industry’s future. The decline in trade show quality and the lack of innovation may have long-term consequences for the industry if not addressed.

The transformation of trade shows in the car business from educational events to social gatherings raises concerns about their value and purpose. By reassessing the role of speaking engagements and social activities and re-emphasizing the importance of innovation and learning, we can work towards restoring the integrity and value of these events for both vendors and dealerships. Research and studies conducted on trade shows support the need for a renewed focus on education, innovation, and technology to ensure the continued growth and success of the car industry.

Recommendations for Improvement:

To improve the quality and value of trade shows in the car business, a few recommendations can be considered:

1. Establish clear guidelines for speaking engagements: Trade show organizers should prioritize offering informative, unbiased, and educational presentations. This can be achieved by creating guidelines that emphasize content quality and discourage sales pitches disguised as presentations.

2. Encourage innovation and technology showcase: Trade show organizers should focus on attracting new and innovative companies to exhibit their products and services. This would help expose dealerships to cutting-edge technology and solutions that can benefit their businesses.

3. Implement stricter rules for after-show events: Limiting after-show events to dealership owners can help maintain focus on learning and networking. This will ensure that the money spent on these events is utilized effectively and contributes to the growth and success of the dealerships.

4. Encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing: Facilitating knowledge-sharing sessions and workshops can foster collaboration among industry professionals, promoting the exchange of ideas and best practices that can drive the industry forward.

5. Evaluate trade show effectiveness: Regular evaluations and feedback from attendees can help trade show organizers identify areas for improvement and ensure that the events remain valuable and relevant for all participants.This only works if the parties are limited. Of course the dealership’s staff will say it was fantastic if all they did was party and drink booze the entire event.

By implementing these recommendations, we can work towards restoring the integrity and value of trade shows in the car business, ensuring that they provide real benefits to both vendors and dealerships. This renewed focus on education, innovation, and technology will help to ensure the continued growth and success of the automotive industry.

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Jason Girdner
Jason Girdner

Jason Girdner is a visionary entrepreneur and the driving force behind TECOBI, a pioneering automotive advertising technology company renowned for its innovative approach to dealership marketing and sales. With a rich background in automotive sales and a deep passion for technology, Jason co-founded TECOBI to address the evolving communication preferences in the automotive industry, particularly the shift towards text messaging as a primary communication channel.

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