The IAA Mobility Show Tries to Reimagine the Auto Show

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For industry insiders, who account for a big share of visitors, I.A.A. Mobility also featured a Davos-like “summit” that on Wednesday included panel discussions with titles like “Manage Your Electrified Fleet,” “Decarbonizing the Automotive Supply Chain” and “Challenge of the Christian Worldview in the Age of Digitalization.”

Axel Schmidt, the head of the automotive division at the consulting firm Accenture, said he thought that a new format was overdue and that organizers were on the right track. But he wasn’t sure whether it would work.

“I don’t know if this is the beginning of the end, or the beginning of a new era,” Mr. Schmidt said in an interview.

The beginning of the end is a distinct possibility. Many of the vast exhibition halls at the Messe Munich, the city’s fairgrounds, were vacant as companies including Stellantis — the maker of Fiat, Peugeot and Jeep vehicles — declined to rent space.

All carmakers are under financial pressure. A shortage of semiconductors has led to surging car prices, which have deflated sales to well below prepandemic levels. But sales of electric vehicles are rising.

And just as the pandemic has led many people to question their routines and values, it has also prompted auto executives to question traditions as venerable as the car show. The Geneva International Motor Show, once one of the major events on the industry calendar, has not been held since 2019, although organizers have said it will resume next year.

The North American International Auto Show, the most prominent car show in the United States, is also adapting this year, moving from its usual venue in Detroit to M1 Concourse, a racetrack in Pontiac, Mich. The event, called Motor Bella, will offer visitors the chance to ride in high-performance sports cars or bump around an off-road course, as well as view more traditional exhibits by the carmakers.

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