DETROIT -- Car companies continue to cut back on auto show expenses, such as theatrical displays and parties, but some plan revamped exhibits around new technology and supplier innovations.
Having already cut exhibition costs by about 50 percent, carmakers with displays at the auto show are spending roughly the same amount as for the 2009 show, said John Wakely, director of event services at suburban Detroit marketing company EEI Global Inc.
The company, which designs and installs exhibits for clients that include BMW and Tesla Motors, has been tasked with keeping to tight budgets.
Much of the savings come from less extravagant materials and structures, but companies are also designing exhibits that require less setup. EEI started installing the BMW exhibit just after Thanksgiving -- a month later than it started three years ago.
On top of that, clients are no longer swapping out their exhibits between the press preview and the public show, Wakely said.
“Now they're designing a booth so it works equally as well for both press and public,” he said. “They've economized quite a bit in that respect.”
Some companies, such as Mitsubishi, haven't committed to formal exhibits, but Doug Fox, chairman of the 2010 Detroit auto show, said they might have a presence at the event.
Nissan, a no-show for 2009, recently signed up to present its Leaf electric car at the Electric Avenue exhibit on the main floor. Mitsubishi, which is touting its MiEV line of electric vehicles, would also fit well into that space, Fox said.
Electric Avenue is planned as a 37,000-square-foot main-floor exhibit with around 20 vehicles from all-electric vehicle makers such as Shenzhen, China-based BYD Auto; San Jose, Calif.-based Green Vehicles Inc.; and Spokane, Wash.-based Commuter Cars Corp., maker of the Tango, an electric two-seat car priced near $150,000 depending on components.
Commuter Cars, a first-timer at the Detroit show, hopes to find investors and customers at the show.
“It's tough in the high-end market,” said Rick Woodbury, the company's president. “I'd love to get 10 to 25 new orders in Detroit.”
Electric Avenue is sponsored by Dow Chemical Co.
Dow Kokam L.L.C., a joint venture between Dow and South Korea-based battery maker Kokam Engineering Co. Ltd., recently received federal money to develop new lithium ion battery technology for automobiles.
Show and tell for Michigan
Also planned for the 2010 show is a spotlight on Michigan's role in green cars.
For the second year, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. plans an EcoXperience exhibit in Michigan Hall in Cobo's basement, Fox said. The expanded EcoXperience will feature more electric and hybrid automobiles. Plus, attendees will be able to ride the environmentally friendly cars around a quarter-mile track, surrounded by living Michigan-grown vegetation.
“We're showcasing to the world and the international media that Michigan is moving in the direction of electrification of the vehicle, as are our manufacturers and suppliers,” said Lisa Dancsok, vice president of marketing and communications for the MEDC.
GM, Chrysler, Ford, Mitsubishi, Global Electric Motorcars, Myers Motors and Roush all featured cars at the 2009 exhibit. Announcements have not yet been made for the cars to be included at the 2010 exhibit.
An addition to the EcoXperience in 2010, “The MEDC Alternative Energy Showcase” will feature displays and presentations by 10 alternative-energy suppliers, including Dow Kokam, A123 Systems, Johnson Controls-Saft, DTE Energy and Sakti3.
“Everything has to be re-engineered for these cars,” Fox said.
Approximately 50,000 attendees are expected for the EcoXperience.