PARIS — At just after 3:30 p.m. on an otherwise lethargic second press day in the 2018 version of the biennial Paris auto show, there was a moment of sheer consternation and much conversation.
Suddenly, the pathways in the overly quiet Hall 1 were impassable. The crowds swelled as a mob moved from one product to the other, just like the good old days of 2012.
No matter where you turned, no one could move ... because the organizers had locked the doors so you couldn't leave. (Yes, every door.)
That's what happens when French President Emmanuel Macron decides to make a well-planned trip to the auto show — a moment that caused more of a stir than almost any introduction here last week.
It was the perfect layer of icing on a sizable, and unique, auto show Paris pastry — one that global show organizers and industry attendees tried desperately to digest last week.
Was this Paris show good? Was it too quiet? Does this mean shows are dead? And why are there suddenly so many people in Hall 1?
(Oh, right, they've padlocked all the doors — from within — for security reasons.)
The arguments around auto show relevance, on either side, were endless last week, and the jury is still very much out.
But this much was clear: Paris was the first auto show of this new season of auto shows.
It was the first show of the Cancellation Era, in which automakers shun large, multimillion-dollar stands in steamy, high-ceiling exhibition halls in favor of private, invite-only locales in the gorgeous European countryside for the launch of a flagship vehicle.
Auto shows aren't dead. But they are forever changed.
And, looking back, Paris will be Exhibit A, with North American and more European shows to follow.
"It needs to make sense from a return perspective because it is a marketing tool," PSA CEO Carlos Tavares said in an interview last week.
"A motor show is a marketing tool as much as a motorsports program, as much as an advertisement on TV, as much as a social media campaign, as much as an advertisement in a newspaper.
"If you want to protect the competitiveness of the motor show as a marketing tool, in competition with other marketing tools within the overall budget of the fixed marketing expense of the brand CEO, you need to improve" the return on investment.
And what about press conferences?
"Less press conferences," Tavares said. "Boring, right? Press conference: eight minutes for the ego of the executives."