The Frankfurt auto show is doomed. It's hard to come to any other conclusion after the number of visitors to this year's event fell by nearly a third.
The absence of brands including Toyota, Renault, Peugeot, Nissan, Fiat and Ferrari was a serious blow for the VDA, Germany's auto industry association. On top of that, thousands of climate activists protested outside the entrance, highlighting the simmering tensions between the German car industry and the country's environmentalists.
There were 560,000 visitors to this year's show, according to the VDA. That compares with 810,000 when the biennial event was last held, in 2017.
Auto shows from Detroit to Paris are suffering declining interest as car companies focus their marketing efforts on livestreamed, standalone product debuts, but Frankfurt was also unlucky this year because the global climate strike led by Sweden's young activist Greta Thunberg happened on the final Friday of the show.
Remarking on the numbers of automakers that skipped the event, the decline in floor space rented and less ambitious stands, former Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann tweeted that this year's show was a "huge fail" and "a sad shadow of what it used to be." He predicted that there will not be a 2021 show.
In a statement, VDA President Bernhard Mattes said the association was very satisfied with the public interest in the show, saying the event attained "new dimensions" in videos on social media. "In the digital age, what counts is no longer solely the number of square meters covered, but relevance," he said.
Mattes said the association plans to rejuvenate the show by giving it more of a theme park feeling and taking the concept of mobility into the city to engage people in their daily lives.
German media said a decision on the format and location will be made in the spring. Berlin, with its young, tech-savvy population of 3.75 million and numerous mobility startups, could be the host for the next show, the Bild newspaper said.
That's assuming there is a show in two years.