It is not until Friday that the Febiac will confirm the holding of the high mass of the automobile in Brussels… or announce its cancellation. But worrying signals do not encourage optimism.
AWith half a million visitors in January 2020, it is the most popular event in Belgium, all categories combined. However, the Auto Show risks being canceled again next January, after a deprogramming at the beginning of this year due to covid. At least that’s what several media suggest, including L’Echo and Free. Indeed, on the basis of their information, two heavyweights in the automotive sector could give up participating in the event, which would collapse like a house of cards. D’Ieteren, importer of brands from the VW group (Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Seat, etc.) would have thrown in the towel. And Stellantis (Peugeot, Citroën, Ope, Fiat, etc.) would consider doing the same. But together, these two giants represent half of the sector.
Contacted by The evening, D’Ieteren refuses to deny or confirm this information, leaving to Febiac, the Belgian federation of car manufacturers and organizer of the Show, the task of communicating itself “the global list of brands that will or will not be present” to the annual car high mass at the Heysel. For its part, Stellantis is content to declare: “We are currently working on this file”. It is therefore not known at this stage whether the group led by Carlos Tavares and weighing nearly 20% of the market will or will not be among the exhibitors at the Show.
In the water the flagship event of the car? To assert it “is very premature”, reacts Christophe Dubon, spokesperson for Febiac. “We are waiting until midday Friday before communicating. We do not comment on information published in the press which may relate to the strategy of some of our members. We are not necessarily worried. At least not as much as the press suggests ”. However, Febiac wants “the Show to be representative of the market. It must therefore bring together at least two thirds of the auto brands. It all depends on the interest that our members will show in our event. At this point, only Volvo has officially declared in June to give up participating. There remains the sanitary situation … “If the Show takes place, it will have to comply with the same covid protocol as that of shopping centers”, specifies Febiac.
But make no mistake: if the uncertainty weighs on the Brussels Motor Show, it is not only because of the health constraints which have enough to slow down such a mass event. With the covid crisis, manufacturers are experiencing serious disappointments mainly related to the shortage of semiconductors. They are struggling to meet demand, despite growing order books compared to last year, causing them to miss sales of new vehicles. In recent months, the number of new registrations has plummeted, while the opportunity is in great shape.
In addition, the health crisis accentuates the turbulence that the automotive market is going through, promised electrification but deprived of a clear and global vision of what the public authorities want in terms of electromobility. We think of the fiscal uncertainty that weighs on battery cars and the vagueness of charging networks. In this context, manufacturers are sailing on sight and are prudent in their spending, in particular by reconsidering their participation in large and expensive shows, especially as consumers are more wait-and-see than ever regarding the very costly renewal of their vehicle.