Pre-covid the motor show was dying. Then, early into the pandemic, they were declared dead, the co-incidence of Covid-19 hitting full swing in Europe just in time to knock out the Geneva motor show hastening chat of their permanent demise.
Now, post-covid, mid-covid or perhaps at the beginning of the end of covid, depending on your point of view of where we are now, I find myself in Munich on the eve of the IAA Mobility Show, billed - but studiously not referred to - as the reinvention of the motor show.
I’m excited - but anxious. Just holding a show in pandemic conditions is an achievement, but what does a truly successful event look like in the modern era, given the cost and time vs reward analysis was making the motor show's viability look, at best, paper thin before?
The clue to the direction organisers are looking is in the name, of course - goodbye motor, hello mobility - but the fear is that while the intention of regrouping around the path to the future in this period of unprecedented change is spot on, the execution may be altogether too familiar.
For all the talk of a bold new era, all the signs are that the manufacturers look set to once again make this show an arms race, not just in terms of the volume of eye-catching reveals, but with bigger stands, bigger headlines and the same ebulliently job-titled men in suits of varying extravagance making ever-bolder statements.
Don’t get me wrong, these battles can be awesome to watch and thrilling to report on. But all the willy-waving also risks missing the point that the world is changing, and that the manufacturers that hope to thrive into this new era of electrification, connectivity, autonomy and more must bring an engaged and informed audience on the journey with them too.
What am I looking for? Key for me is how the story of change is told, with particular emphasis on painting a vivid, enticing path through the next decade, not only of how car makers will survive and thrive, but how the whole ideology of personal mobility will remain at the heart of society.
New metal can do part of that job, of course, and it's inevitable reveals will dominate the headlines, but it's just as important that the merits of one new car are carefully separated from those of another, especially in the near-term electric marketplace. It's critical too to dispel a growing belief that electric cars are the preserve of the rich; while there's some truth to that argument, car makers must work hard to break any notion that electric vehicles are only for the 'haves' of this world.
The story-telling needs refining, too. Now is a time to think of new ways to express superiority beyond power and torque figures. And, try though they might, the widest bragging rights can surely no longer be won through the volume of 'world premiers' a manufacturer rolls out. Deeper, cleverer thinking is needed to thrive long-term. Wholesale change cannot be embraced by cramming it into the formats of yesteryear.