Could motorcycle shows become a thing of the past?

With both BMW and KTM withdrawing from EICMA for 2020, could the alternative platforms become the new future for revealing new motorcycles?

Ducati at EICMA

Though it came as no surprise, this week saw confirmation the 2020 EICMA motorcycle show has indeed been cancelled for this year with organisers confirming it will instead turn attentions to next year's November expo.

While easing lockdown measures are allowing us to adapt to a version of normality - or 'new normal' as it has been termed - it is still difficult to see how a large event in a contained space that attracts thousands of punters and businesses could possibly hope to adhere to safety protocols easily enough.

With the biggest date in the motorcycle calendar now off, attention will now turn to how manufacturers will turn to new initiatives to launch the machinery they are currently working on to get maximum publicity.

With this in mind, could we see motorcycle shows become a thing of the past in a technological age that is currently forcing us all to adapt to a more isolated way of life?

Motorcycle launches set to move to online formats

Even without the coronavirus though, there was already evidence the motorcycle industry was beginning to harness the benefits of a digital age with more manufacturers turning to alternative platforms to assure coverage.

Recently Honda and Suzuki opted for an online presentation to launch new models in Japan in lieu of the cancelled Tokyo and Osaka Motor Shows. Honda even opted to bring in a lively presenter to skip between the exhibits show them off.

In March, the cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show just two weeks before it was due to begin suddenly left automotive manufacturers with new metal to show and nowhere to do it. Instead they moved online, picked a slot that didn’t clash with their rivals and unleashed zip files filled with video, imagery and press releases at a fraction of the cost building and running a stand would command. 

Feedback from enthusiasts and manufacturers – including BMW, which together with KTM had already confirmed it wouldn't attend EICMA in 2020 if it went ahead - suggest the format was a success and it could therefore pave the way for it to become the norm in that industry too. 

Indeed, back in October Ducati took the initiative to reveal its 2020 models in a live presentation before heading to EICMA, giving itself almost no competition for column inches in the process.

Is there still a place for shows like EICMA?

Yes… but perhaps not in the format it is now. There is more to EICMA than simply showing off new models.

Even on the trade days prior to EICMA opening to the public, the place is absolutely heaving with industry bods, whether it’s people trying to make deals, source contacts and forge new relationships. For some of the smaller supply companies, it’s the best chance to bring the industry into one place.

While the current timeframe to get something ready for November was the justification for KTM’s withdrawal, it says it would consider attending if the event is shifted to a 2021 date.

Regardless, as manufacturers are forced to adapt to the current climate, it seems increasingly likely they could find the alternative means have benefits that outweigh the drawbacks…