Why the Brussels Motor Show isn’t dead – Axon’s Automotive Anorak

14th February 2020
Gary Axon

In recent times much has been discussed about the decline of the traditional in-door motor show. The days of car makers carefully planning to unveil their latest new models at a static motor show with elaborate set dressing, dancing girls and expensive stands are now just distant memories.


Long-established and once popular traditional motor shows like the Turin exhibition and the RAI in Amsterdam have been consigned to the history books for some time now, with other world renowned static in-door exhibitions such as the annual Detroit Auto Show changing its date (from winter to summer) and format with more experiential attractions to ensure its survival. Despite this, a number of large manufactures such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz have withdrawn from exhibiting at the revised-format 2020 Detroit Show this summer.

One of the most important and celebrated of all global motor shows – early March’s once prestigious annual Geneva Salon – will see a record number of manufacturers withdrawing from exhibiting at the event, including the extensive PSA Groupe (Peugeot, Citroën, Opel-Vauxhall, et al.). plus BMW, Subaru, Mini, Lamborghini and numerous others. It will be a similar story at the 120th edition of the Paris Salon in October, with big brands such as Ford, Fiat and Opel being absent from the vast Porte de Versailles exhibition halls. After 70 years at the same venue, the bi-annual IAA Frankfurt Motor Show’s future is also currently under review and threat, with the event potentially being relocated to either Berlin, Munich or Hamburg for 2021 onwards.  

A refreshing exception to this declining trend in traditional, static motor shows with diminishing car brand support is the now-annual Brussels Auto Salon, which ended its successful two-week run late last month, with a record attendance exceeding 550,000 visitors.


Every mainstream new car maker was present at the Brussels show, with all prestige and exotic marques exhibiting as well, with the exception of McLaren.

The Brussel Salon enjoyed a record number of world and European debuts, including the first public sighting of new Nissan Juke, revised Jaguar F-Type and Opel-Vauxhall Insignia, the Audi e-tron Sportback, BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe and M2 CS, Mazda MX-30, plus many more.

The stylish Dream Cars hall – dedicated to prestige and exotic cars – saw the world premieres of the French Genty Akylone supercar, the production Aston Martin DBX and the wild Krugger FD; a crazy single-seater W12-powered ‘special’, built locally in Belgium for a wealthy client.  

Whilst other traditional motor shows are floundering and resorting to increasingly disparate alternatives to attract visitors (October’s Paris Salon will link-up with the famous Fashion Week during the Show to hunt for more interest, for example), the Brussels show goes from strength-to-strength. So why exactly, and what is the secret to this motor show’s success in the Belgian capital?


Sure, like many other events, the Belgian show has had to adapt in recent years to embrace zero-emission vehicles, future technology and more interactive experiential attractions to remain fresh and relevant.

Fundamentally though, the secret to the Brussels Salon’s success is that the exhibition is a selling show; a giant new car showroom where visitors can not only admire the latest new cars and motorcycles on display, but also actually place an order for the new vehicle of their choice.

During the two weeks of the Brussels Auto Salon (to give the show its full title), all of the exhibiting car makers apply special preferential offers and discounts to tempt new car buyers, like an extended Black Friday, to create a noticeable peak in Belgian new car sales that last throughout the first quarter of the year.


Money off, extra equipment and tailored low-rate finance offers available uniquely to Auto Salon visitors tempt Belgian buyers to get a printed preferential offer quote at the Show, which is typically valid for around three months. Would-be buyers take this printed offer along to their local new car showroom and receive extra incentives over and above the ‘regular’ deal that the dealer would offer them anyway. This is the reason why the Brussels Salon bucks the trend and continues to thrive in a tough climate.

That the Salon is also a great, spacious and entertaining motor show in its own right is a bonus, consistently offering visitors plenty to see, with the increasingly rare opportunity to inspect virtually every new car available on the market all under one roof in a few hours. Where else can you do this now?

Images by the photography wizard Gary Axon.

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