BMW and KTM AG announced this week they will not be taking part in the industry’s two largest motorcycle shows due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Intermot, in Cologne, Germany, and EICMA in Milan, Italy, are still months away, but the two European companies say there’s too much uncertainty to properly plan for the trade shows.
Having two of Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacturers pulling out is a big blow to the two shows, especially for the biennial Intermot Show, seeing as BMW is the marquee German brand and KTM hails from a close neighbor in Austria. BMW and KTM (along with its sub-brands Husqvarna and GasGas) may not be the only manufacturers to withdraw either, as other brands are no doubt considering their options.
As KTM puts it: “The proper planning of such events is currently at risk due to the uncertainty surrounding public gathering restrictions in most countries. The annual success of these indoor shows also sees hundreds of thousands of visitors gathering in enclosed spaces for a period lasting days and even weeks. For these reasons, KTM AG have identified their exclusion as way to contribute towards a safe and strong return to normal activity.”
The question, then, becomes whether the two shows should be held at all. Italy, in particular, has been hit hard by COVID-19, and the last thing officials want is to have a large international gathering converging in Milan, even if the show’s not until November. Germany hasn’t had as many coronavirus-related deaths, thanks in part to widespread testing and a crackdown on public gatherings, but it’s hard to see restrictions lifting enough to hold a show as large as Intermot. Just look at the photo above, from the 2018 Intermot show. Not exactly the poster for social distancing, is it?
The pandemic has already forced the cancellation of the 2020 North American International Auto Show (a.k.a. the Detroit Auto Show) in June. The New York Auto Show has been moved from April to August, but considering its venue is currently serving as a makeshift hospital, that date seems optimistic. The motorcycle shows are held in the fall, but can we realistically expect manufacturers to be ready by then, with production halted and people working from home?
While BMW has only announced its withdrawal from the two big shows, KTM says it will not take part in any trade shows at all for the rest of the year, instead asking organizers to move their events to 2021.
“Trade shows are key business milestones for the entire motorcycle industry but given the situation, public health and the welfare of our staff are higher priorities over the coming months,” says Hubert Trunkenpolz, KTM’s chief marketing officer. “We have taken this course of action with a great deal of thought and, as a company, KTM AG would be pleased and interested if show promoters, EICMA in particular, would consider moving dates to 2021, where we hope and expect the situation to be settled and back to normal.”
BMW, meanwhile, says it will hold its own product premieres in the fall via its digital channels, much like it did for the R18 launch today but on a larger scale. This isn’t entirely surprising, as in recent years, BMW has been launching some of its new products, like the ShiftCam R1250 models in 2018, ahead of the fall shows. An online launch event makes a lot of sense, especially when you remember that, as large as Intermot and EICMA are, only a small percentage of the motorcycle market actually attends the shows in person.
Ironically, Intermot has already been preparing for a strong online presence this year, announcing a new live-streamed presentation with manufacturers sharing the same stage instead of having their own launch events scattered around the show. The new Stage X platform was to include a large LED wall, a linked catwalk with a rotating turntable and set up for live streaming. According to Intermot organizers, BMW, Triumph and Honda had already confirmed they would be part of the show, and others were expected to join in. That may all be in jeopardy now, as manufacturers continue to withdraw or hold their own online presentations.
BMW and KTM may be the first manufacturers to pull out of the motorcycle shows, but it’s likely a matter of time before the organizers of Intermot and EICMA cancel or reschedule their shows this year. We will provide further updates as the situation progresses.