Automakers Choosing Galleries, Fashion Shows Over Auto Shows

Enthusiasts can see cars close and personal at auto shows. But now, automakers are looking for opportunities to reach a new group of shoppers in different settings. Automakers have been getting creative, stepping into more artistic pursuits to introduce shoppers to new cars — and we’re not just talking about the latest Marvel movies. We took a look at 2018 to see what new avenues automakers are exploring to introduce us to their cars.

Music festivals — or more specifically, sponsored stages at music festivals — have become a great way for us to learn about an automaker in a low-stakes setting. Acura, Honda, and Toyota have done this for several years, sponsoring the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Los Dells Music Festival, and The Austin City Limits Music Festival, respectively.

But this type of partnership does have its limits — namely that once you’ve learned about a brand, you can’t interact with its cars. Honda set out to change that — it featured a one-of-a-kind Civic at the Austin City Limits festival this year, with designs from Steffi Lynn, an Austin native and artist, drawn atop the car.

If you’re not a concert-goer, you may also have seen automakers at tech conferences. The move makes sense: If a technology conference is discussing the future of cars, why not give attendees a firsthand experience with the tech? Mercedes did just that, going to South by Southwest in Austin. It was part of the “Intelligent Future Track” panel, discussing the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in its cars. The Concept EQ was just outside to let attendees experience the AI they just heard discussed.

Don’t be surprised if, when going to a museum exhibit, you see automakers there as well. Some, like Los Angeles’s Petersen Automotive Museum, feel like a natural fit. That’s where you can find an exhibit from Douglas Sonders, a prominent fashion photographer. He turned his camera to the new Volkswagen Arteon; the photos would look right at home in a magazine. Another way to see automakers in museums is through commissions or sponsorships, much like the stages at music festivals. Hyundai took this understated approach, commissioning the work of Cuban artist Tania Brugera at the Tate Modern. (This is the eleventh year that the automaker partnered with the Tate Modern.)

BMW took this one step further with its partnership with Frieze London. Taking place over several days, this event featured exhibitions from 160 galleries in Regent’s Park, London. BMW hosted a talk with one of the artists, created a lounge area for attendees to relax, and showcased work from its Open Work commission. This partnership is part of BMW’s cultural commitment — and it certainly doesn’t hurt if we continue to associate the brand with artistry.

Other automakers have taken quirkier measures in order to showcase their vehicles. Kia teamed together with Brandon Maxwell, a Texas-based fashion designer, to showcase the 2020 Telluride at New York Fashion Week. It was uncharted territory — and we don’t even know how they got the car on the catwalk — but the company’s ingenuity ensured that it caught attention. When we first mentioned it on our Facebook page, our users had a range of reactions. Some loved it, some were aghast.

Similarly, Toyota showcased the capability of its trucks by taking them on a dinosaur dig. Points for creativity, Toyota.

Where will automakers turn their attention next?

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