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Car confidential: Motown show is losing its glitz

Motor shows are the fashion catwalk of the car industry: plenty of preening models, new design trends for the cognoscenti to spot, weird design concepts tried out and – let’s face it – very little relevance to high-street fashion for the Average Joe.

So it comes as no surprise to hear that next month’s Detroit motor show is suffering a crisis of confidence. In the past few weeks, Ferrari, Land Rover, Rolls-Royce, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Suzuki have pulled out of the North American International Auto Show 2009.

Unsurprisingly, all cite budgetary pressures as the reason to cancel. 

In case you hadn’t noticed, the auto industry is on Defcon One – and spending the odd million or three on an international motor show attendance is hardly critical. We’d expect more cutbacks at Detroit and other motor shows around the world throughout 2009.

It’s a cruel irony that the exhibition in Motown’s own back yard is in jeopardy.

The slide in Detroit’s fortunes are well documented: the decline and fall of GM, Ford and Chrysler dominate the business headlines every day and there has been an inexorable shift to the upstart shows in New York and Los Angeles.

Do punters care? Not really. Enthusiasts aside, most of the public don’t give a fig about motor shows and – if they bothered to think about it – I’m sure they’d rather car companies invested the cash in making better cars, rather than talking the talk.

What are the lessons to learn? That even established shows like Detroit – Motown itself – aren’t safe in this new world order.

It’s yet further proof of the inexorable shift in world power from west to east. As shows like Detroit slide into obscurity, the new kids on the block in China and India become more and more relevant.

And what does that say about the survival chances of London 2010?

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