By the time you read this, the 2020 Bangkok International Motor Show has been going on for a few days now. But this year's running of the show is perhaps the most significant it's ever been. It's not because of the cars launched, but rather, because of what's happening right now.
BIMS 2020 is the first international auto show to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic and to say the organizers made a brave choice is an understatement. We could say that Thailand handled the crises rather well, as daily cases (at the time of writing) are in the single digits. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why the show pushed through. Nonetheless, a risk is a risk, and holding an event of this magnitude is unprecedented in the time of a global health crisis.
So, did the organizers make the right call by pushing through?
But first, let's talk about how they made the show as safe as possible for the show attendees. As we've mentioned before, temperature checks are conducted before entering the Impact Challenger Exhibition Hall where the event takes place. Everyone within the venue must also wear a mask and constant disinfection at the show is a must too. For those who want a more personal experience with the car, they must sanitize their hands before entering any vehicle.
Social distancing protocols must be followed at all times, and the organizers made that easier by spacing out each booth further apart. As for the exhibitors, they have been instructed to wear a face shield on top of a face mask when interacting with visitors. So there's temperature scanners, social distancing rules, PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) for exhibitors (Miss Motor Shows and brand models included), and the requirement of masks at the show.
From the photos we've been seeing so far, visitors and organizers have been following the rules set in place. There are also marshalls touring around the venue to make sure to keep attendees keep distance as well. The show is ongoing at the moment, so we won't know just how many people go to the show day by day. That said, we're expecting lower attendees from the previous shows. After all, there is a degree of fear and caution since the pandemic isn't easing up, at least outside of Thailand.
But the fact that people are still going is saying something. No virus will stop some people from looking at cars in person. The thing is, nothing can replicate the full motor show experience, and events like these are a sensory experience. Sure, there are “virtual motor shows” around, but as they say, there's nothing like the real thing. That's a sentiment we and Tradeshow International president, Sophie Delos Santos, share. Tradeshow International is behind some of the biggest auto shows in the country, namely the Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS), Trans Sport Show (TSS), and the Manila Auto Salon (MAS).
It's reassuring that there are rules, precautions, and protocols in place. People are also going to the show despite the lingering virus threat. So what does the BIMS 2020 have to offer? If you must know, there are 27 new cars and 12 motorcycles that made their Thai or ASEAN premieres.
If there's one thing we noticed with the launches at BIMS 2020, it's that most of the cars that debuted have been digitally revealed. Could it be that these models were supposed to be launched earlier but the postponement pushed forced the manufacturers to take the online route? We don't know for sure but it's a possibility.
The headline cars of the show came from Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, MG, and Nissan. From Toyota, it's the Corolla Cross, while Honda held the ASEAN debut of the facelifted CR-V in Bangkok. Mitsubishi showed the Pajero Sport Elite Edition, MG premiered the new-look ZS, and Nissan displayed the Kicks e-Power. All these models were premiered before the show but, curiously, Honda launched the updated CR-V a day before the event.
Other highlights? There's the Suzuki XL7, Peugeot 2008, and the Subaru Forester GT Edition from mainstream manufacturers. Isuzu and Toyota also displayed extreme versions of their pick-up trucks, the D-Max and Hilux, respectively.
BIMS went big on luxury this year as well, the Aston Martin DBX made its ASEAN debut, their first SUV. Audi, BMW, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Lexus, Maserati, Mini, Rolls-Royce, and Volvo also displayed their latest offerings at the show.
Again, most of these models have been revealed months prior or online, so why hold a show in a massive venue in the first place? We'll go back to something we said earlier: Auto shows are a sensory experience.
So in some ways, the organizers of the Bangkok International Motor Show, Grand Prix International, made a good call in pushing through with the event. Yes, it's risky, and yes, not as many people might attend, but they have proven one thing: There will always be a clamor for an auto show. But while it could be said that holding the show now is a bold move, it's still too early to tell if it's the right call. We sure hope that the show won't result in COVID-19 cases spiking in Thailand. If the country's cases remain low or even drop, then we can say that pushing through BIMS 2020 was the right decision.