Nissan Won't Join Detroit, Chicago Auto Shows

Company Doubts Events Would Be a Good Use of Marketing Dollars

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In another blow to the struggling domestic auto industry, Nissan Motor Co. -- one of the Japanese Big Three, along with Honda and Toyota -- is pulling out of January's prestigious North American International Auto Show in Detroit, as the automaker re-evaluates its $1.42 billion marketing budget.
Alan Buddendeck
Alan Buddendeck

Nissan will also skip the auto show in Chicago in February.

Nissan North America VP-Corporate Communications Alan Buddendeck told AdAge.com Monday night that the two auto shows were 'probably not the best use of our marketing dollar right now.'

Nothing to showcase
The company had earlier put out a statement saying, "Based on the fact that we have no major new products to show at the 2009 Detroit and Chicago auto shows, as well as the current economic conditions which will impact the shows' marketing effectiveness, we have decided to cancel our involvement and participation in the 2009 North American International Auto Show and the Chicago Auto Show."

Mr. Buddendeck added that Nissan's decision is not a commentary on the auto shows, and certainly not any kind of statement on the U.S. auto industry. It is participating in the current Los Angeles Auto Show.

"It's more a question of, 'Is this the right use of our marketing money right now?' " Mr. Buddendeck said by phone from Nissan North America's corporate headquarters in Franklin, Tenn. 'We introduced three new products at the L.A. show -- two for Nissan, one for Infiniti -- and all in all, it was a very good story for us coming out of L.A."

Mr. Buddendeck said the company felt it would not get the same pop less than two months later in Detroit.

Conserving cash
He added that Nissan will re-evaluate its marketing budget in light of Carlos Ghosn's keynote speech at the Los Angeles show, in which the Nissan CEO said the company would focus on conserving cash and limiting spending during this current downturn.

Asked if that meant a reduction in work for Omnicom's TBWA Worldwide, the lead agency for Nissan, Mr. Buddendeck said, "No. We're talking specifically only about these two auto shows. We're doing national and regional advertising campaigns, so this is us just looking very closely -- as other companies are doing, and rightfully so -- at how we go to market."

Nissan is just the latest foreign car company to pull out of the Detroit show, arguably the most prestigious on the U.S. auto-show circuit. Fellow Japanese automakers Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. previously announced they would not attend the Detroit show. Honda and Toyota are still on the slate.

Land Rover, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce also said they would skip Detroit, while Porsche backed out after the 2006 show there. But Nissan is certainly the largest company to pull out, having sold more than 1 million vehicles (Infinitis included) in the U.S. last year.

Mr. Buddendeck said it was too early to speculate whether this was a one-time thing for Nissan, or if it planned to skip Detroit and Chicago in future years. "All companies in the auto sector are looking very closely at how to go to market effectively,' he said. 'In times like this, your strategies get a closer look."
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