Alternatives to CES for the Auto Supplier

If you’ve exhibited at CES and were disappointed because you’re not getting the attention you expected, you may not be alone. For many auto suppliers, it’s just too crowded, cluttered and competitive to really stand out with media and customers. 

So, what could you do instead to get the exposure, the positioning and the media coverage you seek?

While CES can be a great show for the right automotive supplier with the right goals, the right expectations and the right reasons, it’s not a good fit for all.

Considering the cost ($500,000 – $1 million for a respectable CES exhibit) and competition (4,300 exhibitors) of CES – some auto suppliers might be better off investing their brand-building budget elsewhere.

Standalone Event
One option is having their own standalone customer and/or media event at a different time and place … where they can focus on their key target audience … when there is no competition … and where there is real potential for undivided attention and quality time with exactly the right people.

Some suppliers run a week-long series of such demonstrations at a test track, giving each top automaker a half-day of its own, and add on a separate day for media as the icing on the cake. The downside is that you have to make your story so compelling that customers, prospects and media will want to attend. And that’s a lot of work, but the payoff can be handsome.

Detroit’s auto show & Automobili-D
Some automotive suppliers may want to exhibit (or expand their existing presence) at a show like the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS – the Detroit auto show and its new mobility add-on Automobili-D.

Both activities continue to expand their offering of participation opportunities and are starting to attract tech companies and talent. Detroit still is the Motor City, in terms of being the intellectual and decision-making capital of the North American auto industry. And there is no other show in North America where you have a chance to see more of the decision-makers, media (some 5,000+) and influencers in the North American automotive market than NAIAS.

Technology in Motion – Detroit
For start-ups and early-stage tech companies breaking into automotive with self-driving, connected car, electrification or car-sharing/ride-sharing offerings, a new venue worth considering is Technology in Motion Detroit (, which seeks to link new entrants to the auto sector with established automakers and suppliers to drive future automotive advancements.

It is slated for Sept. 6-8 and is presented by Automotive News/Crain Communications and MSX International. The inaugural summit will feature a low-cost Startup Village exhibition, investor pitch competitions, a series of software hackathon, and a full conference/workshop schedule. (

Other automotive events
If your company is involved in autonomous and connected vehicle technology, you may want to consider participating in the TU-Automotive Detroit event (, which a WardsAuto affiliate at Penton, and is a much more focused, targeted and manageable event.

Other Penton events offered by WardsAuto that might be beneficial for key suppliers, depending upon their product focus, include the one-day WardsAuto Interiors Conference and the WardsAuto UX Conference ( … events that draw very specific, targeted audiences.

Another avenue to consider might be the auto technology-focused events put on by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), such as the SAE WCX, the re-branded World Congress (, or SAE’s smaller, more specialized events like the SAE Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Symposium or the SAE From ADAS to Automated Driving Conference.

One major event many auto suppliers find beneficial for positioning and thought leadership is the annual CAR Management Briefing Seminars ( held in Traverse City, Michigan in August.

Though exhibit space is limited at MBS, there are a number of exhibit, demonstration, sponsorship and speaking opportunities for auto suppliers – as well as strong media potential – and an engaged audience of nearly 1,000 of the top automotive executives and the media who cover them.

Whatever you decide to do, you should decide based upon a solid business case … not just because your competitor is doing it … or because it’s the flavor of the week.

For more insight on CES and auto suppliers, see:

Should Auto Suppliers Exhibit at CES?:

The Reality of Auto Supplier PR at CES:

How to Hit a PR Homerun at CES:

How to Maximize Your Exhibit Success at CES:

New Technolgoy in Motion (TIM) Detroit Event:

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