Is MWC the new must-attend auto trade show?
The Mobile World Congress is gradually establishing itself as the go-to event not only for the mobile telecom space but also the automotive industry.
The growing presence of all sorts of vehicles throughout the show floor of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) can hardly have escaped anyone’s notice given the now very common strategy of companies across all corners of the mobile ecosystem to use eye-catching cars as part of their booth props to attract the interest of passers-by and drive booth footfall. The oftentimes quite vague connection between the vehicle on display and the product portfolio of the exhibitor in question appears to go largely unnoticed by the average selfie-taking visitor seeking to snap a like-generating shot with a shiny sports car as the backdrop. From a marketing perspective, one might undoubtedly argue that the strategy to capitalise on the visual appeal of the latest vehicle models in the booths is a successful one, at least if the overall goals are to ensure that a) the booth gets the attention it deserves from the 108,000+ visitors roaming the exhibition halls of Fira Gran Via this year, and b) that the company’s on-site presence is noticed by the many non-attending followers of the visitors’ social media and the official hashtags of the mobile telecom industry’s largest trade show.

MWC 2017 was no exception in terms of the number of cars included in the exhibition which most likely exceeded last year’s event by far. As for previous years, numerous operators and technology providers alike had various vehicles on display including cars, bikes and trucks, commonly focusing on aspects of connected car technology as well as various types of value-added services based on such technology. Examples include Vodafone which among other things had a futuristic electric – and no doubt connected – vehicle on display (pictured). An observation – if not completely new, then at least certainly more apparent this year – that comes to mind for a long-time returning visitor to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the gradually increasing direct presence of the actual automotive OEMs on the show over time. This year’s MWC saw players such as SEAT (Volkswagen Group), Ford, Peugeot (PSA Group), BMW and Mercedes-Benz (Daimler Group) all having their own stands on the show floor. On the back of this development, which is definitely showing no signs of fading, the Mobile World Congress is relevance-wise slowly but steadily transforming into an event on par with international auto trade shows such as the Frankfurt Motor Show. The comparison might seem like a stretch, but with both SEAT and Ford having two stands each at MWC 2017, it is certainly beyond all doubt that the automotive OEMs have started to look upon the Barcelona event as a venue to generate attention-grabbing exposure of its latest innovations on the connected car arena in particular and for its vehicle ranges in general. Returning exhibitor Mercedes-Benz’s showing this year was all about “CASE”, representing the company’s strategic future fields including Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Service and Electric Drive. In the commercial vehicle space, Daimler took the opportunity to present the new FleetBoard Store, representing an open platform compatible with all truck brands, enabling industry partners to submit useful apps that can increase efficiency in the haulage sector.  Aside from presence in impressive stands on the show floor, the 2017 event also saw additional OEMs participating actively as part of well-attended conference and keynote presentations, with representatives of the likes of Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Renault-Nissan all taking centre stage to discuss and give their takes on topics such as Connected Vehicles, Autonomous Vehicles and Cars as a Service. This again goes to show that the automakers are today indeed taking the MWC as seriously as traditional motor shows, if not more. While the Frankfurt Motor Show is not (yet) a must-attend event for me – at least not in a professional capacity – as an industry analyst with a main focus on vehicle telematics and fleet management, I certainly have no plans to end my 7-year streak of attending the Mobile World Congress anytime soon.

Rickard Andersson, Berg Insight
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