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CES and IAA – same, same, but different!

It is becoming more and more difficult to separate the automotive and hi-tech industries. The trade shows CES and IAA are also moving closer together – from different starting points – and can learn from each another. Dr. Martin Koers, Managing Director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, reports on his impressions from Las Vegas.

We have been living in times of “merging industries” for a long time. It is becoming more and more difficult to separate the automotive and hi-tech industries. Cars long ago ceased to be merely a means of transport, turning instead into computers on wheels. The IAA, as a reflection of the sector, is also increasingly evolving from a pure motor show into a mobility platform powered by software and technology. In contrast, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is by definition a multi-industry event. Under “consumer electronics” we find a wide range of technologies, from washing machines to cars. While for us, the team responsible for the IAA, the challenge therefore lies in broadening the trade-fair experience, for the CES it is a thematic deepening in order to avoid the trap of topics being chosen arbitrarily. The two events are thus approaching from different starting points – and can learn from each another.


Digital first

You are already at the CES before you arrive in Las Vegas. The communication strategy is clear: digital first, print second. Here are just a few figures to underscore this: 87% of the global media reporting takes place online, with 900k mentions on social media including 5k+ tweets per hour. The figures are impressive. In early January the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas not only showcased the latest technological trends, but also raised the bar in terms of the exhibition experience. One thing is clear: with its sheer size and the diverse range of topics, locations and exhibits, the CES demands a lot from its exhibitors and its visitors. Against this background, I found it especially exciting to see how the organizers of the Consumer Electronics Show manage to engage with the visitors both before the show and as soon as they arrive at the venue, fill them with enthusiasm and enable them to have experiences tailored to their interests. Numerous digital touchpoints such as the show’s own app give visitors a host of opportunities to interact and have individual experiences. They can design their own personal show experience, and take part in the CES throughout the city, outside the boundaries of the exhibition halls.

Visitors to the CES. Picture: Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®/CES®
Visitors to the CES. Picture: Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®/CES®

Boundaries? What boundaries?

The trade show landscape is always evolving and has to adapt constantly in order to remain interesting to exhibitors, visitors and media representatives. In recent years the CES has mutated from covering only entertainment electronics into a multi-sector event. Clear thematic boundaries? Not here.

This transformation will also be crucial for us as we give the IAA a new orientation as the world's leading mobility platform. This was already obvious at the IAA 2019. The path is taking us away from a pure exhibition toward an extensive platform where all the relevant players in sustainable, individual mobility are present and ready to interact. This is relevant firstly to the well-known trade show players that characterize the IAA, such as manufacturers, hi-tech companies, suppliers, mobility service providers and startups. Secondly, it has always been important for us as the IAA organizers to look beyond our own horizons.

Now, the CES provides some interesting insights into this topic - for example, concerning artificial intelligence, which plays an ever-growing role in intelligent products ranging from TV sets and voice-controlled assistants all the way to mobility solutions and prostheses. The CES succeeds in opening up a broad field that also offers space for cross-cutting, multidisciplinary topics related to technology. This will also be an important point for the VDA when it comes to giving the IAA a new alignment. Exciting impulses from new trade show players from other industries and disciplines will be part of the new IAA concept, creating additional space for the trend of merging industries.

Daimler keynote speech at the CES. Picture: Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®/CES®
Daimler keynote speech at the CES. Picture: Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®/CES®

IAA 2021 – a story of transformation

What the CES does with bright, loud Las Vegas as a stage for its glittering display of innovations is also a key aspect for us. The right venue has to be found for the #IAA21 concept. Our aim is to bring mobility to ordinary people, i.e. to take the mobility of the future beyond the trade fair grounds to visitors and other interested persons – with interactive formats that promote dialog between exhibitors, visitors and other people, and enable genuine experiences through new mobility solutions and ideas. The fact that many cities have expressed their interest and want to join us on this path as a potential venue demonstrates the huge attraction of the IAA as the world's leading platform for sustainable and intelligent mobility.


About the author: Dr. Martin Koers is Managing Director of the VDA. In this capacity he is responsible for suppliers, medium-sized businesses, the aftermarket, development service providers and startups in the VDA. In addition, he holds responsibility for communication and events, and for the areas of economic intelligence and statistics, IT and digitization in the VDA. Previously he headed the VDA’s Economic and Climate Protection Department.