Brussels Motor Show is back!

Aah, January. One of the highlights for anyone in the Belgian automotive industry, because Brussels Motor Show is about to start.

Whenever BMS happens, I tend to be there because of one or more clients. In the past I’ve worked there for Jaguar-Land Rover, Mazda, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, but this year I was parading around for a relatively new client: Astara Western Europe. For those who don’t know, Astara is the European importer for a variety of brands. There is the group’s juggernaut Hyundai, but also SsangYong, Suzuki, Isuzu, MG (re-invented as a hip electric brand), Maxus (mostly vans and lorries) and newcomer Silence. Silence is a Spanish mobility company, offering two main products: a small city car (similar to Citroën’s AMI) and an electric bike. The fun part: both have interchangeable cylinder-shaped batteries, which can be easily exchanged between car and bike. If you want to charge it, you simply pull it out, take it inside on a small attachable cart and plug it into a socket. At the same time, you can use it to charge other devices like laptops, phones and even microwaves. Very clever.

This year, Astara chose to have all brands together in one big stand. Strategically positioned near one of the entrances, it definitely was the first stopping point for many visitors, not in the least because the stand looked the business (and with over 30 cars, pretty impressive as well). Highlight of the stand was the brand new Hyundai IONIQ 6, although the bright orange MG 4 (and the Silence) attracted plenty of crowds as well. As did the Maxus MIFA 9, an all-electric luxury minivan.

I was booked for two days: the first day (press day) to get some clean shots of all the cars and stands, and the first Monday (open to the public) to get some interaction between the cars and visitors. It was fun to see people’s reactions to cars they didn’t know much about, especially the surprised look at their well-designed interiors (and often, the good price – I’m not being paid to say that). Overall, two fun days, and some good laughs with videographer colleague Gunter Blokken aka Eckelwood as well. We both worked through FamousGrey, Hyundai’s marketing agency. Great folks.

Aside from Astara, there was plenty to see, despite the show being a bit smaller than the years before (5 halls instead of the usual 7). Some brands decided not to be there (including Ferrari), some brands had originally decided not to be there but last-minute decided to show up with a reduced presence without any branding (Mercedes-Benz had three cars there, as did Jaguar-Land Rover), while some brands went all out: importer d’Ieteren filled an entire hall with all their brands (think VW, Audi, Skoda, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti and hypercar newcomer Rimac, along with all their mobility companies).

Also hard to miss was Stellantis, with Jeep, Opel, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot and others, filling more than half a hall. One of my highlights was the McLaren stand, where a brand new 720S was shining bright in a stunning wrap designed by master wrapper Nathan Haetty (next to the new Artura and DBX 707). Surprisingly, Alpina had a nice presence as well. As is tradition, BMW once again had a beautiful, enormous stand, showcasing their entire BMW and MINI line-ups. They were flanked by Toyota, Lexus and KIA, the latter getting a lot of visitors with its EV6.

Alpine drew crowds with their concept car, the Alpenglow, and next to it was possibly the most exciting stand of the show: Officina Caira, a collection of historic F1 cars from various eras.

As we all know, motor shows are a dying breed, slowly being euthanised in favour of more experience-based events like Goodwood, Mille Miglia and the likes. But although the future of the Brussels Motor Show (or BMS) looked bleak in the last few years, this years’ edition – which also happened to be the 100th edition! – once and for all cemented its reason to exist for at least the near future.

Ironically, thanks to motor shows being killed off (particularly Geneva), Brussels seems to have gotten noticeably more relevant. Many brands decided to launch new cars there and there was significantly more international press there. Not just traditional press, but that néw kind as well. You know, Youtubers and all.

Even more impressive: BMS had the honour to host the Car of the Year award, the winner being the Jeep Avenger, a first win for Stellantis.

The new smaller formula seems to work well, providing plenty to see for an entire day. You could argue that the smaller space works even better than before, as it condenses the stands and brings more of a bustle. Its renewed significance in the automotive world is a sign that whatever they’re doing is working. Perhaps the biggest need for improvement relates to something out of BMS’ control: infrastructure. More particularly, the decaying parking space. Allegedly, the venue and government are working on that one.

But BMS is back, and it’s great to see. See you next year!

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