BMW has announced it will no longer be showing up in person for media events at CES 2022 — the giant electronics show that’s typically held each January in Las Vegas, attracting well over 100,000 attendees per year from around the world. It’s the latest company to at least partially bail on the show, following announcements from Intel, AMD, GM, Google, T-Mobile, Amazon, Meta, Waymo, and a large number of tech publications, including The Verge, as COVID cases rise in the US.
A statement from BMW says, “Out of an abundance of caution, BMW will move all planned media activities at CES to a fully online program from Germany on January 5.”
While it’s a late scratch compared to some other announcements, it’s not the only featured exhibitor recently announcing a change of plans, as IBM said it will forgo in-person appearances. In a statement, an IBM spokesperson says, “Due to the evolving COVID conditions – and out of an abundance of caution – IBM has recently decided not to participate on-site in Las Vegas this year. We do still look forward to participating virtually.”
On Wednesday, CNET reported that fellow German automaker Mercedes-Benz is going to skip the in-person event as well, while Mashable says Panasonic, which usually has a massive central hall booth, is shifting to a virtual showing but with “limited on-site staffing.”
In a statement, Panasonic North America CEO Megan Myungwon Lee says, “The health and safety of our employees, partners and customers remains our top priority. With this commitment in mind, we have updated our hybrid CES activation plans maintaining a modified physical footprint, with limited on-site staff, following CTA’s health safety protocols as well as our own proactive measures to ensure the health and well-being of attendees. We have shifted our press conference to a fully-virtual platform and will continue with our plan to deliver a seamless, virtual experience highlighting our newest technology products, solutions and innovations across Sustainable Energy, Smart Mobility, Immersive Experiences, Food Tech Solutions, Lifestyle Technologies and Healthy Environments”
Some companies had already reduced their presence at the show over safety concerns. Over the last few years, BMW has had a significant showing at CES in recent years, demonstrating cars around the outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center while also showcasing innovative demos inside, like at the last pre-pandemic show in 2020 where attendees could customize their own concept car.
This year at CES, The Drive reports BMW said it would have a car with color-changing paint, while BMW Blog said we should also expect to see a new Theater Screen that “really gives an immersive, cinematic experience in the vehicle” that could launch in high-end models like the 7 Series.
Mercedes will continue with an all-digital premiere of its new Vision EQXX, which it says is “the most efficient vehicle the brand has ever built.”
As of Thursday, LG, Sony, and Samsung told The Verge they were still planning to attend in person. CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro published a Christmas Day op-ed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that says, among other things, “CES 2022 will kick off 2022 in messy fashion, but it will be chock full of innovation and full of entrepreneurs and businesses. We will all be taking risks. But without risk there is no innovation.”