As early as 1889, horseless carriages were presented at the World fair. In 1894 the first car race Paris-Rouen was organized by the Petit Journal.
This new means of locomotion already aroused enthusiasm and passion. The aim of the Automobile Club de France, established in 1895, was to promote “motorism” and it created in 1898 the “World Show for automobiles, cycling and sports”.
For this first edition, there were around 220 exhibitors. In 1901, the show moved to what would become the symbol of the Paris Motor Show for 60 years: the Grand Palais. At the time, the dates of the Show coincided with those of the Cycle Show. Disagreements started to appear between the manufacturer representatives and the organization committee of the Show. This resulted in the pure and simple cancellation of the 1909 edition. In the hands of the manufacturers, the Show continued its growth until the beginning of World War I.
During the Thirties, the effects of the financial crisis which up to then had barely affected France started to have consequences.
The number of exhibitors decreased notably (526 exhibitors in 1938, 1,339 in 1929) and the pressure from foreign manufacturers became stronger.
For obvious reasons, no show was organized between 1939 and 1945. People longed for better days.
The first edition was set for October 1946. An unusual Show as the exhibitors presented vehicles they could not sell! Buyers needed a purchase order delivered by official authorities while manufacturers hunted down raw material… Yet the essentials were there: Paris 1946 was the first post-war show in Europe! The French people, deprived of automobiles, rushed to the Grand Palais: nearly 8,000 people in ten days. Electric cars reappeared after a long absence (the last electric car was presented in 1923). Restrictions on sales were only lifted in 1949 but they were still submitted to price control.
In 1950 the Show was held both at Porte de Versailles (for cycles and utility vehicles) and at the Grand Palais. Attendance records were broken one after the other as new releases kept being presented to an audience which could now afford vehicles. Events organized by manufacturers appeared during the Fifties, a trend that would continue during the following years.
The used car show relocated to Porte Maillot in 1952, and the same year the first manufacturer guarantee appeared. After a growth period, the number of manufacturers started to drop again, the automobile was entering the “modern times” of industrial concentration. In 1952, the first show devoted to recreational vehicles was held, with caravans displayed on the lower floor of the Grand Palais. The same year and for the first time, salesmen had to face the competition of a woman, Denise Colcombet.
1955 is a landmark of this period with 1.037.000 visitors! New releases kept pouring in that year, particularly the mysterious Citroen DS 19. To meet public expectancies, a day care center was set up for children over age 2, a direct consequence of the baby-boom!
In the following years there was a substantial drop in visitor attendance, the manufacturers had started to display their models outside the Show halls. The Suez crisis, the war in Algeria, the Eastern-Western tensions may also have had an impact on public opinion.
The General De Gaulle imposed a new form of visit: in small groups, without general public or orchestra. The entire show moved to Porte de Versailles. This new installation rekindled the tradition of special annual themed exhibition: 50 years of Grand Prix cars from European collections, featuring dreamy speed cars. The first retrospective dated back to 1901...
The Sixties were marked by a slow growth of visitor attendance culminating in 1968 with 1.060.000 visitors. Jean Panhard replaced Paul.
During the chairmanship of Pierre Peugeot in 1998, a special retrospective exhibition was organized for the 100th anniversary of the Show, Thierry Peugeot headed the 1st edition of the 21st century in 2002 and Louis Schweitzer has been watching over the Show since 2007.
Only 5 General Commissioners have supervised the Show ever since its beginnings: Mr. Cezanne, Mr. Dotin, Mr. Mautin, Mr. Charpin and Thierry Hesse since 1991.
The Paris Motor Show continues to showcase and support the major developments of the automobile industry, particularly regarding safety, new forms of energy and the environment linked to new industrial and consumer behavior.
Despite the relocation of production and of automobile markets to emerging countries, the show remains unquestionably the world’s most important motor show.