Pebble Beach is back on, but not all automakers are on board

For many car enthusiasts, attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is a bucket-list occasion. Since 1950, the annual event in Carmel, Calif., has hosted the world’s most beautiful and expensive collectible cars for a week of lavish parties, blue-chip auctions, glamorous rallies, and exclusive high-roller meetings.

It was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, losing half of its routine $2 million-plus in sponsorships and ticket sales—not to mention the millions generated by the influx of tens of thousands of the world’s most avid car lovers to the Monterey Peninsula. But Sandra Button, the chairman of the Pebble, as long-timers call it, confirmed on May 12 that the show will indeed go on this year on its usual date, the fourth Sunday in August.

How many automakers come on board, however, remains to be seen. Mercedes-Benz, for years one of the brands with the biggest presence, will reportedly not inhabit the circus-size white tent it has in previous years. Nor will it debut a significant concept car as it’s done for years with models such as the EQ Silver Arrow and Vision 6.

“At this point we’re actively reviewing the return of our in-person, brand-experience events, and it’s still premature to discuss details at this time,” a Pebble Beach spokesman said. 

Rolls-Royce, another preeminent marque which has usually commandeered a multimillion-dollar estate on Spanish Bay for parties so clients could see their moored yachts from the garden, will not do so this year, a source close to the company said. 

Representatives from McLaren and Lamborghini have indicated the brands will attend, but with reduced footprints. “We are focusing on our customers this year,” rather than announcing big news or heavy brand building, says Roger Ormisher, a spokesman for McLaren.

Aston Martin will herald one global reveal, display two cars owned by company chairman Lawrence Stroll, and reveal “some Bond stuff,” according to a spokesman. Porsche has said it’s pressing forward “with an abundance of caution.” Says spokesman Marcus Kabel: “We’re looking forward to returning, so long as circumstances allow us to do so.”

BMW and Ferrari—longtime participants that have hosted meals, cocktail hours, concept debuts, and press announcements—didn’t respond to requests for comment about their plans by the time of this story’s publication.

The brand most eager to get back normal is Rolls-Royce rival Bentley, which plans to attend “in full force,” according to a spokesperson. 

“During the past year, small events and digital discussions were appropriate, but people want, and need, real interactions again,” says Christophe Georges, the president and CEO of Bentley Motors Inc. “Monterey Car Week is an opportunity to welcome Bentley customers, to meet and collaborate with them. We share our plans for the future and welcome their reactions, and we look forward to doing so again this year.”

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