Actor Denis Leary (right) and Ford's Todd Eckert launching the F-150 online. Photo: Ford

Many of the year's most important new cars and trucks will be seen for the first time not on stage at an auto show but online in a virtual launch party.

Why it matters: The reveal of an all-new vehicle is typically a multimillion-dollar marketing extravaganza, with pulsating music, bright lights and lots of hype.

  • The coronavirus has made that next to impossible, but there's a silver lining: Carmakers are finding they can reach a far bigger digital audience when most people are stuck at home.

Driving the news: Ford's reveal of the redesigned 2021 F-150 pickup last night on YouTube and Facebook was hosted by actor Denis Leary. (Read details about the truck.)

  • The 40-minute show, filmed at the former Willow Run assembly plant where Ford produced B-24 bombers for World War II, captured 1.7 million views on Ford’s social media channels.
  • Before the pandemic, Ford had planned a live event in Texas with a few hundred media, consumers and dealers in May.

This is the new normal for vehicle launches.

  • On July 13, Ford will launch its next generation of the legendary Bronco online, too.
  • On Aug. 6, GM will take the wraps off its first electric Cadillac, the Lyriq.
  • Toyota, Lexus, Nissan and others have also hosted virtual vehicle debuts.

Many of the models had been set to debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which, like other big auto shows in Geneva and New York, was canceled.

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