MADRID – Add the Barcelona International Automotive Show to the endangered list.

Although the exhibition will go on as scheduled May 9-17, it has been touch-and-go for organizers in the face of the economic downturn that has seen new-vehicle sales in Spain plunge nearly 50% from year-ago levels.

The problems began in January, when brands affiliated with ANFAC, the association of auto manufacturers in Spain, announced they would not exhibit.

ANFAC members include Adam Opel GmbH, Ford Motor Co., Daimler AG, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Renault SA, PSA Peugeot Citroen, SEAT SA, Volkswagen AG and Iveco SpA.

ANIACAM, the Spanish association of auto importers, announced days later it, too, believed market conditions were such that is was inappropriate to take on the costs of exhibiting at the auto show.

Organizer Fira de Barcelona recently was able to qualify the show as a “Cultural Interest” with the regional government of Catalonia. The designation provides companies with a 15% tax break on their show costs.

However, that still hasn’t been enough to attract additional auto makers.

In recent weeks, Fira de Barcelona has sought outside sponsorships for the show to defray some of the costs. La Caixa, a trustee saving bank, has signed on, and the organizer currently is negotiating similar deals with other major companies.

For auto makers that exhibited last year, Fira de Barcelona is offering to cover any additional cost above €750 ($957) per square meter spent during the 2009 show.

The Barcelona show is not the only European exhibition experiencing turbulence.

The International Commercial Vehicles Show, slated for Amsterdam in October, has been cancelled, as has Solutrans, a show dedicated to the light-commercial vehicles, truck bodybuilders and equipment suppliers originally scheduled for May 12 in Lyon, France.