A radically new vision for one of Michigan’s signature events should become clear within six weeks as organizers of the fabled Detroit auto show move to give it new life.
The idea is for the North American International Auto Show to attract more new vehicle introductions and serve a diverse group of customers, ranging from automakers and journalists from around the world to local charities and people shopping from everything from basic transportation to million-dollar exotic cars.
A move from the show’s traditional January timing looks increasingly likely, as the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which sponsors the show, looks to take advantage of better weather for outdoor events, including test drives and demos of the latest technology.
“We’re gathering information on all possible dates, but changing the date is not the goal. What’s more important is how the whole show is re-imagined,” DADA executive director Rod Alberts said. “A bigger transformation is in motion that allows outdoor activities.
“We’re going to make it bigger and better. We want to create a global stage for automakers and technology companies that’s great for the companies and the community.”
The 2019 show will remain in January. Alberts said more than a dozen vehicle premieres are already on the schedule, about as many as usual at this point in the year. Alberts, 2019 show chairman Bill Golling of Golling Automotive Group, and vice chairman Doug North, of North Bros. Ford, have been meeting with automakers around the world to line up the newsmaking unveilings that annually draw thousands of journalists from around the world and car lovers from all over North America.
The show contributes $450 million to Michigan’s economy every year, according to a study DADA commissioned. That includes everything from workers building the displays to visitors paying for parking, food and hotel rooms.
The new dates will likely take effect in 2020. Whenever the change happens, there will be no Detroit auto show in January that year.
The move will require a reworking of Cobo Center’s busy schedule of events. The auto show’s elaborate displays require weeks of construction, and cost millions of dollars. Simply moving the show away from the overtime-inducing holiday season could cut costs substantially, a major attraction to automakers.
October and June have been widely discussed as possible dates for the new show. Both are “still in the game,” Alberts said.
While it’s possible the show could remain in January, the DADA believes outdoor events like test drives and demonstrations of autonomous and alternate-energy vehicles will help the show attract visitors. All auto shows are increasingly seeking to offer experiences car buyers can’t get simply by watching highlights of the show online.
“We want a festive event with outdoors technology engagement,” Alberts said.