‘Ride-and-drive’ the streets of downtown Detroit when auto show moves in June

Hart Plaza, Crown Plaza and nearly two million square feet of downtown Detroit will be taken over by the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) next June.

It was a decision made last year, but a recent map unveiled by NAIAS showed off just how much of the downtown will be occupied by the event.

Moving outdoors offers more opportunities for ride-and-drives, food trucks and hands-on exhibits.

“We’re hoping to give an experience,” said marketing manager Amanda Niswonger. “When people come to the show, we want people to experience the automotive industry.”

The decision was made to better highlight what Detroit had to offer.

“We’re adding nearly one million square feet,” said Niswonger. “Cobo is a great space, but [going outside], we couldn’t have planned it better.”

Niswonger said it just “made sense” to move the date, and that now was the right time to do it.

“Auto shows are changing and automakers are looking for ways to engage the media and the public in more of a way than just having cars sitting on carpets,” said Niswonger.

The auto show isn’t the only thing looking for a boost — downtown Detroit will also be in the spotlight when the auto show expands outdoors.

“It’s a wonderful way to show off some of the amazing assets that the city has,” said Eric Larson, chief executive officer of the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Business Improvement Zone (BIZ).

There will be nearly two million square feet of downtown Detroit occupied by the auto show in June 2020. (NAIAS)

“You don’t get the same level of touch and feel when you’re in Cobo Hall. I think it’s going to leave people with an even greater sense of excitement for where Detroit is.”

Larson said BIZ is looking forward to showing off some of Detroit’s public parks, as well as the Riverwalk along the Detroit River.

Getting people to visit Detroit in the wintertime is difficult, said Larson, so the small businesses downtown are looking forward to summer visitors.

“It’s an opportunity for all of us to expand and highlight our offerings,” said Larson. “The challenge that we faced with Cobo is that it was very much a destination event. You would drive and park and you didn’t venture too far from the show.”

With the show in the summer, Larson said everything changes.

“More people will really recognize what Detroit has to offer and want to come back, not just during the auto show.”