With the final winter North American International Auto Show in the books, the century-old expo in Detroit and newer market-specific shows across the Midwest may start to change organically — but organizers aren’t planning on it.
Beyond the logistical changes of moving the 2020 NAIAS show to June and adding additional space, longtime show-goers can plan for even more of what they’ve come to love about the Detroit event, said NAIAS 2020 Chairman Doug North. That includes shiny cars, flashing displays and the excitement of one of the oldest and largest auto shows on the continent.
“You’re going to see vehicles, you’re going to see static displays, you’re going to see dynamic moving displays, both inside and outside,” North told MiBiz. “This show year, we had two manufacturers, Ford and Kia, that both had moving vehicles inside the display that consumers could ride in. That’s really part of the transformation. We’re getting to see it, but it’ll happen both inside and outside.”
The announcement to move the show from winter to summer followed decisions by international automakers including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz to skip the 2019 show. They were the latest in a line of departures from recent years.
As more automakers cross over into technology shows and consumer events, North maintains that Detroit’s massive auto show will remain set apart from the crowd. He hopes that manufacturers will take the opportunity to make it more experiential.
“Certainly, we’ve seen a trend in automotive design and technology as well as in consumers’ tastes. They’re all pointing toward the fact that consumers want to be able to engage more with the product and they want to potentially sit in it. They want to experience the new technologies that are currently available and see what these vehicles can do,” North said.
In 2020, the additional 14 acres of outdoor space adjacent to Cobo Center will make room for potential concept vehicles, hill climbs and “brand activations,” he added.
Despite what seemed like a scaled-back show in January, with fewer automakers and larger non-OEM displays, NAIAS attendance dipped only about 35,000 to 774,179 ticketed attendees, according to reports.
Steadiness in GR
Henri Boucher, show producer of the annual Michigan International Auto Show in Grand Rapids, doesn’t anticipate the changes in Detroit affecting much on the west side of the state despite “very logical questions” the show has been wielding.
“The Detroit auto show’s size, glory and existence has been due to the fact that they are primarily, almost totally, entertaining the international automotive media,” Boucher said in a statement.
The NAIAS move to June is primarily for the comfort of the traveling media, the outside space for special displays and drives, and to control some costs, according to Boucher. All other market-specific auto shows, like the ones in Grand Rapids, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Dallas, will not move seasons or locations and will continue to focus on showing local residents the vehicles available in their respective markets, he added.
“We, the producers of the Michigan International Auto Show, have never received very much in the way of displays or vehicles from the Detroit show,” Boucher said.
Although Boucher is planning for minimal change at the Grand Rapids show, he said event planners are looking forward to drawing workers and attendees from throughout the state who may have chosen only to attend the Detroit auto show in the past, because the shows have historically been held within days of each other.
“All of the display companies that work on the many auto shows are always distracted by the Detroit show and its demands,” he said. “We are now looking forward to more responsive sources for our Grand Rapids show.”