Detroit, the granddaddy of all North American auto shows, the self-proclaimed most important auto show, is about to shift its annual time slot from the dead of winter to late spring. Motown’s crappy weather plus competition from CES made it necessary.
That’s according to reports in the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), as Detroit is called, will run as scheduled Jan. 14-27, 2018, then in 2020 shift to a June date. It’s expected there would be more outdoor events than in the past. (Actually, it’d be hard for there to be fewer.)
The shift is long overdue. While the show has international in its title, it was first and foremost a celebration of Michigan’s traditional Big Three automakers, dating to 1899 for the first show and 1907 for the first annual show. And it was about the finished vehicles more than about the underlying technologies that were making cars of the 21st century so much different and better.
The Los Angeles Auto Show, which also dates to 1907, was also held in January — sometimes closely overlapping Detroit, and also falling into the same show dates of the then-Consumer Electronics Show (now just CES). Someone had to move, and LA chose to jump to November just after or before Thanksgiving, where it had thrived. This year it’s Nov. 30-Dec. 9, 2018.
What Went Wrong in Detroit
Having attending many of the big three auto shows since 2000, plus the mid-majors — LA, Detroit and New York along with Chicago and Washington — I’ve seen a half-dozen missteps that has Detroit in the situation it’s now facing:
The Detroit Show in 2020
Reports have the 2020 show going outdoors as well, “establishing the cornerstone of an outdoor automotive celebration around Cobo Center and other downtown landmarks,” according the Detroit News.
There’s talk of an outdoor festival modeled after the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a July event in the UK dating to 1983 that includes automotive competitions as well the chance to see and drive new cars.
The Detroit Auto Dealers Association — DADA, not the automakers, puts on the show — has a deadline of July 24 to decide if it will go ahead with the move.
Other major international shows include Geneva in February, New York in late March and April, Frankfurt in September (alternating years), and LA in November.
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