Detroit Auto Show Organizers Make It Official: January's History

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
detroit auto show organizers make it official januarys history

There’s only one more North American International Auto Show to go before America’s premier automotive event trades its bitter winter winds for temperate climes.

After months of rumor and speculation, the Detroit Auto Dealers Association — the organization behind the show — declared Thursday that it will no longer hold the event in January. After the 2019 show, journalists will no longer be able to watch icebergs form on the Detroit River.

Historically, the Detroit show kicked off in winter to boost a slow sales period, with would-be buyers encouraged to think warm thoughts about new cars. The show’s date remained frozen in January for at least half a century.

As competing shows, off-site reveals, and the proliferation of digital media tossed wet blankets on NAIAS from every direction, diminishing the show’s prestige. After the 2018 event, numerous major automakers pulled out, though perhaps on a temporary basis. Organizers reached the conclusion that the event date needed changing. A warmer month and a general rethink of the show was in order.

Yesterday, NAIAS spokesman Max Muncey told The Detroit News that DADA is prepared to make the change official. Organizers will announce the new event date on July 24th. Until then, DADA will only say that the change occurs in 2020, leaving us to speculate whether the new date lies in October or June — two months seen as the most likely candidates.

Some wish to see the event sprawl outside the confines of the riverside Cobo Center and into other Detroit venues. While it’s unknown if NAIAS events will proliferate across the city, it does look like organizers want more outdoor attractions. A teaser video released Thursday focuses on the outdoor space outside the Cobo Center.

It’s also possible the show’s name might not survive the changes, either. According to The Detroit News, a dozen potential new names are in the running.

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  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on Jun 29, 2018

    People are wimps. Yeah January is cold. So what. You can appreciate some of the other things in winter. Cities have a completely different feel, and in some ways it can be very nice. But I get it. I get the CES. This makes sense. I do kinda agree these shows have to change. The unveils don't really need to be at them anymore. However I do think there is still great value in the experience of them, getting to sit in and see the cars, etc. I would definitely go for summer or early fall (say June or September). Michigan is generally fairly pleasant those months, and you avoid the sometimes oppressive humidity of July or August. And absolutely tie it in with another event. I like the dream cruise idea. There is the Grand Prix. One year (2017?) there was some sort of electric car race downtown. Detroit has hosted the Red Bull Air Races. Fireworks weekend is also extremely popular. Thing is though that I kinda liked January. It stinks outside but that was kinda the pleasure. Get downtown, get in the warmth and bustle that is a contrast to the cold and desolate winter outside, and enjoy some cars. Hit a nice restaurant for dinner. It was a great way to spend a winter day in my opinion. But if you're catering to journalists, they want the perks I guess. And honestly, if you're trying to get out good word about Detroit in general (DW I'm sure will chime in on this, ha!) nice weather will encourage those same auto journalists to get out and see the city, experience more, see the (for Detroit standards) much improved bustle of people in town, etc. And any mention of the general improvement (in a few areas) in Detroit is good for Detroit, good for Michigan, and good for the Detroit Auto Industry.

  • John John on Jun 30, 2018

    Good heavens - have we reached maximum phony grille yet?

  • Cprescott I remember when Fords were affordable.
  • Cprescott As a once very LOYAL FORD buyer, I had to replace my 22 year old Ford (bought new in 1997) once it finally started to have problems at 180k miles. I would have gladly purchased something like this from Ford but they abandoned me as a car buyer. Oddly, Hyundai still builds cars in a variety of flavors so I became a customer of theirs and am very happy. Likely will consider another once this one gets up in mileage.
  • SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
  • Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.