By on June 29, 2018


News broke late yesterday that the organizers behind the North American International Auto Show, also known as the Detroit Auto Show, are making an announcement late this month regarding moving the 2020 show to either June or October from January. Either way, the show is definitely moving dates – it’s just not sure whether it will be to the summer or the fall.

The reasoning for the move that I keep seeing in news reports is that an exodus of foreign manufacturers is making the Detroit Area Dealers Association – the group that organizes the show – re-think the show’s timing. In addition, the thinking is that perhaps a larger festival can be arranged around the show, and a summer show makes outdoor test drives and events (which have been offered in Detroit and are also offered at the Chicago Auto Show in February) more appealing.

A move also gets NAIAS away from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. CES takes place around the same time as NAIAS most years, causing headaches for media and industry analysts who are expected to attend both.

On the surface, moving NAIAS seems like a no-brainer. Winter sucks, and it’s at peak suckage in January in Detroit (or anywhere else in the Upper Midwest. I live in Chicago, so I am not being snobby about this).

But here’s the thing. At least one PR pro for one of the brands that vacated Cobo has told me and other journalists that the timing isn’t the problem – it’s the sales. They simply won’t spend money on Detroit if local consumers aren’t buying their cars, but they’ll happily come to other shows and put up a stand, even if they have no news to make. That’s because those other shows are located in cities where those brands sell well.

Obviously, that’s a small sample size, and that reasoning may not be applicable across all brands. But if it’s true and if it’s the general consensus, does a move to summer or fall do any good?

If it increases consumer attendance, then the answer is yes – auto shows are for consumers (and for dealers to generate leads from said consumers) more so than they are for the media or analysts. But if a move doesn’t keep these brands around, that won’t help the show with consumers or media. An attendance boost due to warm weather is one thing, but it’s still better for those brands to be there.

There’s another downside – downtown Detroit benefits by having the show in the dead of winter, which is otherwise a dead time. Expect howling from hotels soon, if it hasn’t happened already. Plus, January is a dead time for sales – which is why the show was set during that month in the first place.

As far as I am concerned, I don’t care when NAIAS is. It’s fine in January, and it will be fine if it moves to June or October. But what say you? Do you think it will make the show more appealing not just to us overfed walking shrimp containers, but to you, the show’s paying customer?

[Image: GAC Group]

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10 Comments on “QOTD: Is Moving the Detroit Auto Show a Good Thing?...”

  • avatar

    If the intent is to make it “the premier” auto show in the US/North America, makes sense to move it out of Detroit to a market without so many homers. It would be more representative of the auto industry as a whole and the North American consumer base as a whole.

  • avatar

    I think the weather angle is an excuse, plenty of cold weather cities have events going on in the winter, I’m in Syracuse, a frozen, snow covered hell, but there’s plenty to do in the winter. 35,000 people will go out in a blizzard to watch a basketball game. There are conventions, boat, rv, and *car* shows, winterfest, pro ice hockey, and countless other things going on. Buffalo is no tropical getaway either, but there’s always stuff going on. I’m sure Canada doesn’t close in the winter. Detroit needs to suck it up a little.

    • 0 avatar

      The most recent superbowl was held in Minneapolis. Temperature that morning was -5F (-20C) with a -25F (-32C) windchill, but it was still quite a success. The event embraced the weather, rather than fearing it. Many events were held outside!

      It’s not Detroit that needs to suck it up a little, it’s the rest of the crybabies (automotive press for example). Have a little adventure before going into a heated convention center.

      • 0 avatar
        Tim Healey

        As a lifelong Midwesterner, I always roll my eyes at the complaints from the LA-based journos. You’re not even outside for more than 10-15 minutes most of the time!

  • avatar

    Yes, because it’s no longer an “international show”, with the European makes pulling out, and the L.A. show overtaking it in importance. It’s going back to being a regional show. The original reason for holding it in January was to stir some interest in local car sales in January, which is usually the doldrums for car sales.

  • avatar

    This should have been done years ago!

  • avatar

    The appeal of NAIS is the legacy of production where the big makers are headquartered, and it’s the first international show every year. If it’s not both of those things it doesn’t matter when the show is any more than the Denver or Peoria auto shows. I spent a few years consulting at Caterpillar and a Peoria auto show is as tragic as you can imagine if you’re used to Chicago/Los Angeles/Detroit.

    So maybe it’s a chance for Chicago, with a pretty big show in an undeniably large market, in February to get some attention. Too many makers seem think marketing their cars at CES or some other alternative venue gets more coverage.

  • avatar

    I hope it works out well for them. It sounds like a better idea than holding it in the dead of winter.

    OH but winter sucks for other people so suck it up, losers! LMAO what a narrow-minded, childish attitude, as though those who aren’t native to the area should just put up with it to see the show. Maybe holding it in more comfortable conditions would attract more people? No, because a bunch of people go to basketball games in New York, and that’s relevant, somehow.

    I also find it funny that those automakers say the reason they skip the show is that locals don’t make up a significant enough portion of their sales.

    Well, one sure way to keep people out of your cars would be to keep your cars away from the people. I mean, were they totally ignored by people otherwise on their way to the GMC display? Probably not. But, its their baby, let them do what they feel is best.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Move the current NAIAS to mid-year, and then move the Los Angeles show to January for it to eventually become the premier North American auto industry event.

    Besides offering a far better climate (and, arguably, overall environment) I’d argue than Southern California is also more representative of the overall NA marketplace than Detroit. Much shorter commute to Vegas for CES, too.

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