QOTD: Is Moving the Detroit Auto Show a Good Thing?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

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]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Jun 29, 2018

    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.

  • 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.

    • Brn Brn on Jun 30, 2018

      LA already thinks they're the center of the universe. Let's not stroke them even more.