Detroit Auto Show Pointing Towards June
The North American International Auto Show, held in mid-January since there were starting handles on the front of cars, may be jumping halfway across the calendar to the month of June.
Facing a declining level of participation, the show has been looking for ways to reinvent itself in a bid to remain relevant and continue grabbing headlines during a time of year when digital ink is easily slurped up by news from other events.
Leaving arguments about the relevance of auto shows themselves for another day, the Detroit show has been enduring a mass exodus of exhibitors. A raft of automakers from Germany, Britain, Sweden, and Japan are choosing to skip the 2019 soirée, scheduled for January 14th- 27th.
Detroit’s show is not just competing with other shows for enthusiast time and attention. The Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, held around the same time, has recently hoovered up a great deal of bandwidth. More than one manufacturer has had to juggle significant logistical challenges in an effort to maintain a big presence at both shows.
June is not a horrible choice, given that certain other months are effectively owned by other shows. April belongs to New York, November is out because of L.A., and European shows dominate September. If it happens, Detroit’s shift to June will occur in 2020.
Speaking of the L.A. spectacle, that event is a good example of a show doubling down in an effort to reinvent itself. Back in 2006, it was facing similar issues as Detroit but managed to turn itself around by positioning itself in late November. Major models have since debuted at the L.A. show, including the 2018 Wrangler JL. This would not likely have happened if the show was still held in its old time slot.
Michigan’s January weather doesn’t help either. This may sound like incessant whinging but anyone who has made the drive to the Motor City in the depths of a snowstorm (ask our Associate Editor) or waited in lineups while enduring temperatures only seen on the planet Hoth will know what I’m on about.
Noises are being made about the show taking on a Goodwood Festival of Speed atmosphere. Loathe as I am to talk about “mobility solutions,” it is a fact that those types of technology are more easily displayed outside the walls of Cobo, something not currently feasible when there’s a zillion feet of snow on the ground. Organizers are reportedly eager to offer outdoor events, including test drives or demos of technologies on Cobo’s rooftop parking lot and public streets.
The shift to June has not been formally announced. A spokesperson for the Detroit Auto Dealers Association said to a local outlet they would have no further comment on the situation until a formal announcement scheduled for July 24th.
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I'd like to see the Pittsburgh Auto Show moved to the spring instead of February, for the same reasons mentioned by the author. But I already know what to expect when I go, thanks to several months of online coverage. As many others have said here before, it's an opportunity to sit in the cars without a hounding salesman nearby.
This could presage a reversion to new car releases coming mid-year rather than scattered all around the calendar. Really, it makes sense.