Auto show back in Detroit next year with focus on outdoors

by Jeremy

DETROIT — The head of Detroit’s big international auto show says it will return to the Motor City next year, but with smaller indoor displays and more emphasis on experiencing vehicles and technology outside. The North American International Auto Show was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and will be replaced this year by an event at a racetrack north of Detroit. But Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which runs the show, says that there will be an event in the city’s downtown next year.

Auto show back in Detroit next year with focus on outdoors

“That’s the place it belongs,” Alberts told the Automotive Press Association of Detroit on Thursday.

But he said the show would have to change from the past when automakers built elaborate and costly multi-story displays and unveiled their most important new models. Now car companies find they can get good exposure and spend less by doing virtual unveilings outside of auto shows, where vehicles can get overshadowed by other debuts. Some automakers had pulled out of Detroit and other shows.

Alberts said Detroit and other shows have to change to appeal to millennials, two generations after baby boomers, and like to experience things rather than view them. He envisions a mainly walkable outdoor event encompassing the entire downtown, with smaller displays and some electric-vehicle driving indoors. It would be during good-weather months instead of the traditional frigid January in Detroit.

“You can’t just keep doing the same things over and over again,” Alberts said.

The show had been scheduled at the downtown convention center for September of this year. Still, in January, organizers decided to replace it with an outdoor event called “Motor Bella” at the M1 Concourse track in Pontiac, Michigan.

Alberts said Motor Bella could be incorporated into a future downtown auto show or could be a separate event in the future. It will have track driving and off-road driving area and displays by automakers and technology companies. He said there would be new vehicle debuts at the event from Sept. 21-26, but he wasn’t sure how many.

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