On the calendar of North American auto shows, it’s always been Detroit , Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago occupying the top spots for most significant events of the year. The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which has been held in Detroit’s Cobo Center since 1965, takes up almost one million square feet of floor space. It’s there where the automakers battle it out for your attention, for those important bits of news. And then the public floods in, which is where automakers hope to turn news and attention into sales at the dealerships.
Detroit though, as lost a lot of its luster. Auto shows in general are seemingly less important that they used to be. All of the new car information that anyone needs is available at all times from that tiny supercomputer held in their hands. The spec sheets are easily accessed. Reviewer impressions are taken in and digested. The entirety of a vehicle’s given pros and cons list can be disseminated in a near instant. It’s less important for the consumer to spend a day walking the lanes of their nearest auto show.
And it’s less important for manufacturers to even show up.
This year in Detroit, I was surprised to find a number of large automakers were not on site. There were no Jaguar or Land Rover products to ogle. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Porsche didn’t bring their Teutonic treats. Mazda was not in the building with its zoom-zoom family. There was nary a nice new Volvo to be found. Yes, FCA, Ford, and GM were all on hand. They have to be, as this is their relative home turf. But the lack of others was glaring, even if the NAIAS folks tried to fill the hole with a legion of exotic and tuner cars.
Embrace the future tech?
That space may have been better served by moving the various forward-looking mobility companies out of a random corner and into this larger spot. There at least we could have show goers wowed by interesting future tech instead of matte paint, body kits, and a lone Hummer H1. It was as if the H1 was standing as a silent sentinel, guarding the glorious past of the Detroit Auto Show. Except no one was paying it any mind. It need not guard anything, because no one cares anymore.
Some cool, exciting, long-awaited cars arrived this year. But it’s not enough for Detroit. Los Angeles and New York have stolen most of the thunder. Detroit doesn’t appear to be as important as it used to be.
Can it return to its auto show glory days?
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