Detroit Auto Show Settles On September 2021 For Its Reappearance

After being buffeted for a couple of years by intensifying competition from the Consumer Electronics Show, growing indifference by German automakers, moves by other troubled auto shows, and, finally, Covid-19, the North American International Auto Show just announced that it will next appear in Detroit in September, 2021, and occupy that early-fall slot indefinitely.

NAIAS was going to reappear in June, 2021, a year after its planned revival in June of this year was scrapped because of the pandemic. “We have talked with many of our partneres, particularly the OEMs, and they are fully on board and excited about the date change,” NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts said in a press release.

The last NAIAS actually conducted was in January, 2019, in what was then called Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. Then the host Detroit Auto Dealers Association announced it would move NAIAS to June, 2020, in a bid to reinvent the traditional auto show and keep it relevant in an era in which automakers’ marketing strategies, rising exhibit costs, competition from the auto-tech-heavy CES, and other factors converged as an existential threat to the three-decade-old event.

The Detroit show hasn’t been alone among the globe’s powerhouse traditional car exhibits in coping with shifting priorities among auto brands as they have come to favor individual marketing launches for their new products and a tech-heavy attendance by journalists, as at CES in Las Vegas in January, for auto-industry advancements that increasingly center around digitization and electrification.

NAIAS has been the king of North American auto shows, through 2019 bringing together thousands of journalists, bloggers, producers and media hangers-on from around the world to mingle with executives from auto companies, suppliers, marketing agencies, dealership chains and others each January for one of the industry’s biggest weeks of new-product and -technology publicity and networking. In the last few years, the show added a significant component called Automobili-D that brought together the digital and automotive industries to discuss electrification and autonomous vehicles.

After several months of re-tinkering, NAIAS was going to be re-staged in downtown Detroit in June, partly inside the newly renamed TCF Center — the old Cobo — and partly outside, on the Detroit River front and in other venues not limited to the Motor City’s downtown. But Alberts had to cancel NAIAS’s plans for a grand revival once the pandemic hit in earnest.

The organization said its show in September, 2021, “will include the same memorable product experiences that were originally planned” for June, 2021, “including dynamic displays and experiential ride-and-drives. The NAIAS campus will include product and technology activations both inside TCF Center and throughout the city.”

“Our responsibility as an auto show is to host a global stage for current products as well as mobility innovations of tomorrow,” Alberts said. “September is an excellent time of year for new product, and at the same time, alleviates the challenges a now-crowded spring auto-show calendar presents for auto-show stakeholders.

NAIAS will remain a fall auto show going forward after the inaugural event in 2021, the show said. Show dates already have been secured with TCF Center for the next three years.

The show also plans to turn the event into something of a celebration of Detroit and Michigan in the fall, hoping to draw additional visitors to NAIAS from beyond the region and state. “The campaign will emphasize that consumers can preview all of the latest new cars and trucks headed to dealership showrooms while also enjoying Detroit and Michigan in the fall,” the release said.

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