Less than two weeks after the November-May Los Angeles Auto Show move upset the balance of power among the auto industry’s top events to unveil new vehicles, the Detroit Show was snapping the grand prize – the only slot available for one big show in Der Herbst, the centerpiece of the intro season for new vehicles.
The 2021 Detroit Auto Show, officially known as the North American International Auto Show or NAIAS, runs from September 24th to October 24th. 9.
“The more we talked to automakers and our other partners, the sooner we realized that this time of year was the sweet spot,” said Doug North, chairman of NAIAS.
“A lot of new models will be introduced in autumn. Then there is a need for a leading auto show, perhaps even more so than in the summer. The move met with general approval. “
The show’s organizers, the city of Detroit, and the management of the TCF Center jumped into action as the LA show announced it would be rescheduled from November to May 19-31. The new spring dates were uncomfortably close to the long-announced dates of the other top shows: New York from March 31 to April 11 and Detroit from June 11 to June 26.
The move from LA also brought the newly opened NAIAS to its opening. The coup by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which sponsors the Detroit Show, is fully supported by leading automakers, said Rod Alberts, executive director of DADA. That’s important because automakers like Ford, GM, Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, and Fiat Chrysler can make or break a show by choosing to or not introduce exciting new vehicles there.
For the past decade, the LA show featured vehicles that were introduced this fall. The 2019 LA show achieved a huge hit last fall when Ford selected it for the debut of the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV. The opportunity for a first look at Mach-E attracted visitors from afar and journalists from around the world.
LA forfeited that prime-time slot by moving to May.
“When it gets out, the LA show organizers will say, ‘How the hell did we let this happen?’ “Said Larry Alexander, president of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau and chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Center Authority, which operates the TCF center where the show takes place.” This is a great step for our city and region. “
The Detroit Show long benefited from being the first major auto show of the calendar year in January. In 2019, organizers decided to move into June to take advantage of the riverside location of the TCF Center for the outdoor events, test drives and technical demos that automakers are increasingly keen to offer.
This carefully crafted plan did not survive COVID-19 when the Army Corps of Engineers converted the TCF Center into an emergency hospital. In March, NAIAS announced it would skip 2020 and move on to a June show in 2021.
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The new fall dates could serve both NAIAS purposes better. Late September and early October promise even better weather for outdoor events than storm-prone June – and the show is positioned to draw in vehicle debuts for the auto industry’s busiest season: fall.
2021 Detroit Auto Show dates
- Motor Bella: September 24-26
- The gallery: September 26th
- Press preview: 28.-29. September
- AutoMobili-D: 28.-30. September
- Industry preview: 29.-30. September
- Charity Preview: October 1st
- Public show: October 2-9
“A brilliant move”
In addition, October is traditionally a slow time for downtown conferences and trade shows, Alexander said.
“This is a guaranteed gigantic business for the city. We can easily fill the dates in June with other conventions and shows. “It’s a great move for hotels, restaurants and the hospitality industry.”
The future of auto shows is far from certain as automakers experiment with other ways to introduce new models. With the move into the fall, Detroit’s signature show is uniquely well positioned at a time when many new vehicles are being offered for sale – and lies between NAIAS and NAIAS for several months between its top competitors.
In fact, October 2019 was some insiders’ preferred time of year when the show explored alternatives to January.
Associated events, including a preview of vehicles from the UK and Italy and an invitation-only high roller show of exotic and luxurious cars, will fill downtown Detroit from September 24-26. New vehicles will be presented at press conferences from September 28 to 29, followed by AutoMobili-D’s tech and startup show and industry days. The charity preview is set for October 1st. The show is open to the public from October 2-9.
“September and October in Michigan are spectacular,” said North. “We have wonderful days and cool evenings. It’s perfect for outdoor activities.”
The goal is to transform Detroit’s riverside and downtown area into a two-week celebration of automotive design, engineering and innovation. Expect everything from food trucks to self-driving vehicles to rugged, purpose-built courses for off-roaders.
“This gives us a big head start over other auto shows,” said Alexander. “Everyone will want to be here.”
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