No matter what the temperature is when the North American International Auto Show opens, it will be much warmer for the opening of the 2020 show. That’s because it will mercifully move from the ice box known as January to the simmering spring days of early June.
But moving one of the world’s most important auto shows to warmer weather has more implications than simply sparing media and the public from braving snow and cold in finding their way to Detroit’s Cobo Center.
It’s not only a breath of more sultry air, the move just may breathe life into a show that has been losing automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW. Indeed, a dwindling presence by foreign companies threatened NAIAS’s status as an “international” show–a hard-earned status the show has held since 1989. It’s the difference between being a less important regional show, to one that attracts thousands of members of the media, the highest level of auto executives and the greatest number of major vehicle introductions.
The move to June means the Detroit show can offer both journalists and the public more than simply stationary vehicles on display. The plan is to take advantage of the better weather by offering, in the words of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association which manages the show: “dynamic vehicle debuts, ride and drives, autonomous/automated driving and off-road challenges.” The DADA also speaks of extending displays and experiences to other nearby downtown venues such as Hart Plaza, Detroit RiverWalk and Campus Martius. This is vital because consumers are intensely interested in not only a traditional test drive, but in getting their hands on all the technology packed into today’s vehicles and making decisions on how that technology functions and how easy systems are to operate such as infotainment and navigation features.
It’s not an overstatement to say auto shows in general are in a life or death situation. With the ubiquity of social media automakers can avoid spending millions on extravagant auto displays and media introductions by using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and live webcasting to unveil new vehicles. When I ran Fiat Chrysler’s digital communications team, I started live tweeting and webcasting from our reveals as a means of giving consumers and far-flung media the chance to virtually attend the show, get the information in full context and not from short soundbites and video clips–gaining literally millions of incremental impressions and coverage at a fraction of the cost. With easily accessible, and relatively low-cost technology available, automakers are seriously second-guessing the need to participate in auto shows.
The hope is being able to offer a richer experience to consumers, and more hospitable weather, those automakers who had decided to sit out Detroit will reconsider the value of the show and return.