2021 Detroit Auto Show canceled, replaced by outdoor Motor Bella event

As organizers reconsider the traditional auto show, Motor Bella is being billed as a "bridge to the future."

Steven Ewing Former managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
Steven Ewing
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Detroit Auto Show
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Detroit Auto Show

Here's what the 2021 Detroit Auto Show was supposed to look like.

North American International Auto Show

The Detroit Auto Show as we know it will soon be a thing of the past. Having canceled last year's event, organizers on Monday officially canned the 2021 North American International Auto Show, which will be replaced by a new, outdoor program called Motor Bella.

Motor Bella will run from Sept. 21-26 with press and industry previews taking place from Sept. 21-23. The show will open to the public on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 23, and will run through Sunday, Sept. 26. This is a significantly shorter timetable than previous Detroit Auto Shows, which were historically open to the public for at least a full week.

North American International Auto Show

Motor Bella is being billed as "a bridge to the future" as organizers reconsider the traditional auto show formula. It's no secret the COVID-19 pandemic took quite a toll on public events around the world, and Motor Bella is Detroit's way of reimagining the whole auto show experience.

To that end, Motor Bella will take place completely outdoors at the M1 Concourse motorsports facility in Pontiac, Michigan, which organizers say is "centrally located in the metro Detroit area" (though locals will likely disagree with that statement). The event will have 1.6 million square feet of "dynamic vehicle and technology display space," according to an official press release, and M1's 1.5-mile test track will be used for vehicle demonstrations.

Up until the pandemic, the North American International Auto Show was always held in January at Detroit's Cobo Center (which was recently renamed the TCF Center, but as a native Detroiter, I refuse to acknowledge this). The show was going to be overhauled in a big way last year, moving from its ass-freeze-athon January dates to June in order to better make use of the city's outdoor space. As the coronavirus showed no signs of letting up, the event was eventually canceled and pushed to September 2021 before being scrapped outright.

"The traditional auto show model is changing," Detroit Auto Show executive director Rod Alberts said in a statement. "We cannot ignore the major disruptions caused by the pandemic and the impact it has had on budgets. As such, we will be providing an amazing experience to the media, the auto industry and the public in a cost-effective way."

Fingers crossed it takes place as planned.

Watch this: Our highlights of the 2019 Detroit Auto Show