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Detroit Auto Show canceled as FEMA declares TCF Center a COVID-19 field hospital

The TCF Center, home of Detroit's North American International Auto Show, is getting repurposed.

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Detroit Auto Show

NAIAS is the latest auto-show cancellation due to COVID-19.

Freers Photography/Detroit Auto Show
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The 2020 Detroit Auto Show has been canceled. The annual auto expo was nixed after the Federal Emergency Management Agency designated its host venue, the TCF Center, a coronavirus field hospital, as first reported last week by the Detroit Free Press.

Formally known as the North American International Auto Show, the Detroit show was moved to June this year after occupying a winter slot on the international car show circuit for decades. The reenvisioned show, which was set to include outdoor activities such as ride-and-drives and self-driving car displays, will instead take place in June 2021. 

NAIAS had planned to offer media days on June 9 and 10, with public show days running June 13 to 20.

Word of NAIAS 2020's cancellation came via a memo sent March 28 from show organizers to sponsors. When reached by phone March 28, 2020 NAIAS Chair Doug North told Roadshow: "We haven't even begun to worry about the financial impact of the show.... We're completely supportive of this change. We know it's the right thing to do.... We're just focused on making sure we can get southeast Michigan healthy." 

Auto show organizers were aware that FEMA had been procuring a series of convention centers, so the designation of TCF Center as a field hospital didn't come as a surprise, North said. As a tenant of the downtown-Detroit conventional facility, NAIAS wasn't contacted directly by FEMA. Its organizers learned about the decision from TCF authorities on March 27. 

FEMA has designated that the overflow hospital be in place "for at least six months," the Detroit Free Press reported.

According to North, "Our whole exec team is still intact. We're going to move the ball forward another 12 months and continue to try to make the best show we can."  

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Earlier last week, work started on converting Manhattan's Javits Center, home of the New York Auto Show, into a 2,000-bed temporary hospital to house coronavirus patients. Earlier in March, the New York show was pushed back from early April to August.

In a subsequent statement released March 28, NAIAS organizers confirmed that "all tickets purchased for the 2020 NAIAS show, including tickets for the Public Show, Industry Preview and Charity Preview, will be fully refunded." People who bought charity gala tickets can receive a refund or designate that the money go to one of nine charities.

The Detroit Auto Show is just the latest in a long string of car-related races and gatherings that have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, IndyCar announced on March 26 its decision to move the legendary Indianapolis 500 race from Memorial Day weekend to Aug. 23.

First published on March 28.