Detroit Auto Show considering move to October in 2020

CES and notable OEM departures are among the reasons for the potential shift.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
3 min read
Detroit Auto Show

Come 2020, the coverage of the Detroit Auto Show might not include hundreds of tweets about how frail Californian journalists can't handle the plunging temps.

The North American International Auto Show -- or the Detroit Auto Show, if you're discussing it with a person and not a press release -- is considering a move from January to October for its 2020 show, Crain's Detroit Business reports, citing sources familiar with the matter. "A critical part of being a sought-after global stage for companies is that we continuously evaluate future opportunities to make sure our show meets participating brands' needs. Ongoing discussions are under way with key stakeholders around the world," a Detroit Auto Show spokesperson told us.

As it stands, Detroit operates as the "introduction" to the auto show season: Detroit in January, Chicago in February, Geneva in March, New York in April, followed by a summer break, then Paris or Frankfurt (they alternate) in October and Los Angeles capping it off in November. That seems pretty tidy, but there's been one big wrench in the works over the last few years -- CES .

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This year, CES pushed its media preview back by one week. According to my source, the Detroit Auto Show execs damn near had a coronary until they, too, decided to move back a week. None of this is healthy.

Freers Photography/Detroit Auto Show

CES, which used to stand for the Consumer Electronics Show, has been doing a great job stealing Detroit's thunder. Occurring the week prior, CES' tech angle has scooped up several notable unveilings, including Chrysler's neato Portal minivan concept from 2017. Some automakers will even have a presence at CES but skip Detroit, probably because the weather is 10,000 times better.

Playing hooky is another problem. Major auto show stands are expensive, some costing as much as eight figures, and automakers are growing keener to spend their money in more fruitful ways. There's also the matter of setting the show up, which can take months and in Detroit's case, requires costly payments to union laborers during multiple holiday seasons.

Early in February, reports circulated that Mercedes-Benz would back out of Detroit in 2019 despite having a regular (and very large) presence at Cobo Center. Between targeted advertisements and working with influencers on various social media platforms, there are better ways to reach the public in the 21st century. It could just be that Mercedes doesn't have anything massive planned for that time frame next year, as well.

Moving to October would carry a few benefits. It would reduce the mad rush to cover both CES and Detroit back to back, which is onerous for folks who don't have a house in either city. It would reduce CES' negative influence on Detroit. It could boost foot traffic during the show's consumer days, which could boost show-stand ROI and convince fewer automakers to skip the show. Perhaps most importantly, it would get my Californian colleagues to shut up about the weather.

That doesn't mean there aren't drawbacks. It would bump up against the Los Angeles Auto Show . It would drastically reduce the show's setup time because Cobo hosts other conferences in the late summer and early fall. It would be a strange time for most automakers' product release timelines, which in the US occurs right around that time, meaning any new car shown off could be upward of a year away from going on sale. Either way, it's being considered, but no matter when the Detroit Auto Show takes place, you bet your tuchus we'll be there, albeit in lighter jackets maybe.

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