There's a really unique place that's opening up in the Detroit area today. It's called the Detroit International Auto Salon, and it's kind of like a big general store for the auto industry. But it's actually open to anybody who wants to go there.
Think of something that has the same sort of exhibits you see at the SAE, and SEMA, and Convergence shows, but all wrapped into one gigantic retail outlet. And instead of having these industry shows appear once a year or so, the DIAS will be open on a year round basis.

Plus, it'll offer everything. Parts and components, castings and forgings, stampings and moldings, electronic bits and pieces, and who knows what else. Technical literature and a bookstore will also be part of the mix.

The auto salon is the brainchild of an entrepreneur named Eric Huang who has already created a similar salon in Taiwan with huge success. There's one in Japan, and there's a monstrously big one going up in Nanjing, China. Eric sees great opportunity in creating a central location where purchasing agents from automakers and suppliers from around the world can gather to shop in a comfortable, relaxing and entertaining venue. He specifically wants to create the kind of shopping atmosphere that IKEA has, so the store itself actually becomes a destination.

Eric Huang says purchasing agents will no longer have to travel to the four corners of the earth looking for potential new suppliers. They'll just have to travel to the Auto Salon where they'll find everyone under one roof. He'll even have electric carts to whisk them to exactly the display they want to visit, so they don't waste time walking up and down aisles. As anyone who has tramped through trade shows knows, that can become a grueling ordeal. Ultimately, he told me, to make the experience even more pleasant he'd like to offer foot massages.

And in case visitors get hungry, he has a fully equipped cafeteria, where anyone can get a snack, a full meal, or just a good cup of coffee.

But, again, this is not just for purchasing agents from automakers and suppliers. It'll be open to the general public because he also wants to offer all kinds of aftermarket accessories. Specifically, he says the Detroit International Auto Salon will have the biggest display of wheels in the United States. And tires, and GPS systems, and all kinds of electronic devices. He dreams of families spending Saturday afternoons strolling trough the place, while guys bring their dates in the evening.

But Eric is an astute businessman. He's taking it one step at a time. To keep costs low he took over half of a gigantic building in Allen Park, Michigan that's been empty ever since Visteon, the supplier company, vacated it a couple of years ago. (Jack Roush has operations in the other half of the building.) The furnishings inside are sparse and modest. But he already has commitments from civic leaders in the area to build an all new facility right next to Detroit's International Airport, if the Auto Salon really takes off.

So will it work? Who knows? But it seems to me this is just too good of an idea to fail. And if it does work, I'm sure we'll see other auto salons popping up around the major automotive centers in the world.

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