The BMW Group was half-in, half-out of this year's show. The Roundel unveiled the production X2 and i8 on the show floor, and apparently wanted to show the X7 iPerformance concept, which actually debuted in Los Angeles, but the vehicle got damaged in transport. Rolls-Royce unveiled the Phantom at a pre-show event called The Gallery. Mini got left at home.
BMW wasn't alone in ambivalence; involvement in what used to be the nation's auto show makes it appear the Detroit event is dying by degrees. Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, and Volvo skipped Detroit this year, and we don't know when they'll return. Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, and Porsche didn't display on the show floor, but did have vehicles at The Gallery; Lamborghini unveiled the Urus there. Alfa Romeo, Audi, Chrysler, and Dodge had displays but didn't hold press conferences. Cadillac brought nothing new so that it could focus on the New York Auto Show, the location of the carmaker's headquarters.
The Detroit Auto Dealers Association, organizers of the show, has ideas on how to reverse the trend, the primary one being a new show focus and a move to the fall. Instead of a big-buck automotive circus, the reboot would center on products and technology. Detroit's made a small move in the technology direction with its AutoMobili-D hall focusing on future mobility. The potential benefits of hosting a less expensive show in the fall would be eliminating all conflict with the Consumer Electronics Show, and much better weather. The dealer body should vote on the proposal next month. If approved, a move could come in 2020. The potential conflict is that the alternating Paris and Frankfurt shows, and Los Angeles, already own that season.
The DADA will want to figure something out. The city of Detroit spent $279 million on Cobo Center four years ago on repairs and upgrades at the behest of the DADA. The show attracts more than 5,000 media personnel from more than 60 countries, more than 23,000 personnel from 2,000 companies, and injects hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy.