GM's idea: Move the Detroit Auto Show to June, not October

It could anchor a larger auto festival, including the Grand Prix

There's a new twist in the ongoing discussions over switching the time frame for Detroit's annual auto show from January to October. Hometown automaker General Motors has floated an idea to remake the North American International Auto Show as a consumer-focused event in June.

Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes writes that GM has pitched the idea of staging the auto show as an anchor of a larger "massive festival of automotive," as GM's Senior Vice President of Global Communications Tony Cervone put it. That would allow for some of the same benefits that a move to October would open up, including outdoor product reveals and ride-and-drive events for media and show-goers, plus showcasing the international riverfront and other downtown venues. But it could also piggyback with the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear — did you catch the subtle product placement there? — which takes place on Detroit's Belle Isle island park in early June.

But as with a shift to October, there are issues with the June idea. First and foremost is a crowded calendar of events that time of year at Cobo Center, where NAIAS is held, which would complicate the show's months-long setup and tear-down needs. Another problem: cooling Cobo on potentially hot days when the convention floor is crammed with people eager to take in the shiny new metal on display. For perspective, the show attracted more than 800,000 during its nine public days this year, and Cobo runs the AC during the show in January, says Max Muncey, NAIAS spokesman. Staging it at the same time as the Grand Prix could also snarl parking.

"Rod (Alberts, the NAIAS executive director), along with our Board and team are still doing our due diligence of exploring potential date opportunities for NAIAS," Muncey said in an email to Autoblog. "As you can imagine, this involves countless meetings with our key stakeholders around the world. Our ultimate goal is to provide a global stage for participating brands that delivers opportunities and experiences that only Detroit can offer."

Of course, moving the show to October isn't a slam-dunk either. Recently released data suggest that the Detroit auto show is coming off one of its strongest years from a media-coverage perspective, even if the show failed to generate enthusiasm from some auto enthusiasts. Holding it in the fall would also put it in closer competition with auto shows in Los Angeles and the alternating Paris-Frankfurt shows in Europe. But Muncey says organizers have found October to be the "most viable option," since it could function as the first domestic auto show of the circuit, eliminate the high costs of holiday-season overtime and for other reasons.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz are planning to skip the 2019 NAIAS, adding to a growing list of automakers that have defected from the annual show as companies weigh the shifting importance of auto shows and their high costs against the rise of technology events like CES, in Las Vegas in January, and holding standalone events to reveal new products.

Whatever the outcome, the soonest the show would change dates would be 2020. The Detroit auto show organizers definitely have a big decision in front of them.

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