brands didn’t make the North American International Auto Show, and
they can’t break it.
Keep that in
mind as the Detroit Auto Dealers Association considers new dates and
other changes for the show that’s become one of Detroit’s
signature events and biggest moneymaking businesses.
The panic this
year when Mercedes, BMW and Audi said they wouldn’t introduce new
vehicles at the 2019 show is the outward evidence of a question all
the world’s leading auto shows are asking themselves: Do we still
The answer is
that nobody knows, and we probably won’t be sure for a few years.
auto shows that have thrived for more than a century are holding
an auto-show issue, not a Detroit issue," IHS Markit senior
analyst Stephanie Brinley said. "Automakers have more choices
than ever before when they introduce a new vehicle. They can do it
at a traditional auto show, at a private event, at new shows in
China or on social media. There’s so much more competition for the
existing shows. They’re still figuring out what works."
meantime, the Detroit show should focus on Asian automakers, the
ones we know and love and the next generation of up-and-comers from
China and India.
It was Toyota
and Nissan that turned the Detroit show into a global news event and
a regional economic powerhouse a generation ago. Not Mercedes, not
BMW. Equally important, not GM, Ford or Chrysler.
A few of
Detroit-area auto dealers persuaded the Japanese giants to stage the
1989 global launch of their Lexus and Infiniti luxury brands in
Detroit, of all places.
It was a
display of pure chutzpah to unveil those brands in the Big Three’s
backyard, and it succeeded brilliantly. Lexus and Infiniti got
unprecedented news coverage, the brands got off to a flying start
and the global auto industry changed forever as the Japanese auto
industry shed its reputation for cheap and cheerful cars.
GM, Ford and
Chrysler were asterisks in the coverage from their hometown show.
Back then, the Detroit brands didn’t hold news events at the
Detroit show. They owned this town, so they took their A game to the
Chicago auto show, where top executives unveiled new vehicles at
fancy press conferences.
After 1989 —
the year the Detroit auto show changed its name to the North
American International Auto Show — Ford, Chevy, Cadillac, Chrysler
and Dodge threw all their resources into winning at home. Japanese
and Korean brands followed suit. They remain a major driver of the
show today, unveiling many of their most important vehicles here.
big-deal car from a German automaker in Detroit didn’t happen
until 1993, when Porsche unveiled the Boxster concept. A year later,
Volkswagen followed with the Concept A, which heralded the return of
the near-mythical Beetle.
were late to the party. Now they’re the first to leave.
mean the party’s over. Next January’s Detroit auto show should
still host new vehicles and news from Japanese, Korean and Chinese
companies, plus the Detroit Three.
Auto Dealers Association will announce its plans for the 2020 auto
show in mid-July. I’d bet something I could afford to lose it will
move to October, when automakers can show off new vehicles and
technologies in Michigan’s beautiful fall weather.
DADA wants the
show to remain a leading stage for automakers and tech companies to
show off vehicles and innovations.
To do that,
they should remember what worked last time they reinvented the show:
look to Asia.
Detroit auto show should go all-out to host the unveilings of
established favorites such as the Toyota Camry, Lexus LS, Honda
Odyssey, hot newcomers like the Kia Stinger and Genesis G90, and, of
course, local heroes from Ford, Cadillac, Chevy, Jeep and Ram.
enough, though. DADA representatives, who travel the globe
tirelessly drumming up vehicle intros and executives for the show,
need to get back on the road and make Detroit THE stage for the next
generation of global brands.
launching pad for China’s competitors for the Accord and Google’s
self-driving minivan, India’s answers to the Jeep Wrangler and
that if DADA makes Detroit the place strong newcomers announce
themselves, established brands will come here, too.
even the Germans.