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June 18, 2021 10:00 AM, EDT

Auto Show Back in Detroit Next Year

Detroit auto show The floor of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 2019. (Paul Sancya/AP)

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DETROIT — The head of Detroit’s big international auto show says it will return to the Motor City next year, but with smaller indoor displays and more emphasis on experiencing vehicles and technology outside.

The North American International Auto Show was canceled last year due the coronavirus pandemic and will be replaced this year by an event at a racetrack north of Detroit.

But Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which runs the show, said that next year an event will be staged downtown.

“That’s the place it belongs,” Alberts told the Automotive Press Association of Detroit on June 17.

But he said the show will have to change from the past, when automakers built elaborate and costly multistory displays and unveiled their most important new models.

Now car companies are finding they can get good exposure and spend less by doing virtual unveilings outside of auto shows, where vehicles can be overshadowed by other debuts. Some automakers had pulled out of Detroit and other shows.

Alberts said Detroit and other shows have to change to appeal more to millennials, which are two generations after baby boomers and like to experience things rather than just view them.

He envisions mainly a walkable outdoor event encompassing the entire downtown, with smaller displays and maybe some electric vehicle driving indoors. It would be during good-weather months instead of the traditional frigid January in Detroit.

“You can’t just keep doing the same things over and over again,” Alberts said.

The show had been scheduled at the downtown convention center for September of this year, but in January organizers decided to replace it with an outdoor event called Motor Bella at the M1 Concourse track in Pontiac.

Alberts said Motor Bella could be incorporated into a future downtown auto show or be a separate event. It will have track driving, an off-road driving area, and displays by automakers and technology companies. He said there will be new vehicle debuts at the event Sept. 21-26, but he wasn’t sure how many.

Last month, the Chicago Auto Show announced that it would be back downtown in July. The New York International Auto Show is scheduled to make a comeback from Aug. 20-29 at the Javits Convention Center, and the Los Angeles Auto Show is to return Nov. 19-28 at the convention center.

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