If you’ve been following the auto news the past few weeks, you may have come across articles reporting the Detroit Auto Show’s demise, or even eventual demise.
I disagree with many of my colleagues on this. Admittedly, the Show lacked its former panache as the majority of manufacturers were absent. But the vehicles of certain brands were still at the site.
It is also true that the surface used was far from that which we have known in the past. The pandemic has left its mark, but we already started to see absences at various motor shows before the crisis.
Why? The web, which changed the game. Manufacturers can unveil designs at any time and take advantage of all the reflectors on the planet, all for a fraction of the cost of attending traditional shows.
This change will last. Does it threaten the presentation of future events? No. And here’s why; trade shows are not held for members of the media, but for the general public. And what was visible in Detroit after the departure of the scribes and car photographers after the media days gave us good proof of this.
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As soon as the turnstiles opened, the crowds came in large numbers. The giant duck, present in front of Place Huntington, delighted children and families. They could also line up to try the Jeep route to discover the capabilities of the Wrangler, or go to the Ford kiosk to get into the F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck. We could see how the children were having fun like crazy in front of full-sized dinosaurs and everyone could admire the performances with the flying cars present at the Show.
On Friday night, the city center was buzzing as thousands turned up for a preview of a charity show, happy to take part in the city’s first car party since January 2019. And, details not to be neglected, the temperature is much more pleasant in September than in January in Detroit.
The result was that tens of thousands of enthusiasts flocked to Huntington Place all weekend. Unfortunately, the organizers did not provide official figures on the number of visitors, arguing that the exact number was difficult to obtain due to all the events held outside. The attendance is obviously lower than previous shows, due to the size of the event, but there was a great crowd, everyone agrees on that.
In addition to outdoor workouts, food trucks were ready to welcome the hungry on Jefferson Avenue, free music programs added atmosphere, and Monster Trucks had fun scavenging on Hart Plaza.
An interesting detail gives an idea of the attraction generated by the show on the public. On Sunday, when the Detroit Lions football team played its first home game, the wait was an hour to take a ride in a Ford Bronco on a landscaped off-road track.
Between the Friday night charity preview and the first public day of the show on Saturday, more than 5,000 people took rides in a Ford Bronco or F-150 Lightning. On Saturday, Ram and Jeep hosted more than 5,000 laps on their off-road course.
For the public, the Detroit Auto Show was well and truly back.
What was missing during the media day were the big presentations, the big unveilings, accompanied by meals with the builders. For the public, it is not what is important, but to be able to examine vehicles more closely and have fun and dream on the floor of a show.
In this regard, the first Detroit auto show held for three years did a good job. And the public asked for more.
And it will be the same at the Los Angeles auto show in November, as at those in Montreal, Toronto, Quebec and Vancouver next year.
And that’s about all that matters.
As for the author of these rules, he will continue to follow manufacturers’ car presentations, whether at a fair or during virtual events.