NAIAS Ditching January Date for Better Weather: Report

Anyone living north of, let’s be generous, the Mason-Dixon line knows that January is probably the worst month in which to enjoy anything related to automobiles. Driving them, repairing them, and even traveling long distances to look at them.

Now, let’s say there was a car-filled extravaganza that occurred every winter in a northern city located next to a number of very large lakes and along a well-defined storm track. Surely, this could not only impede the enjoyment (and perhaps forward momentum) of said cars, but it could make getting to said northern city a challenge.

Suffice it to say, Detroit in January isn’t the most pleasant of environs, and the North American International Auto Show’s organizers know it. As concerns about the show’s waning appeal grow, sources claim the event is prepared to set up shop in a warmer month.

A month like, say, October.

That’s what sources familiar with the matter tell the Wall Street Journal, and it isn’t just because organizers are sick of bundling up against the windchill outside the Cobo Center. The last few years have seen a growing crescendo of murmurs about whether auto shows are still relevant in our modern, connected society. Worse yet, major automakers are beginning to pull out of the event.

Following this year’s NAIAS, Mercedes-Benz said sayonara to the show, leaving a major section of the Cobo show floor vacant in 2019. Porsche and Volvo were nowhere to be found in 2018, either.

It’s an automaker’s prerogative — new product reveals can occur in any manner the company sees fit. If it wants to shell out for a press junket in some warm clime while showering the internet with information and high-res photos, consumers will know about the newest four-door SUV coupe just the same.

The Detroit auto show, first held in 1907 — in December, we should add — morphed into today’s NAIAS long after the Detroit Auto Dealers Association realized it needed to do something to get buyers excited about cars in the dead of winter. Motor City denizens would surely be more likely to hit frostbitten dealerships after seeing sultry sheet metal in the flesh. Far-away readers enamored of images springing from glossy car mags would surely do the same.

That was then, and this is now. As automakers seek technological superiority in the emerging electric car, connected car, and autonomous car fields, the Consumer Electronics Show — held in Las Vegas the week before NAIAS — is now stealing a lot of Detroit’s thunder.

A spokesman for the show did admit organizers are “exploring opportunities to better leverage the how [sic?] and the region,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Speaking to the paper, Scott LaRiche, a Chevrolet dealer in nearby Plymouth, Michigan and chairman emeritus of NAIAS, said he’s often asked about the show’s date.

A new date in temperate October would make more sense, he claimed.

Switching winter for early fall (if that) likely wouldn’t be a huge disruption. New model year vehicles are usually on sale by that point, and upcoming product not yet ready for unveiling could wait until late November’s Los Angeles Auto Show for a turn at the spotlight. As well, it would give the show a months-long headstart on CES.

If anyone’s raising major objections, we haven’t heard them.

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