DETROIT—The Detroit auto show is undergoing a drastic reorganization in 2020, when it will move from the dead of winter to early June to better appeal to car shoppers—and the growing list of auto makers that have dropped out in recent years—with outdoor displays and on-road vehicle demonstrations.
The Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which puts on the show, says the changes should help auto makers save money, reducing move-in costs by 30 to 40 percent and cutting setup time to three weeks from an average of eight weeks now. One reason June would be cheaper is that exhibitors no longer would need to pay overtime around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
But whether the move can reinvigorate the show, which draws more than 800,000 attendees and is estimated to contribute nearly $500 million to the local economy, as more auto makers reveal their latest models at alternative venues is less clear. Rod Alberts, the show's executive director, thinks it can.
"We'd be foolish to not see the trending of what's going on in the industry and think we can continue to do the same thing," Alberts said in an interview. "We have to reformulate and reimagine what we need to be."
That reimagination includes moving outside the Cobo Center show floor and into more of downtown Detroit.
A presentation shared with Automotive News and Crain's Detroit Business ahead of an announcement planned for July 24, depicts auto maker-sponsored outdoor concerts and vehicle displays in the long, riverfront plaza that stretches toward General Motors' headquarters; presentation space and food trucks near a busy park in the center of the city; and test-drive courses on the convention hall's rooftop parking lot. It also shows water taxis ferrying passengers between the main show floor and events on Belle Isle, an island park in the Detroit River.