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It's official: Auto show shifts to June in 2020, plans street festival

It's a total reboot of one of southeast Michigan's signature events.

DETROIT, Mich. - A radically new Detroit auto show aims to create a festival-like air with vehicle debuts, concerts, splashy displays and food trucks stretching along the riverfront from Cobo Center to Hart Plaza and up Woodward Avenue to Campus Martius when it kicks off the week of June 8, 2020.

More than a year of quiet planning and several months’ intense discussions with more than 250 stakeholders led to the plan, which the Detroit Auto Dealers Association is announcing Monday in the Free Press, Automotive News and WWJ radio.

It’s a total reboot of one of southeast Michigan’s signature events, a new approach that DADA hopes will keep the show relevant in the face of social media and other competition.

“We’re going to put people in car seats, outside on the streets of Detroit,” DADA Executive Director Rod Alberts said. “The only limit to what we can do is the canvas of the streets of Detroit and the exhibitors’ imagination. We’ll showcase Detroit at the best time of year.”

Takin’ it to the streets

Automakers, suppliers and tech companies from around the world are expected to introduce new vehicles and features inside and outside Cobo Center’s exhibit halls.

That means abandoning the mid-January schedule in which the event — officially the North American International Auto Show — grew into one of the world’s leading auto shows and a major economic force, bringing $450 million annually to southeast Michigan.

Plans include:

  • Ride and drives of new vehicles.
  • Off-roading demonstrations and rides.
  • Experiencing self-drive vehicles on public roads.
  • Dynamic vehicle debuts that show vehicles in action rather than just sitting on a stage.
  • Demonstrations of how new technologies work in the real world.

“People have been looking for a way to experience new vehicles and technology,” said Doug North of North Brothers Ford in Westland, who is DADA president and 2020 auto show chairman. “We’ve had a virtually 100 percent favorable response to the change.”

Automakers that have already gone on the record supporting the move include Ford, General Motors, Hyundai and Toyota.

Traditional auto shows are under intense pressure as automakers experiment with other ways to introduce vehicles and impress the public. Everything from private, press-only events to social media unveilings to shows in new markets such as China has led automakers to reevaluate auto shows’ value. The issue became critical earlier this year when German luxury brands announced they would not unveil new vehicles at the 2019 show, which remains on schedule for Jan. 12-27.

Other leading auto shows face the same challenge. Many automakers have already announced they’ll pass on two mainstays of the calendar: the Paris auto show this October and the March 2019 show in Geneva, Switzerland.

Detroit auto show announces summer date 2020, street festival. (Detroit Auto Dealers Association, Detroit Free Press)

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