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North American International Auto Show to move to June in 2020

24 July 2018 Stephanie Brinley, MBA

IHS Markit perspective

  • Implications: The annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is moving from its traditional January dates on the calendar, with the organizers opting to hold the event in June. The organizers expect the change to contribute to reduced costs of traditional conference center displays, as well as create the potential for dynamic, outdoor events throughout the city.
  • Outlook: The change of month of the NAIAS is a significant move on the calendar and reflects the changing auto show environment. The change is being made in the hope of stemming the erosion of participation in recent years. While the changes on the auto show circuit are being felt worldwide, this is the most dramatic reaction yet to these. One of the aims is to expand the event's scope. Choosing June to hold it positions the show at the end of the traditional auto show season and reduces direct competition with other auto and technology shows, although it also extends the auto show season.

The organizers of the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which has been held in Detroit, Michigan (United States), in January since 1987, have announced that, in 2020, the date of the event will be shifted to the week of 8 June. Prior to the launch of the NAIAS, the show was a regional event called the Detroit Auto Show. That show began in 1907 and was also held in December or January every year.

The NAIAS is run by the Detroit Auto Dealers' Association (DADA) and its executive board. In statement announcing the change, the executive director of the NAIAS, Rod Alberts, said, "Our show is undergoing its most significant transformation in the last three decades. Detroit will continue to be a global stage for some of the world's most significant and iconic vehicle reveals and host an unparalleled international audience of media and key industry influencers."

The move to June is also expected to reduce the cost for exhibitors inside of Cobo Hall, as the cost of setting up the show during November, December, and January holidays has resulted in extremely high labor expenses. The show is also reducing the move-in schedule from eight weeks to three weeks. "With a reduced build time, exhibit builds will be simplified and less custom-built for Detroit, providing numerous cost savings as well," the DADA release states. The NAIAS organizers envision an event that expands outside of Cobo Hall to various locations in the Detroit area, enabled by the city's weather typically being warmer and more pleasant in June than in November, December, or January. In addition, the new date has been selected to position the show after the Detroit Grand Prix race weekend, which is the first weekend in June, hoping to tap into area car enthusiasm. According to a Detroit Free Press report, Alberts said, "We're going to put people in car seats, outside on the streets of Detroit. 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."

The NAIAS organizers expect that hosting the show in a warmer month will enable exhibitors to "conduct dynamic outdoor experiential brand activations, immersing and engaging the media and consumers in memorable product experiences". The NAIAS organizers envision dynamic vehicle debuts, ride and drives, autonomous/automated driving displays, and off-road challenges as being among the possibilities. The change is also happening at a time when the downtown Detroit area is seeing increased investment and growing popularity and, slowly, becoming a more vibrant environment.

Outlook and implications

The change of month of the NAIAS is a significant move on the calendar and reflects the changing auto show environment. The change is being made in the hope of stemming the erosion of participation in recent years. While the changes on the auto show circuit are being felt worldwide, this is the most dramatic reaction yet to these. One of the aims is to expand the event's scope. Choosing June to hold it positions the show at the end of the traditional auto show season and reduces direct competition with other auto and technology shows, although it also extends the auto show season.

Automakers' participation in the annual shows has been reduced and shifting to the largest auto shows for several years, including the NAIAS, Geneva, Paris, and Frankfurt, and auto shows have been under pressure. This has been driven, in part, by automakers finding a plethora of platforms through which they can announce new vehicles or technology news. An increasing number of automakers are choosing events to reveal their vehicles off the auto show circuit completely, and they are learning to leverage the immediacy of internet content more effectively. Auto shows have worked to adapt to a changing industry and provide venues and formats meant to include new technologies and changing industry priorities. As automakers also look to reveal their technology development as well as to sell today's products, whether infotainment or adaptive driving systems, a variety of technology-orientated business-to-business shows organized by CES and held globally have also provided other opportunities. The CES expos have proved a solid platform to reveal new technology, including some vehicle concepts, and receive a notable amount of media attention, but they are not open to the public and the technology displayed is often shown well in advance of availability. This makes the CES a really interesting backdrop for vehicles such as Toyota's e-Palette, but not a great venue to display a vehicle going on sale in the very near term. In addition, the biennial Shanghai and Beijing motor shows, which alternate and are held in April, have added another option for vehicle introductions, and the size of the Chinese market makes these shows appealing. Non-show reveals have the benefit from the automaker's viewpoint of a more focused media audience through a vetted guest list. The internet created an immediate outlet for content, and automakers are learning to take advantage of that resource.

Another key factor in the decline of media introductions at international auto shows is a hangover from the 2008-09 recession. In Europe and North America, automakers either scaled back their press briefings or did not participate in some shows on the annual calendar because of budget cuts. However, automakers' scaling back of their auto show presence also forced more creativity and opened up their thinking to alternative approaches. As automakers have returned to various shows as the health of the industry has improved, it seems they have also learned that auto shows can, in fact, be optional. This lesson seems to have had a profound impact on the decision of various automakers regarding whether or not they "must" be at a given auto show, or if alternative platforms can be just as or more effective.

Because of the concentration of automakers, suppliers, and technical centers in the southeastern Michigan area, the NAIAS has also long served as a major annual networking event for the industry, and a rare opportunity to see the competition. The NAIAS organizers are likely to ensure the show continues to meet the needs of Industry Day attendees, although the way that is achieved may change as well.

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The above article is from AutoIntelligence Daily by IHS Markit. AutoIntelligence Daily provides same-day analysis of automotive news, events and trends. Get a free trial.

Posted 24 July 2018 by Stephanie Brinley, MBA, Principal Automotive Analyst, IHS Markit

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