February 26, 2024

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The Detroit Auto Show returns in January

The Detroit Auto Show returns in January

The Detroit Auto Show is returning to its traditional January slot from the late September dates it occupied for the past two years, organizers with the Detroit Auto Dealers Association confirmed Thursday.

The upcoming North American International Auto Show will be held Friday, January 10 through Monday, January 20, 2025 at Huntington Place in downtown Detroit. The exhibition's charity preview event will be held on Friday, January 10. Public viewing days will be from January 11 to January 20, concluding on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Media, Industry and Technology Days are expected to follow the pattern of previous years, which will be on January 8 and 9.

“The Detroit Auto Show is pleased to announce that the iconic show will return to its roots with its debut in January 2025,” Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Show and Detroit Auto Dealers Association, said in a statement. “Our primary goal is to create an impactful auto show and showcase our great city and industry. After discussions with many partners, we believe the January date makes the most sense. In an ever-changing global automotive landscape, this update reflects our efforts to continue to reimagine the Detroit Auto Show with Keeping an eye on what's most important – getting people interested in cars.

The Detroit News was first to report that the auto show has been moved to January 2025. The North American International Auto Show was last held in January in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers had proposed moving the show to the summer to showcase Detroit during the warmer months, allow outdoor activities and provide a more festival-like approach, where car shows in general have faced challenges.

The Internet has made it easier for customers to search for products. Automakers have increasingly opted for demo events and vehicle unveilings through their own stands or in commercials during televised sporting events rather than competing for the spotlight at auto shows with expensive stages.

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Although the Detroit Auto Dealers Association show over the past two years has been able to make greater use of the outdoors, the September dates fell shortly after the back-to-school rush and amid the kickoff of football season. In January, the show has fewer events to compete in than in the winter and can help drive sales during the quieter months.

Winter is a slower time of year for convention business with more local RV, boat and car shows, said Claude Molinari, CEO of Visit Detroit and chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Facilities Authority, which oversees Huntington Place.

“Honestly, we have no problem filling days in September or June,” he said, adding about the move to Detroit hotels and restaurants: “It's great for us. No industry has seen more disruption than automobiles in the last few years. We're excited about this opportunity and hope that “Automakers see great value in participating and joining in the future.”

After originally deciding to move away from January, DADA planned a show in June 2020, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, show organizers chose to hold an outdoor event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac called Motor Bella.

The Detroit Expo returned in 2022 in mid-September with several displays, an indoor electric vehicle track, a visit by President Joe Biden and outdoor activities and attractions, including a giant inflatable duck.

The 2023 show focused on the sprawling offerings of the Detroit Three and competed for press attention with the United Auto Workers' contract negotiations with automakers. Ford unveiled the 2024 F-150 truck at Hart Plaza the evening before the official start of the show, where Jeep showed off the updated 2024 Gladiator mid-size truck and Cadillac revealed the revamped 2025 CT5 sedan. Toyota Motor Corp. had a presence, but other major automakers skipped the event, with dealers filling in.

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Other exhibitions have faced challenges attracting automakers as well. Stellantis NV said last week that it would not appear at next month's Chicago Auto Show, due to difficult market conditions. Regarding the January Detroit show, Stellantis spokesman Rick Deno pointed to the company's statement last week that it seeks to be as efficient as possible in its media spending and is “evaluating participation in auto shows on a case-by-case basis.” Prioritizing opportunities for consumers to experience our vehicles firsthand.”

In a statement sent by GM spokesperson Sabine Blake, the Detroit automaker said: “The Detroit Auto Show is our city's show, and we look forward to supporting our exciting dealers and customers with the latest lineup of award-winning products in January 2025.”

“No matter the time of year, auto shows remain a good place for us to engage with current and potential future customers to help them experience our new technologies and vehicles,” Ford spokesman Saeed Deeb added.

German carmakers will be absent from this year's Geneva International Motor Show after it returned to celebrate its centenary after a four-year absence, Automotive News Europe reported. The International Motor Show Germany was renamed in 2021 as IAA Mobility and expanded the attractions offered. The Tokyo Motor Show was also updated last year as the Japan Mobility Show.

In 2003, the Detroit Auto Show attracted more than 838,000 attendees. In 2019, more than 774,000 people visited, creating an economic impact described as equivalent to hosting two Super Bowls. The Merchants Association has not shared attendance figures for the past two years. In 2022, organizers were confident that they had exceeded their expectations of 300,000 to 500,000 participants. The show's charity preview event that year was attended by 6,500 people.

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Jim Scheibel, owner and president of Fox Hills Chrysler Jeep in Plymouth, said January proved to be a good time to hold the show.

“I think it's better because at the time, there wasn't a lot going on,” he said. “It's a great time to have a party and a car show. When we had it in September, a lot of people seemed to have a lot of stuff.”

He added that automakers traditionally offer incentives at that time to clear previous year model inventories: “It's a slower (sales) time. That seems to boost our sales in January and February as well.”

The decision to move back to January is a good move on DADA's part given that auto shows have changed so much, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive, an auto services company.

“They're kind of back in the future,” she said. “When I started this business, car shows were mostly for consumers to buy new cars. Then they became a media spectacle, but the days of them being a media spectacle are pretty much over. So it makes sense… almost everything North City holds its car show in The winter months, when they have a captive audience.”

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Staff editor Daniel Hawes contributed.