Seeing a steady decrease in eyeballs and attention as CES grows and sucks up everything in its path, the organizers of the Detroit Auto Show are considering moving the show to October
Las Vegas has been fighting Detroit, New York is watching in the wings, and Los Angeles is pretending not to notice. No, it’s not a fight for lowest crime stats or the annual fattest cities survey (which Houston handily won) — it’s the trade show wars.
Two years ago I noted that Vegas throws a better car show than Detroit does; for years the pendulum has been steadily tick-tocking away from the North American International Auto Show — which everyone just calls the Detroit Auto Show — and towards CES — which everyone just calls the Consumer Electronics Show. Detroit has been a premier spot to show off the latest model year vehicles, and the event occupies a premium spot at the start of the year. But CES is… cooler, and as tech has transformed the cockpit, car companies have come to prefer being in Vegas to being in Detroit.
Now it’s official: Seeing a steady decrease in eyeballs and attention as CES grows and sucks up everything in its path, the organizers of the Detroit Auto Show are considering moving the show to October, anonymous sources told Crain’s Detroit Business. “Auto show officials have floated the idea for more than a year and continue to discuss the plans with automakers, suppliers, city officials and Cobo Center,” wrote Automotive News, a partner of Crain’s.
As the two shows have grown to cover similar subject matter, the logistical challenges of covering them both have led journalists in recent years to make tough decisions: attend both or skip a show? At Digital Trends, the choice has been clear. With major auto makers debuting crucial new vehicles, showing off concept cars, and generally whooping it up in Las Vegas, we’ve been skipping the traditional unveilings in Detroit like a shifty hitchhiker at the side of the road.
It’s not just us, either. Two years ago, one designer from a major car company (I won’t mention his name, for his sake) spelled it out to me: “There’s no excitement here [in Detroit]. It’s all ho-hum.”
Besides, self-driving cars are the most important thing to happen to cars since cruise control — heck, one of the biggest changes to affect our society in decades. And the planet wants to talk about it not in Detroit, but in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, the LA Auto Show has taken strides to transform itself from a car show into a “mobility event,” whatever that means. It’s not alone. The folks behind the New York Auto Show just unveiled plans for a “Transportation and Mobility Conference” as well — clearly an effort to rebrand and capture some of the energy and excitement.
While the date change for Detroit may seem obvious, even necessary, Automotive News notes that it isn’t easy to do. The folks behind the show signed an $11.8 million contract in July with the Cobo Center, where it is traditionally held, which handcuffs the show to event space through 2025. Moving the show to October would require renegotiation, the site notes. And setup for the show would be a big factor: It apparently takes 12 weeks to set up for the Detroit Auto Show. Maybe that’s part of the problem? CES is vast, and is constructed and dismantled in about two days.
So pour one out for Detroit, which is wise to bow to the pressure and reschedule. And as for New York and LA, well, good luck with that mobility thing. Just watch out if CES announces “regional events.”