With spotlight fading, Detroit auto show moves to summer

Chicago (AFP) –


The Detroit auto show, considered for decades a key date on the global auto industry's calendar, will soon be held every summer instead of in the winter, organizers said Thursday.

Beginning in 2020, the exhibition of car companies' offerings will take place in June instead of in January, the middle of the harsh Detroit winter, the North American International Auto Show said.

The move breaks a 30-year tradition, ever since the show first gained prominence in 1989, when Nissan and Toyota used the exhibition to reveal their newly-created luxury brands Infinity and Lexus.

But in recent years, major manufacturers have begun abandoning Detroit in favor the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas -- also held in January.

The shift coincides with a furious race to develop autonomous driving and other technologies increasingly being crammed into personal vehicles.

Major European auto groups were absent at this year's Detroit show, including Ferrari, Volvo, Porsche, Jaguar and Land-Rover. BMW and Daimler announced earlier this year they too would be absent in 2019.

American auto giant General Motors, headquartered near the show's exhibition center, has been mum about its own plans. Of GM's brands, only Chevrolet held an official event during this year's show.

Conversely, CES -- held two days before the Detroit show opened this year -- was well attended by car companies. Ford unveiled its robot-taxis platform and Mercedes-Benz presented its autonomous concept car Smart Vision EQ. And Toyota offered similar concepts.

"June provides us with exciting new opportunities that January just didn't afford," said Rod Alberts, head of NAIAS.

Organizers are also planning to move part of the show to the streets, instead of its current format of holding the entire event inside Detroit's massive convention center, something only possible in warmer weather.

In addition to competition from Las Vegas, Detroit, the traditional hub of the US auto manufacturing, was also suffering from the declining prominence of the US car market, now outpaced by China.

The US share of global auto sales is expected to drop from nearly 35 percent in 2000 to only 16 percent by 2025, while China's share was to rise in the same time period from one percent to 33 percent, according to analyst Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the University of Duisburg-Essen.