North American International Auto Show will move from winter to summer—beginning in 2020

The North American International Auto Show, one of the auto industry’s most popular events, is moving its dates from the traditional January timeframe to June—but not until 2020.

The announcement means that show goers will still see the NAIAS take place next January 14-27 at Cobo Center. After that, there will be an 18-month gap, with the next event—still at Cobo, where it will remain until at least 2025—taking place starting the week of June 8, 2020.

There are numerous reasons for the date change, not least of which is the opportunity for outdoor events like test drives that an increasing number of shows throughout the U.S. have already adopted.

Show officials from the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which owns the event, say automakers will save money by reducing the days it will take to install and remove exhibits.

Part of that is the result of not having to work around holidays, a winter reality that currently adds up to an average eight weeks of move-in as customized displays are put in place. Under the new schedule a greatly reduced move-in time of three weeks is expected.

Rod Alberts, who is executive director of both the NAIAS and the dealer group, says Detroit will remain front and center when it comes to showcasing what’s new in the industry.

“Our show is undergoing its most significant transformation in the last three decades,” said Alberts. “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.”

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said the new dates will underscore the strategic importance of the show.

“The North American International Auto Show is an amazing exhibition that showcases the most innovative and creative automotive companies around the world,” he said. “Moving the show to the summer opens up new opportunities for companies as well as creating new experiences for attendees.”

Industry observers say automakers are seeking out increasingly creative ways to debut vehicles and engage with consumers, something for which NAIAS officials have taken note.

“As we look to break out of the traditional auto show model, there is not a need to follow the normal show season,” said Doug North, DADA president and co-owner of North Brothers Ford in Westland, Michigan. “The new direction and focus of the show will disrupt the normal cadence of traditional shows and create a new event unparalleled in the industry.”

Tourism officials, notably Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, say holding the show in the summer opens up opportunities of its own.

“Detroit now has the opportunity to showcase our riverfront and our revitalized downtown during our beautiful summer months and creatively use the exterior of Cobo to launch new products that will transform Detroit into an exciting auto-centric environment,” said Alexander.

Officials are envisioning various areas throughout the downtown where visitors can “activate” (the term that’s used by auto shows elsewhere) a Ride and Drive opportunity.

Activation spots might even extend beyond the downtown area to historic automotive locations or state parks such as Belle Isle.

“The potential to create a month-long automotive festival in Detroit starting with the Detroit Grand Prix, going through our show and concluding with the nationally-celebrated fireworks on the river, will provide an unmatched festival-like experience for all attendees,” added Alberts.

Mark Truby, vice president of communications at Ford Motor Company, said the move should help the show retain its status as a “can’t miss” event. “Reinventing NAIAS as a summertime festival of design, speed and innovation is incredibly exciting.”

General Motors executive Tony Cervone, senior vice president of global communications, echoed the sentiment. “We’re excited to be a part of a festival-like series of events that showcase all the great things that are happening in both the auto industry and Detroit,” said Cervone.

Rod Alberts said the move to June will create new opportunities that weren’t realistic in January.

“We strongly believe we can continue to deliver a significant economic impact for our great city, and offer an event unlike anything anyone has ever experienced.”