January 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Detroit Auto Show to reduce media preview days

The revised schedule will give automakers like GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner two days to meet with the media. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

Media previews at the North American International Auto Show will begin a day later beginning next year, organizers said Thursday, moving to Monday from the traditional Sunday start.

The new schedule shortens media previews by automakers to about 30 events and eliminates the extra half day of press conferences, said Doug Fox, senior co-chairman of the show. "There are two primary days. But the move was made for a very good reason: The customers we serve asked for the changes."

Exhibitors had complained that the Sunday start required them to arrive on Saturday, chewing up an entire weekend, Fox said. "Everyone is looking for more efficiencies, and we can easily fit the press schedule into two days."

Time will be allotted on Wednesday for any additional press conferences by suppliers, Fox said. The schedule won't drastically change. Media days will be Monday and Tuesday; industry days will remain Wednesday and Thursday.

"We discussed the changes with a number of manufacturers and they were well received," Fox said.

Auto show officials downplayed the changes, noting the Sunday preview only began a few years ago and the show continues to carry international recognition. While not the largest U.S. show by public attendance, the Detroit show boasts the most debuts and previews. Big auto shows in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York hardly fill a full day of press events.

More than 5,500 media members attended this year's Detroit show, which included 53 unveilings, such as the 2010 Ford Taurus, the 2010 Toyota Prius and the 2010 Honda Insight.

But because of gloomy forecasts for auto sales in 2009 and the crash of sales in 2008, many automakers scaled back promotional efforts.

Nissan Motors Co. pulled out of the Detroit show in December and a handful of other manufacturers did not attend.

Honda Motor Co. did not hold a traditional press conference, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; instead, it showed off the production version of the Insight at its display.

"Detroit is still the biggest place for automotive news," said IHS Global Insight analyst Rebecca Lindland.

"It's the hub of the industry for the U.S. You're going to see some adjustments. (These changes are) not catastrophic."

Lindland said cutting back the show to two "must-see" days instead of dragging out the debuts could enhance the show.

"Potentially, this could make it a more effective show," she added.

Manufacturers welcome the changes and said they will continue to promote their vehicles at the Detroit show.

"Toyota appreciates the move of media days to the traditional work week," said Curt McCallister, a Toyota spokesman. "While the former schedule wasn't a huge inconvenience for our executives, we do know that many out-of-town journalists disliked the loss of their entire weekend."

"We're happy with whatever schedule they determine," said Ford Motor Co. spokesman Alan Hall. "We have a lot of great news and a lot of great products for the public."

Lindland added that during this current economic situation, every company has to take a hard look at how it spends money.

"Every auto show, quite frankly, every trade show is going through this," she said.

"Because the economy is in such turmoil, every trip is being justified, whether it be the company attending or the journalist covering it. It's not unique to the automotive industry."

Scott Burgess is the auto critic for The Detroit News. He can be reached at (313) 223-3217 or sburgess@detnews.com">sburgess@detnews.com.