Detroit — Auto fans braved chilly weather, icy roads and accidents to make it downtown to the final day of the 2014 North American International Auto Show, helping to push the overall attendance record to an 11-year high.
Figures released Sunday night show 102,153 people attended the final day, bringing the eight-day attendance to 803,451. It was the first time that figure has exceeded 800,000 since 2003, when 838,066 people attended, a spokesman said.
The common lure throughout the week was the opportunity to view more than 550 new cars and trucks and concept models from the Big Three automakers and other manufacturers under one roof before the vehicles are on the market. Promoters dubbed it the “largest new car showroom in Michigan.”
Street parking was at a premium and parking lots, even blocks away, appeared to be doing a great business as visitors Sunday slogged their way into Cobo Center, where they enjoyed a 72-degree temperature, booming music, flashing lights and gleaming vehicles.
“Attendance has been fantastic,” said Marc Harlow, an auto show spokesman.
“We had 114,770 (Saturday) alone. ... The interest in the auto show and new cars has never been better.”
For many families, the show has become an annual pilgrimage and a chance to talk about something more warming than wind chill, snowfall and school closings.
Lovell Bland of Lansing brought his fiancee and three children Sunday. Bland’s children took turns getting their photographs taken inside a purple Dodge Challenger. Everyone photographed by a Dodge photographer was also being entered into a sweepstakes, where the automaker will award the winner with $45,000 credit toward one of its products.
“If I win it, I plan to drive it around the world,” grinned 11-year-old Ke’ven Bland after being photographed behind the steering wheel.
His father had other ideas.
“If you win it (prize) I’ll put it in a garage for you until you turn 16,” the elder Bland reminded his son.
Bland said he had many favorites around the sprawling, sparkling exhibits, including the luxurious Bentley Flying Spur, which carries a $200,000-plus price tag.
Katie and Leon Weaks of Toledo studied a shining Viper engine inside a glass display case.
“We both work on cars,” said Katie Weaks, who especially enjoyed seeing the new Chevrolet SS and Acura models at the show.
Leon Weaks said he also was drawn to several models but found “cutaway” displays of internal auto mechanisms especially interesting.
A couple of hours before the auto show was to close, many exhibitors could be seen boxing up brochures and other materials that have been snatched up by visitors.
Brian Derooved of Dearborn Heights arrived late Sunday and took in a Ford Mustang display as the People Mover could be heard rumbling overhead.
“I like the Mustang a lot,” he said, as a Ford representative with a microphone ticked off the vehicle’s various special features to a growing crowd. “The body. The styling. Everything about it.
“I just got here, and it’s the first car I have seen here this afternoon, and I’m sold — I’d like to buy two of ‘em,” he said.