Today begins the press preview days for the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center. Detroit hasn’t been in such a good position in decades to welcome international press, members of the industry, and the general public.
But competition hasn’t shied away from the auto industry, or its flagship Detroit show.
Despite several years of big profit margins for The Big Three and other auto manufacturers, technology and a reliance on big data has, in many ways, redirected the focus away from vehicle performance to mobility, connectivity and the promise of self-driving cars.
That’s what the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — traditionally a technology and gadgets show — capitalized on last week. Its space dedicated to vehicle technology increased by almost 25 percent this year, and the number of companies representing it rose by 19 percent, according to show organizers. This year a few automakers introduced not just new car features at CES, but brand new cars. And Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett offered a keynote.
Combined with a quicker release of products from manufacturers throughout the year, and competition from auto shows in Los Angeles and New York, which have captured new reveals that would have been done here in the past, the Detroit show has had to rapidly adapt.
But it’s risen to the challenge. Among other things, the show will still feature new product reveals as well as new concepts. There will be more all-electric vehicles, despite their lack of traction so far with consumers.
And while top-end vehicle performance has decreased as a draw for visitors and consumers (Corvette sales decreased so much this year that Chevrolet discounted the cars by more than $9,000 to shed inventory), there’s still a clear demand from consumers for new SUVs and pickup trucks. Reveals and improvements in that vehicle class should grab some attention.
AutoMobili-D will headline the show for the second year with world-class thought leadership focused on mobility, connectivity, how technology combined with driving can improve our lives.
Perhaps most important for Detroit and the changing auto industry is talent development. The skills gap has hit auto hard as companies struggle to find engineers with the technological skills to design cars of tomorrow.
The Future Automotive Career Exposition will make available businesses and institutions critical to the auto industry, and provide networking opportunities for talent interested in joining its ranks.
There’s no certainty the auto industry will stay centered in Detroit forever. Last week came news that foreign manufacturers soon will be building more vehicles in the U.S. than the Detroit Three.
But Detroit is prepared and eager to remain the industry’s hub. As thousands of people walk through the halls of the auto show the next two weeks, they’ll see why.