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Michael Wayland, and Melissa Burden

Detroit — Some automakers are cutting back on traditional news conferences at the 2017 Detroit auto show to focus on the latest technologies instead of sheet metal during a new AutoMobili-D tech event.

Organizers for the 2017 North American International Auto Show said Wednesday the show spent “multi-millions of dollars” for the tech showcase that will debut during the upcoming press preview and industry days, and the following year extend into public show days.

“It’s not just about how pretty the car is, it’s about what the car’s going to do for you and with you, and how different that’s going to be going forward,” NAIAS 2017 Chairman Sam Slaughter told The Detroit News. “Next year it will bleed over into public days and within a few years it really won’t be a separate thing. It will just be what an auto show is about.”

The 120,000-square-foot AutoMobili-D is the largest initiative the show has invested in since the Detroit auto show’s inception in 1907.

It’s also a play for the auto show to remain relevant: Several automakers in recent years have unveiled new vehicles outside of auto shows, including having significant presences at the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas, which takes place a week before the Detroit show.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will unveil a new vehicle Jan. 3 at CES instead of hosting a press conference at the Detroit show.

The new vehicle is expected to be shown in Detroit, but no press conference is planned for Fiat Chrysler at the show. It marks the second time since the 2009 economic downturn that the company won’t unveil a new vehicle during the show’s press preview days. The other was in 2010.

“Obviously, Detroit is the biggest show and very important to us. CES is also a big opportunity,” Rick Deneau, a company spokesman, told The Detroit News. “I think it will prove more obvious why specifically we are showing the vehicle first at CES once it’s revealed.”

Deneau declined to comment on specifics of the vehicle. The company will continue to have a substantial presence on Detroit’s show floor.

Unveiling a car at CES and bringing it to the Detroit show isn’t unprecedented for a Detroit automaker. General Motors Co. used CES in January 2016 to premiere its 2017 Chevrolet Bolt; it followed that up with a Detroit press conference for the all-electric car, along with the 2017 Chevy Cruze hatchback.

“As with any international auto show, sometimes product cycle launches do not coincide with show dates,” Rod Alberts, NAIAS executive director, said in a statement in response to Fiat Chrysler’s decision not to hold a news conference. “2017 NAIAS is shaping-up to be one of the most significant shows in recent years and we are very excited for the line-up of worldwide vehicle reveals from participating automakers. In total, NAIAS will have nearly 60 hours of presentation content from OEMs, suppliers, technology companies and startups that will be delivered from our global stage here in Detroit.”

Toyota Motor Corp. will reveal the 2018 Camry sedan and an unknown Lexus vehicle in addition to holding an Automobili-D news conference.

The Detroit show typically attracts journalists from across the globe who gather for significant worldwide vehicle reveals. Show spokesman Max Muncey said North America, global and auto show reveals were “tracking toward” the 2016 show figures.

The show floor, which earlier this year featured many new exhibits from automakers, does not change much for 2017. Some changes include the Genesis luxury brand moving into a separate space from Hyundai, and Fiat Chrysler moving the Alfa Romeo luxury brand away from its mainstream brands. Chinese automaker Guangzhou Automobile Group will be on the show floor next to Pixar, which will unveil a vehicle from “Cars 3.”

Mini, Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla and Maserati — which did not have a presence at the 2016 show — are expected to skip the 2017 show, too.

Nearly 50 global tech start-ups plan to participate in AutoMobili-D, part of more than 120 companies in total. The start-ups through a partnership with Techstars Mobility, a business incubator backed by Ford Motor Co. and others, will show mobility technologies and platforms such as artificial intelligence, security applications and autonomous and connected-vehicle platforms to the media and industry leaders.

Just two of the confirmed startups are from Michigan; others are based in other areas of the U.S., Canada, Dubai, London and Portugal.

The show for the second year will kick off early with a cross-country drive with classic cars, this time on the East Coast. The auto show has partnered with America’s Car Museum for “The Drive Home II: The Heritage Run.” A 1957 Chevy Nomad, 1961 Chrysler 300G and 1966 Ford Mustang will be driven 2,150 miles in 11 days starting on Dec. 28 in Boston.

On Jan. 7 about 500 high-net worth guests will gather at MGM Grand Casino for The Gallery, a showcase of the most luxurious vehicles. Last year, 28 vehicles worth about $8 million were featured and vehicles valuing $3 million were sold.

The Gallery is slated to feature at least 27 vehicles.

The public portion of the show attracts more than 800,000 people. Show organizers say they expect more than the normal 40,000 will attend for industry days this year.


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Twitter: @MikeWayland