Detroit auto show will leave winter behind in 2020

The Detroit auto show will move to June or October starting in 2020 as show leadership completes a months-long assessment of a date change.

The Detroit Auto Dealers Association — the organization that puts on the North American International Auto Show — plans to announce next month the date change for the annual show. The Detroit News has previously reported event leadership was considering a shift to October, but in recent months leadership was also considering June.

Max Muncey, North American International Auto Show spokesman, told The News Thursday that DADA has come to a final decision and an announcement is scheduled for July 24.

The association put out a 25-second teaser video that depicts some outdoor auto show events.

The association put out a 25-second teaser video that depicts some outdoor auto show events. The auto show has been held in January for the last several decades. Show executives are considering a name change to emphasize that the show is in Detroit, and a date change to utilize more of the city's attractions.

Those changes would take place in 2020, and it would represent the first time in at least 50 years that the Detroit auto show will not take place in January. The 2019 show already is scheduled for the traditional mid-January time frame. 

The Detroit auto show is facing a growing existential threat as several luxury automakers have dropped out. Audi was the latest to bolt Detroit, following rivals Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche. Other European luxury automakers who've decided to skip the show include Sweden’s Volvo Cars; Britain’s Mini, Jaguar and Land Rover; and Italy’s Maserati and Ferrari. 

Automakers are increasingly opting to unveil new cars and trucks at their own special events where they don’t have to share the spotlight, or at tech events where more of the Silicon Valley news media is present.

Rod Alberts, executive director of the DADA, told the News in March that a name change has been under discussion for years.

About a dozen new names are being vetted, according to a person familiar with the talks, but it's not likely the name change will be announced July 24.

Alberts has said October would be a nice time of year to host the show. But General Motors Co. has been pushing for a total reshaping of the auto show that hinges on a move to June.

What GM's senior vice president of global communications Tony Cervone called a "massive festival of automotive" would be aimed at consumers — not the news media — drawing people to downtown venues, concerts, perhaps even the tail end of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle.

That echoes some of the advantages of CES, a technology show in Las Vegas that usually takes place the week before the Detroit show in January. The shows have become rivals as automakers and suppliers choose whether to make their tech news among the hordes of tech bloggers at CES — or do it in Detroit.

Warm Las Vegas temperatures also foster an indoor-outdoor show, with stands in the parking lot next to the Las Vegas Convention Center often housing self-driving car demos.

Despite the growing vibrancy of the greater downtown area, winter weather inhibits visitors’ ability to get out and see the city. Transitioning the show to spring or fall would add the chance for outdoor events — and easier travel — to the Detroit auto show.

New restaurants, bars, hotels and other developments within walking distance of Cobo Center are opening regularly, a sharp contrast to the doldrums of not too many years ago. Within the last four years, the city has seen esteemed chefs open new restaurants within the central business district downtown. Those join new park space, art walks and other attractions that are easier to enjoy in better weather.

Moving the auto show out of the dull winter months would create a dead time for programming downtown. The auto show has historically given a jolt to downtown Detroit during the winter months.

Twitter: @NoraNaughton, @Ian_Thibodeau