Tesla to skip Detroit auto show; Aston Martin returning

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Tesla Motors Inc. is the most recent automaker to bow out of next month’s 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The California-based electric car manufacturer joins Jaguar, Land Rover and BMW’s Mini as brands opting to drive past the 2016 show after having a presence on the main show of Cobo Center in 2015.

A Tesla spokesperson confirmed the move on Friday.

“After much consideration, we have decided against participating at the North American International Auto Show. We’ve always had a very good experience at Detroit,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“In Michigan, we have great owners, a strong supercharger network that connects the U.S. with Canada, and are continuing to hire talented employees. But as a small player, Tesla relies on auto shows to not only showcase our products, but engage with consumers and ultimately sell more cars in the region. We are working to change laws so that we are licensed to open stores and service vehicles. Until that happens NAIAS is not an optimal venue for driving our mission to put more EVs on the road.”

The decision is in-line with comments made by Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla vice president of business development, on Nov. 20 in Detroit. He said he wasn’t sure if the company would have a presence at the Detroit show and hinted the costs associated with a show might be too much especially since Tesla can’t sell its vehicles in Michigan.

“The truth is there is a cost associated with being at these shows. And if you’re trying to sell cars, that makes sense,” he told reporters. “Making the huge investments that go into setting up these booths and the staffing over the course of two weeks, particularly in a state like Michigan where we can’t even sell cars, begs some questions.”

Max Muncey, the show’s public relations manager, confirmed that Tesla informed officials that the company was not planning to purchase space on the show floor. A Tesla spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

“I’m very confident we will quickly fill that space,” Muncey said. “We’re in talks with other automakers and partners. There’s a lot of interest.”

O’Connell last month said Tesla’s newest car — the Model 3 — is expected to go into production by the end of 2017 and consumers will get to see the car in March 2016, which is around the time of the New York International Auto Show.

Both Jaguar Land Rover and Mini cited the Detroit auto show not aligning with their respective brand strategies.

Helping fill the voids will be newcomer the Robb Report and Aston Martin, which will return to the show for the first time since 2009.

“They don’t attend any other auto shows, so to bring them back to the show was a great partner to have,” Muncey said.

The Robb Report — recently purchased by prominent Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans — is a magazine that features high-priced products.

The 2016 Detroit auto show is open to the public from Jan. 16-Jan. 26. Thousands of news media from more than 60 countries and industry officials also attend the show prior to it opening to the masses.

Setting up the multimillion dollar stages, lighting and displays takes three months. Crews started preparing the space in mid-October. Event organizers say this year’s setup is particularly important, as about 75 percent of the show floor will be all-new or significantly redesigned for the more than 40 expected worldwide debuts.


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Staff Writer Melissa Burden contributed