Cross-country tour will lead to Detroit auto show

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

The 2016 North American International Auto Show is expanding its reach in an effort to draw more interest leading up to Detroit’s signature car event.

Starting on Dec. 27 — roughly two weeks before the show’s press days begin — the auto show will host “The Drive Home,” a first-of-its-kind promotional tour in which three classic cars from America’s Car Museum will drive from Tacoma, Washington, to Detroit. A 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, a 1961 Chrysler 300G two-door hardtop and a 1966 Ford Mustang will make the 11-day journey that will include stops and enthusiast club rallies at roughly 10 cities.

The event will culminate Jan. 8 with a drive down Woodward and a final rally outside Quicken Loan’s headquarters downtown.

“The goal is, how do we extend the moment in the sun for the city of Detroit and the show, too?” said Max Muncey, public relations manager for NAIAS. “We’re definitely going to look to do some more events downtown to build the enthusiasm.”

The 2016 Detroit auto show is open to the public from Jan. 16-26.

At Cobo Center, about 1,500 union employees have been working for weeks to prepare the automakers’ elaborate displays. This year, about 75 percent of the show floor will be all-new or significantly redesigned for more than 40 expected worldwide vehicle premieres.

Organizers want to make the show more interactive. They’ll have apps that allow show-goers to check in at various booths and show where they’ve been. And organizers have re-vamped the show website — — to include links to places to eat, drink and visit before and after the show.

“We’re really looking to promote the city more,” Muncey said.

This year’s show is expected to have a roughly $425 million economic impact on Metro Detroit — nearly double the $260 million the region received from hosting Super Bowl XL in 2006.

Roughly 5,000 media members are expected to be in town for the show’s press days. Last year, news media from 60 countries came to the show. This year, journalists from three new countries, including Kazakhstan, have been given credentials, organizers said.

MGM Grand Detroit will once again host The Gallery on Jan. 9 to showcase the most expensive ultra-luxury, performance and exotic cars on the market. The black-tie Charity Preview, which last year raised $5.3 million for eight Metro Detroit charities, will take place Jan. 15.

The number of reveals during the show’s press days are on par with previous years, but a handful of brands have chosen to not come to NAIAS.

Already, Mini, Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley, Tesla and Maserati have said they’ll skip the show. But organizers say it’s more about where they are in their product life cycles as opposed to an indication the Detroit show is losing its luster.

“I think it’s less about whether it’s Detroit or not, and more about the economics of those particular high-end brands,” said Sam Slaughter, NAIAS vice chairman.