Detroit auto show prep in high gear at Cobo Center

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

The 2016 North American International Auto Show will feature more flair, more cars and more Motor City than ever before.

Carpenter Bruce Edwardsen reviews plans amid work getting 735,000 square feet of floor and display space auto-show ready at Cobo Center.

Workers are working nearly around the clock to get Cobo Center’s 735,000 square feet of show floor and display areas filled with LED screens, massive sets and stages before Monday, when more than 5,000 journalists from more than 60 countries are expected to arrive for the show’s press days.

“Everybody’s in a great mood,” Paul Sabatini, chairman of the Detroit auto show, said during a walk-through of the show floor with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “As you walk through, you can see the difference ... it’s amazing to see how great it is.”

This year’s show — open to the public from Jan. 16-25 — will feature more than 40 primarily global vehicle debuts from the world’s largest automakers. They’ll take place on $200 million worth of new sets and stages inside Cobo Center, which last year completed a multiyear, nearly $300 million renovation.

About 70 percent of this year’s show floor has been completely redesigned to pack in as many vehicles and stages as possible.

“We’re real excited,” said Sabatini, who hopes this year’s show tops the 800,000-plus people who attended last year. “And because of all the new displays and movement of the show inside, I think that’s why everyone’s excited. We’re going to have a great show this year.”

This year’s show is a melting pot of mainstream minivans and pickups, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and high-performance cars and concepts.

“It seems like almost every major automaker — especially the Detroit automakers — has something to show,” said Kelley Blue Book analyst Akshay Anand. “There’s always something new. I think it’s great for consumers.”

Expected global debuts from Detroit automakers include the next-generation Chrysler minivan, with a plug-in hybrid electric version, and 75th anniversary edition Jeeps from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV; Chevrolet Cruze hatchback from General Motors Co., as well as unknown debuts from its Buick and GMC brands; and a refreshed lineup of Ford Fusion midsize sedans and production Lincoln Continental flagship sedans from Ford Motor Co.

Much-anticipated debuts from non-domestic automakers include the new Forte sedan and series of concept vehicles from Kia Motors Corp.; Precision concept from Acura; LC 500, a production version of Lexus’ well-received LF-LC concept; all-new Ridgeline midsize pickup from Honda Motor Co.; and a new performance pickup concept from Nissan Motor Co. based off its new Titan pickup.

In recent years, several automakers also have had surprise debuts on top of what had been expected, including the top-secret Ford GT supercar and Buick Avenir concept in 2015.

“It’s interesting,” Anand said. “In a way, it garners more hyper-suspense. ... I actually like it when there’s a little bit of mystery because it gives us something kind of exciting to talk about.”

As of Thursday, Ford and Fiat Chrysler had two of the largest, most put-together new displays. Both feature LED screens in nearly every facet of the north end of the convention center.

“All our brands are together this year, communicating that ‘we are’ FCA — a multi-branded, cohesive company,” said Jamie Noll, head of shows & events, FCA US, in a statement to The Detroit News. “We call our new display ‘Gears’ — which metaphorically transforms our seven brands into a calibrated multimedia FCA branded experience.”

The Fiat Chrysler display is 60,000 square feet — 8,000 square feet larger than recent years. A 20-minute multimedia presentation featuring all of its brands will play once an hour over nearly every inch of the display’s LED screens.

Aside from the new displays and renovated Cobo Center, Duggan and Sabatini expect that new businesses and restaurants near the facility will impress the news media and public show attendees alike.

“The great things that are going on in the city of Detroit, I think, is going to help things at Cobo ... and our auto show,” Sabatini said. “We need to keep growing Detroit, the way that they finished Cobo.”

This year’s auto show is expected to have a more than $425 million economic impact on Metro Detroit, according to event organizers. That’s up from $400 million in 2015.

“It’s a huge economic impact,” said Duggan, touting improvements to the city such as 60,000 street lights and graffiti cleanup. “You fill up all the hotel rooms from miles around, a number of restaurants bake this week into their annual budgets, and more than anything else, we get to show off the city.”

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Detroit auto show

Media preview: Monday and Tuesday

Industry preview: Wednesday and Thursday

Charity Preview: 6-9 p.m. Jan. 15; $400 per person ($390 tax deductible)

Public show: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (no admittance after 9 p.m.) Jan. 16-23; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (no admittance after 6 p.m.) Jan. 24

Admission: $13 adults; $7 age 7-12, and age 65 and over; free age 6 and under

Location: Cobo Center, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit