Cobo Center gearing up for Detroit auto show

Michael Wayland

Detroit — The globalization and diversification of the automotive industry will be center stage at the 2017 North American International Auto Show.


Colored lights are tested at the Lexus display as crews continue to build for the upcoming North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center on December 14, 2016.

Those attending will notice an enhanced focus on the technology inside the roughly 700 vehicles at the show, as well as new displays and a few Detroit auto show newcomers — from China to Texas — during public days from Jan. 14-22.

About 1,500 union workers have been building out the more than 700,000-square-foot show floor at Cobo Center since October. They will continue to nearly work around the clock until AutoMobili-D, a new 120,000-square-foot tech showcase, kicks off the show’s media days starting Jan. 8.


“This year is going to be bigger and better in every way,” NAIAS 2017 Chairman Sam Slaughter recently told The Detroit News.

Newcomers to this year’s show floor include Chinese automaker Guangzhou Automobile Group, Voltron Motors and Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar.

“To have Pixar want to do this launch here, we’re taking that as a big vote of confidence in our show,” Slaughter said of the animation studio, which will unveil a life-size replica of one of the “Cars 3” stars at the show.

Guangzhou, a partner of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in China, was at the show’s press days in 2015. However, it did not stick around for public days.


The company is expected to unveil a vehicle at NAIAS that could make its way to the United States. The automaker previously announced a goal of entering the American market in 2017. Suki Wong, a company spokeswoman, said in May that those plans hadn’t changed.

“The time of entering to U.S. market didn’t change; we are now under process of homologation and verification specifically to U.S. market,” she wrote in an email to The Detroit News. Wong on Thursday could not immediately be reached for comment.


Construction crews continue to build platforms at the Ford Motor Company display for the upcoming North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center on December 14, 2016.

Texas-based Voltron Motors, a customization company specializing in Jeeps, has a 2,000-square-foot space on the show floor. The company, which is affiliated with actor Tyrese Gibson, will display its custom Rebel Jeeps that are based on the Wrangler.

The overall layout of the show floor, which featured hundreds of millions of dollars in new displays for 2016, 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

Several auto brands — GMC, Toyota, Kia, Subaru and others — also have new displays that will showcase their latest vehicles at the show.

Auto Show spokesman Max Muncey added that thanks to the amount of LED screens used, companies can easily change displays and features without actually changing the layout of the booths.

Fiat Chrysler, in particular for 2016, used LED towers and boards in its 60,000-square-foot display that feature 30 million LED Pixels on more than 10,000 square feet of video surfaces. The company returns with the display this year as well as a new, separate 5,000-square-foot space for its Alfa Romeo brand.


Work continues at the Infiniti display as crews continue to build for the upcoming North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center on December 14, 2016.

About 5,000 journalists and analysts descend annually on Detroit to write about the reveals, and organizers say they are on track to repeat that attendance again this year.

On Jan. 7, about 500 high-net worth guests will gather at MGM Grand Casino for The Gallery, a showcase of nearly $10 million of the most luxurious vehicles. Last year, 28 vehicles worth about $8 million were featured and vehicles valuing $3 million were sold.

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