Final day of Auto Show attracts dreamers

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — The final day of the 2017 edition of the North American International Auto Show attracted guests from near and far as the industry put its best foot forward.

The show closed Sunday with a final-day total of 98,125 attendees, bringing total ticketed attendance for 2017 NAIAS to 806,554, organizers said. The show at Cobo Center ended at 7 p.m. Sunday. Last year’s total attendance was 815,575.

Natasha Falls, 25, of Royal Oak, spends about $100 a week commuting to and from work using Uber and Lyft. The occupational therapist came out to this year’s auto show not just because she's marrying into the business — her fiancé works for GM – but to check out the autonomous vehicles that, one day, may make a non-factor of the vision impairment that keeps her from wanting to drive.

While the Ford GT Supercar was an attraction, “autonomous vehicles are pretty interesting to think about," Falls said. She "absolutely" believes they will come to fruition and could someday replace driver-steered vehicles. Ford announced last year it hopes to introduce them to the mass market within five years.

Gabriel Farr, 22, of Grand Ledge is admittedly not a car guy. He came to the show Sunday to be with his brother on his birthday.

"I love the atmosphere," said Farr, who attends the show about every other year. "It brings people together. It's fun because everybody's so nice."

Farr said the new slate of Jeeps, in addition to Chevy's compact cars, had caught his eye.

Dante Combs, 45, of Detroit, who works for a small auto parts supplier in Detroit, said he had missed the last few auto shows but wanted to make sure he caught this one before it ended. On again, off-again, he's spent 17 years in the industry. The auto show is the rare chance to see its offerings under one roof.

"I don't have to go to a Mercedes dealership to see a Mercedes," Combs said. "They're all right here."

Of autonomous technology, Combs, whose company works in the "hardware" side of that movement, said: "I think it's something new; I think it's going to take a lot of development, but if it increases safety, it's worth it."

Doug Prillwitz, 48, of Mattawan, drove about 150 miles to catch the end of the show. At a show that spotlights many vehicles the average car buyer can't afford and concept cars that aren't even on the mass market, he counted himself among the dreamers.

He sat in the Honda Civic Touring and came away impressed with the "small, economical" vehicle offering "a surprising amount of back seat space" compared to others in its class.

Said Prillwitz: "It's good to see what I'll be buying 10 years from now, when I can afford it."