Mercedes will skip Detroit auto show in 2019

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News

Mercedes-Benz is not coming to the Detroit auto show in 2019, officials at the show confirmed.

The move by Daimler AG, Mercedes’ parent company, is part of a larger trend in the automotive industry. Automakers are increasingly opting to unveil new products at their own special events when they don’t have to share the spotlight, or at tech events when more of the Silicon Valley media is present.

“We have enjoyed a longstanding partnership with Mercedes that has included very memorable press events and product launches,” said Max Muncey, a spokesman for the North American International Auto Show. “We are actively discussing future opportunities with them.”

A representative from Mercedes could not be reached for comment.

Even at the Detroit auto show, Mercedes often opted for off-site events. This year was no different, with Arnold Schwarzenegger headlining the Mercedes-Benz G-class debut at Detroit’s Michigan Theater — not at Cobo — the week of the auto show.

And the automaker’s biggest display item, a 1979 G-class encased in a cube of amber, sat outside the front door to Cobo.

“Automakers for some time have been rethinking auto shows, and not just Detroit,” said Michelle Krebs, an automotive analyst with AutoTrader. “It’s very expensive to have a press event or an accompanying event at an auto show, so it’s hard to justify when you’re competing for attention with a lot of other automakers.”

The Detroit auto show has been competing with CES, the technology showcase held in Las Vegas the week before the Detroit auto show for the past few years The Detroit show even moved back a week this year so as not to conflict with the tech show as more automotive companies — carmakers and suppliers alike — choose to make a big showing in Vegas.

In addition to a full schedule for media days, show organizers extended AutoMobili-D, the Detroit auto show’s mobility and technology segment, into the first two public days this year as it tries to cement the Motor City’s place in the future of the auto industry.

The success of AutoMobili-D this year has some local industry experts feeling optimistic about the future of the North American International Auto Show, despite the exit by Mercedes-Benz.

“The trends have changed over the years with regards to how (automakers) announce and release new vehicles,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto unit. “It’s going to continue to evolve and the show will have to evolve with it, but what I do know and am quite confident of is that the team at NAIAS and the Detroit Auto Dealers Association always has a plan. Nobody benchmarks the automotive or tech showscape like they do.”

Mercedes is just the latest in a growing list of foreign and luxury brands to pull out of the Detroit show, preceded by Porsche, Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Mazda. Krebs warns that Detroit’s international prestige could be at stake.

“It’s just one automaker, and we’ve seen others drop off and come back, but Detroit decided to go from a local show to an international show,” Krebs said. “They have to be careful not to lose that international prestige.”