Auto show attendance hits 12-year high

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Thank the head-turning concept cars, Cobo Center upgrades or even the weather, but Detroit auto show attendance topped out at 808,775, a 12-year high, organizers said Sunday on the annual show’s final day.

Sunday’s attendance at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo in downtown Detroit surged to 102,928 people, helping edge out last year’s 11-year overall record of 803,451. Better weather, an improved economy and lower gas prices factored into the 12-year turnout at the signature show and signaled that consumers were back in the mood to buy, or at least stroke the gleaming cars, organizers said.

“We’re absolutely excited,” said Scott LaRiche, chairman of the 2015 NAIAS. “The resounding rebound of the economy really was a big difference, and that means the auto industry is recovering as well.

“The average vehicle out there right now is 11 years old, so people realize this is a way to come out and see 750 vehicles under one roof.”

Detroiter DaJuanna Travier, 42, said she noticed a difference in the numbers of show goers. She said she was more motivated this year to attend because she plans to buy a new vehicle within the next six months.

“It seemed like it was definitely an increase (in attendance) this year,” Travier said Sunday. She came with her three kids and a friend.

“You had to wait longer at the different booths and stations — and it took me 30 minutes to park. That was before we even got there.”

Twelve displays were added this year, along with 55 new car and vehicle reveals, adding to the excitement, LaRiche said.

“The manufacturers really felt an uptick ... the automotive industry is really resurging right now and so they brought the best of the best,” he added. “Not only great displays and new things. It makes us very proud of the fact that the manufacturers feel that it’s important to bring that kind of firepower to Detroit.”

Joe Badalamenti of Macomb Township brought his son Joey, 8, and daughter Cecilia, 10, on Sunday..

“I think it’s very nice compared to last year,” said Badalamenti. “They’re (automakers) doing a great job with their new technology and fuel economics.”

Jodie and John Madeja of Lapeer were drawn Sunday to the Cadillac display, where Jodie jumped in the driver’s seat of a red sedan.

“It’s a little out of my price range but we’re getting there,” said Jodie Madeja.

Trevor Jackson and his son Malcolm drove nearly three hours from Holland to check out the show for a second year.

While dad car shopped, Malcolm snapped photos of his favorite cars, such as the BMW 3 Series.

“(The show) gives me a chance to at least sit in the vehicle,” said Trevor Jackson on Sunday. “You can only look online for so much. You want to look and feel ... and sometimes wish.”

Many took selfies next to their favorite vehicles while others sat in display cars as long as they could before allowing others to get their chance.

Crowds formed around popular vehicles like the Ford GT, a high-end sports car that created a lot of buzz.

Denis Fuster of West Bloomfield said the car is “so avant garde.”

“It’s a work of art,” said Fuster, a marketing executive.

Hong Mai and her daughter Sophia were riveted by the car.

“I love the color, I love the details, I love the design,” said Hong Mai of Belleville. “I was so excited about coming today that I couldn’t sleep last night.”

Jim Glime, a vendor at the auto show, said the weather and the rebirth of Detroit also helped in bringing more people to Cobo Center.

“Gas prices are down and the auto industry is doing better,” added Glime. “All the stars are lining up.”

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2015 highlights

■Total two-week ticketed attendance, 808,775

■Press visitors: 5,025 journalists from 60 countries and 40 U.S. states

■Debuts: 55 new vehicles and 7 concept cars

■Charity preview: 15,350 people, $5.3 million raised

Source: NAIAS