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Auto Shows in U.S. Cities Proceed with Speed

Detroit Auto Show, for example, welcomes 800,000 attendees

By Kevin Litwin on January 12, 2015

Detroit / Courtesy of Audi AG via Creative Commons/Flickr

The Detroit Auto Show, or as it's officially called the North American International Auto Show, opens January 11, revving up another year of automotive shows held across the country. During the last 15 years, auto shows have become staple events for a growing list of cities, treating residents to sneak peaks of concept cars, drawing tourists and helping host cities cruise into big profits. 

Cities garner positive publicity whenever an auto show rolls into town, plus the direct economic impact is often impressive. Take the case of Detroit. The Motor City, which hosts the North American International Auto Show for 14 days each January, reaps $300 million in annual economic impact for Detroit and the southeastern Michigan region.

“This public show draws over 800,000 people from all over the U.S. and Canada,” says Scott LaRiche, chairman of NAIAS 2015. “Manufacturers commit to bringing their most important global vehicle reveals to Detroit.”

Manufacturers, media members and other car/truck enthusiasts pack hotel rooms, restaurants, night spots and casinos during the two-week Motor City celebration, and the NAIAS is regarded as one of the most important automotive events on the planet.

“The North American International Auto Show is consistently the strategic choice of global automakers to launch their new products on Detroit's world stage,” LaRiche says. “It ranks along with other top shows in the world including Geneva, Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai.”

From Baltimore to Honolulu

Besides Detroit, more than 20 smaller auto shows occur each year in other U.S. cities. While the NAIAS produces its own Detroit show, California-based Motor Trend Auto Shows LLC produces most of the smaller U.S. events beginning with three days in Baltimore each January followed by stops in cities such as Memphis, San Jose, Charleston, Providence, Milwaukee, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Tampa and Phoenix. Their calendar year wraps up around early December with a three-day Nashville International Auto Show.

“For our city, the Nashville Auto Show generates around $1.4 million in direct economic impact,” says Mary Brette Clippard, marketing and public relations manager at the Music City Center where the Nashville show takes place.

Better Experience for Attendees

Steve Freeman, vice president and general manager of Motor Trend Auto Shows, says glitzy productions in 2015 have evolved greatly compared to shows in 2000.

“Primarily, the emphasis has shifted to providing attendees a better experience at the show, which includes allowing them to get close to vehicles by lowering platforms and removing barriers around vehicles, so visitors can get up close – instead of standing 10 feet away and watching a vehicle spin on a turntable,” Freeman says.

He adds that Motor Trend Auto Shows chooses its yearly host cities by doing a great deal of market research.

“We also partner with automakers like Ford, Nissan, GM, etc., and local dealers to ensure that a show will have the broadest participation possible, so that it truly offers a complete selection of vehicles to a market’s attendees,” he says. “More shows exist today than ever because they have proven to be an important part of the purchase process for auto buyers.”

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