Breaking: 2021 North American International Auto Show Canceled

Image: NAIAS

The 2021 Detroit Auto Show has been canceled.

Originally set for summer, then pushed back to September due to COVID concerns, the show has now been binned completely. It’s unclear if that’s just for this year or permanently.

In its place will be a six-day event called “Motor Bella” that will take place in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, at the M1 Grand Concourse private racetrack facility.

The name Motor Bella might sound familiar, as an event under that name was part of the original plans for September. The show was initially scheduled to take place between Sept.  28 and Oct. 9, with a “Motor Bella” listed for Sept. 24-26. Originally, Motor Bella was meant to showcase Italian and British classics and supercars.

Now the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which runs the show, is billing Motor Bella as a “bridge to the future.”

The event is also being said to be hosting new-vehicle debuts. It’s implied that the outdoor venue is being chosen as an alternative to an indoor space.

“The pandemic has caused changes in our society and world in ways not previously imagined, and we all should be looking for new and highly creative ways of doing business,” said Executive Director Rod Alberts in a statement. “This new event captures that creative spirit. It will provide new mobility experiences and increasingly innovative approaches to tapping into the industry and its products. This all-outdoor venue, with adrenaline-pumping track activities and a full complement of OEM and technology exhibits, is going to offer the sights, sounds and even the smell of all that the new world of mobility has to offer.”

There will be press and industry preview days, with the main press day being scheduled for Sept. 21.

It’s unclear what the plans are for 2022 — your author has seen conflicting reports, and the show organizers haven’t said anything about next year. Nor is it clear if the move to ‘burbs is permanent or temporary — or if future shows will combine the use of facilities across the metro area.

The 2021 auto-show season will be a weird one since the pandemic continues unabated. The Chicago Auto Show has already canceled its February dates with a vague promise of moving to spring, while Los Angeles is scheduled for late May this year and New York is set for August. Needless to say, all of those shows are up in the air due to COVID concerns. Much likely depends on the vaccine rollout, as well.

“The pandemic has caused changes in our society and world in ways not previously imagined, and we all should be looking for new and highly creative ways of doing business,” said Executive Director Rod Alberts. “This new event captures that creative spirit. It will provide new mobility experiences and increasingly innovative approaches to tapping into the industry and its products.”

The phrase “bridge to the future” from the press release raises some eyebrows — does it mean the auto-show format will change in a post-COVID world? Even pre-pandemic, there were rumblings about the need for shows to change, especially in how media days are operated, thanks to how online unveilings have changed the industry.

“While auto shows remain an important platform to promote new mobility innovations and to help people make major vehicle purchase decisions, the traditional auto show model is changing,” Alberts said. “We cannot ignore the major disruptions caused by the pandemic and the impact it has had on budgets. As such, we will be providing an amazing experience to the media, the auto industry and the public in a cost-effective way.”

“We see this outdoor experience at M1 as a bridge to the future. One that will continue to evolve as we explore new ways of presenting mobility and as we navigate through these unprecedented times. We are very cognizant of the importance and impact our show and our events have on the state and the entire metro Detroit area. This will always be part of our considerations for the future,” Event chair Doug North said.

We’ll update you with new developments as needed.

[Image: NAIAS]

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