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The 2020 North American International Auto Show in Detroit has been canceled this year because the Federal Emergency Management Agency chose the TCF Center to become a field hospital for COVID-19 cases for at least six months.
The show, one of Southeast Michigan's signature events, will resume in June 2021, the organizers informed show sponsors in a memo Saturday that was obtained by the Free Press.
"The health and welfare of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan is paramount. TCF Center is the ideal location for this important function at this critical and unprecedented time,” NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts said in the memo.
Auto show officials declined to comment on the memo.
The 2021 show will include all the events planned for this year, when the event was to move from its longtime home in January to summer so it could offer outdoor events along the riverfront, including test drives, demonstrations of self-driving cars and other new technologies plus Motor Bella, a pre-show street festival of Italian and English cars in the heart of downtown.
The cancellation is another blow to the region’s hospitality industry.
The show routinely draws 800,000 paying customers to its public days, plus thousands of automaker and supplier executives, engineers and journalists who attend pre-show events, filling restaurants and hotels. The cancellation is more stress for those companies already suffering from the show’s absence in January and current COVID-19 restrictions.
The Detroit Auto Dealers Association moved the show from its traditional mid-winter slot to make the most of Detroit’s burgeoning downtown in the often-lovely days of early summer. Automakers, who have been looking for ways to make auto shows more appealing to customers as internet shopping increases, seized on the idea as an opportunity to offer test drives, demonstrate the off-road prowess of SUVs and impress customers with new safety systems, electric and self-driving vehicles.
Holding the show in June became increasingly unfeasible as the economy reels from the impact of COVID-19.
Even before it became clear a temporary field hospital was the best use of TCF Center’s space and central location, there was reason to wonder if customers would be considering big purchases, or have interest in automakers introducing fancy new vehicles, barely two months from now.
The 2020 show had been scheduled to begin with the Motor Bella Italian and English vehicle street fest June 5-7; press and industry days June 9-11; the Charity Preview June 12, and the public show June 13-20.
New 2021 show dates and events