Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Detroit Struggles to Hang on to the Auto Show

Ever since the original inception of the modern auto industry, Detroit has been the world's epicenter of automotive manufacturing and design. Detroit is home to the headquarters of all three major American automakers. The industry has been extremely vital to the region's economy and culture. As we all have seen, the domestic manufacturers have been struggling with extremely low sales and turbulent economic conditions. This has hit the Detroit and the entire Midwest region extremely hard. Parts suppliers and auto plants are being routinely shuttered and workers sent home. Just as the automakers have had their share of problems, so has Detroit's auto show that typically features the biggest and best names in the industry.

Back in 1907, the first auto showcase was held in the city. This annual event has become one of the world's premier auto shows and is now referred to as the North American International Auto Show. Each and every year, industry experts and excited consumers flock to Detroit and pour an estimated $500 to $600 million into the local economy during the two week event. Local hotels are usually completely sold out for the entire duration of the show. Restaurants stay busy and entertainment comes at a premium. In recent years, Detroit has been in jeopardy of losing its beloved auto show.

The show has been held at Detroit's Cobo Center for many years. As the showcase grew in both size and popularity, the aging Cobo has made it difficult to accommodate the event. One of the major problems is that the expo center has very limited floor space and is just plain falling apart in some areas. The city of Detroit, which owns Cobo Center, just cannot afford to make costly renovations that would be required to continue hosting the event. A number of attempts to generate support and funds for the renovation have fell short and earlier this year, the North American International Auto Show committee threatened to pull out of Detroit and head elsewhere.

In response, lawmakers from Detroit and the surrounding regions tried to create an agreement that would share expenses and partial revenue with nearby counties. Some members of Detroit's city council fiercely opposed this idea because they felt that the suburbs were trying to steal Cobo from the people. After lengthy debates, the state intervened and the area's government officials were able to reach an agreement that transfers ownership of Cobo Center to a regional authority composed of the surrounding counties. The NAIAS committee has said that if the renovations move ahead as planned, the show will remain in the city of Detroit and continue to provide the much needed surge to the local economy.

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