Rose City Politics received press credentials for the Detroit Auto Show. This is our story.
It’s been three years since the last Detroit Auto Show, cancelled since early 2019 due to a self-imposed change of season from Spring to Winter and of course multiple years of COVID-19. With the event wrapping up, we wanted to reflect on our time there.
After arriving in Detroit and parking, I walked to the former Cobo & TCF Center, now Huntington Place, and passed by the outdoor venue for the Detroit Auto Show at Hart Plaza which featured multiple food and drink vendors, vehicle displays, and monster trucks (because what event isn’t complete without monster trucks?). Along the route I also snapped to take a Selfie with the World’s Largest Rubber Duck because, why wouldn’t I?
A bit further down the road was the convention hall entrance and from there it was a quick walk to media accreditation and then the lineup for security which had 5 rows of people waiting to pass through 4 metal detectors for photographers and videographers carrying equipment, and one for hacks like us at Rose City Politics carrying cellphones. 3 minutes later and I was past security and off to the main hall…or so I thought.
The best part about going to the Detroit Auto Show during media preview days is the lack of public crowds and immediate access to the displays, press conferences, and ability to get as close as possible to the vehicles themselves (in many cases being able to sit inside them). While the Detroit Auto Dealers Association won’t be releasing attendance figures for 2022, typically the event draws upwards of 800,000 during its nine-day run, so you can appreciate that attending the event with upwards of only 500 journalists is ideal.
We opted to attend on the first of two media days, September 14th, as the 15th was a combined media and industry day and bound to be busier, and our passes didn’t grant us access to the Charity Preview or public show which ran from September 17 – 25.
What we didn’t know when we made our plans was that the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, would be attending on the first day and that the venue would be cleared of all journalists except for the White House press pool which follows the president around the world.
As such, we spent about two and a half hours waiting in an anteroom of the main hall, elbow to elbow with other journalists, trying to catch a glimpse of the president through windows that spanned to the ceiling from about waist height.
Don Merrifield Jr. and I attended separately but managed to find each other among the masses of media after President Biden left.
A note about COVID-19 seems apt at this point: as it was the first Detroit Auto Show since 2019, it was also the first auto show since COVID struck, but you wouldn’t have known it from the show. Very few people were wearing masks of any kind, and when I say very few, I mean that I could count them one on hand, and I wish more were wearing masks when we were in the enclosed space, especially the man standing next to me who was coughing consistently the entire time and popping Halls like they were Tic-Tacs.
Other elected officials walked by while we waited to enter, including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigeg who was flanked by aids and Secret Service, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and U.S. House Representative Rashida Tlaib. It was interesting to see all of the elected officials as they traversed the auto show, walking from exhibit to exhibit, followed by a trail of flashing cameras and boom microphones.
LEFT TO RIGHT: USA Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigeg, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and US House Representative Rashida Tlaib.
While we were waiting for the president to wrap his private tour, we spoke with an American about old Jewish delis in Windsor, but didn’t get to finish our conversation because we were interrupted by a Detroit Police officer who asked the man to go with him, and as they walked away, four more police officers joined them; it was, weird.
Finally Biden left and the doors opened, allowing the hundreds of corralled journalists to enter the and check out the show.
I immediately headed towards the back of the hall towards what looked like two distinct rollercoaster tracks. Ford, Dodge and Jeep had set up indoor dragstrips, off-road courses, and massive inclines that attendees were able to experience firsthand in the vehicles; truly a fun experience.
The Detroit Auto Show expanded its offerings this year as the industry has undergone immense change and showcased an “Air Mobility Experience” with six international air mobility innovators from five companies, including a start-up from Detroit, producing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, amphibious sport planes, hoverbikes, hoverboards and even jet suits.
On social media a video circluated of a man in a jetsuit flying above the Detroit River with Windsor Ontario in the background in what was truly a beautiful shot. The man hovers above the water, attains significant height for quite some time, and then unfortunately, loses control and crashed into the water. It’s a hell of a video, just watch for yourself.
All reviews however we’re not uniform in praise of the event, with Nikkei Asia writing “pre-pandemic, the annual Motor City event was one of the world’s most important auto shows. But, to listen to critics, it is now fighting for survival, with organizers struggling to avoid the fate faced by shows like those in Frankfurt, Geneva and Tokyo, which have either been sharply scaled back or shuttered entirely.
In the years after the local Detroit Auto Show became an international extravaganza in 1989, it routinely brought in dozens of brands — along with 5,000 or more journalists flying in from around the world to witness up to 70 new product previews. This year, however, prominent brands like Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW went missing. At most, 1,000 members of the media turned out to witness a mere five new product debuts. Of those, four were modest updates, with the seventh-generation Mustang the only significant headliner.”
But for this writer, just being able to walk the floor and see the latest offerings in a room with other people after three years of digital only events was quite nice. You forget just how different in-person events are when you haven’t really experienced them in years. The main hall was filled with cars and trucks, primarily from North American corporations, and there was something for everyone to enjoy, even if just for a glimpse.
The show is designed for social media exposure, which is why it wasn’t surprising to see official partnerships with Jurassic Park and Ghostbusters.
I went to my first Detroit Auto Show in 2003 and I’ve always been a fan of concept vehicles and this year Lincoln was the standout that caught ALL of my attention.
All in all, the 2022 Detroit Auto Show was a hit and it’s one of those events that you have to add to your Windsor Bucket List. It’s a lot of fun and we’re lucky to have a world class event right across the river.