The 2020 North American International Auto Show in Detroit has been canceled because the Federal Emergency Management Agency has selected the TCF Center, the convention center that hosts the event to serve as a field hospital for COVID-19 cases for at least six months.
As of Saturday evening, Michigan had 4,650 cases and 11 deaths. More than half of the state’s cases are in the three counties that make up Detroit: Oakland (1,018), Wayne (939), Macomb (534).
The show will resume in June 2021, organizers informed show sponsors in a memo Saturday that was obtained by the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.
“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,” North American International Auto Show 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 winter date 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 in the heart of downtown Detroit.
The cancellation is another blow to the region’s hospitality industry.
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The auto 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.
Holding the show this 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 amid rising unemployment figures.
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
- Motor Bella – June 11-14: A street fair of English and Italian cars and food.
- The Gallery – June 14: An invitation-only show of the latest exotic and luxury vehicles.
- Press preview – June 15-16: Automakers from around the world reveal new vehicles and technologies.
- AutoMobili-D Powered by PlanetM – June 15-17: Innovators showcase new ideas to automakers and suppliers.
- Industry preview – June 16-17: Engineers and designers study new vehicles for competitive information.
- Charity preview – June 18: Massive event raises millions for local charities.
- Public show – June 19-26