Nothing will be the same.
It should have just ended last week but it didn't happen at all. The 2020 Detroit Auto Show, also known as the North American International Auto Show, was sadly canceled this year along with all other auto shows due to the coronavirus pandemic. The TCF Center, formerly called Cobo Center, was turned into a field hospital. It's hardly news anymore.
Detroit's first-ever summertime auto show was going to be a big deal, featuring numerous indoor and outdoor demonstrations with everything from autonomous technologies to electric scooters. Mainstream debuts like the all-new Ford F-150 were also planned. Fortunately, show organizers are already looking ahead to next June but are fully aware the virus outbreak will still be looming.
Rob Alberts is the executive director of the Detroit Auto Show and the Detroit Auto Dealers Association and he recently spoke about next year's preparations with the Detroit Free Press and what changes we might see.
For starters, social distancing will probably still have to be maintained and that means fewer attendees. This also applies to media. "For example, instead of 5,000 media during press preview, maybe we cap it at 3,000 or less. Maybe we look at cutting off registration for industry preview or only selling a limited number of Charity Preview tickets. Plus, we've added 14 acres outside which doubles our footprint for social distancing if needed," he said.
Other potential changes currently being discussed include additional hand-sanitizing stations, contactless payment for everything from tickets to food, and lots of signs reminding everyone to keep social distancing.
"We're planning a show that creates increased high-touch experiences, and yet, we're currently dealing with the potential of physical distancing for who knows how long? But we're confident we'll find a way to pivot the show to whatever direction is necessary," Alberts summarized.
Admittedly, it's extremely difficult to predict how the country and the world at large will look a year from now. Also, automakers have now switched to online reveals only, a trend that might continue even if traditional auto shows return one day.