Auto show events ticket sales reflect recovery
DETROIT -- Improved ticket sales for Detroit auto show events are more anecdotal evidence of a regional automotive sector recovery -- and point to a glitzier show this year.
Charity Preview and Industry Preview tickets for the Detroit show are both up significantly this year. Charity Preview sales are up 19 percent and Industry Preview sales are up 23 percent, show organizers say.
Specific ticket sales figures to date were not released. But the percentage increases are encouraging, said Bill Perkins, president of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which organizes the auto show and its charity preview.
"We think … there's a lot more confidence in the industry, and as a result, people are beginning to spend more money," he added.
Denso International America Inc. purchased more than 500 $95 tickets for this year's industry preview, up from 300 the year before. Industry days are Wednesday and Thursday. Last year, 21,676 Industry Preview tickets were sold.
Denso, the North American subsidiary of the Japan-based supplier, generated $6.4 billion in revenue during its 2011 fiscal year, up 11.5 percent from 2010 and up 83.5 percent from 2009.
Doug Patton, senior vice president of engineering, said Denso is winning new contracts and uses the Industry Preview as an opportunity to show off its growing product line in North America. Denso gives many of the tickets to customers, Patton said.
"The bottom line: We've broadened our product range and increased the customers we're dealing with, and here we can show our advanced technologies," he said. "A customer may know us because we make starters, but do they know we make fuel-injections systems or in-dash technology? We want to inform them on our new products, and the auto show is a perfect place to showcase that."
Some of the tickets also go to Denso executives and engineers to identify new trends, Patton said.
"We want to know where the industry is going -- what are the key things that the auto companies are talking about? And, how we can use that to our advantage," he said.
Perkins said the improving automotive market is having a trickle down effect on perceptions of the region, resulting in strong charity preview sales.
"I think with the economy improving, the job market improving and unemployment going down, people are feeling a little better about the economy and what's going on out there," he said. "When they feel better, they tend to spend more money."
This year's Charity Preview is set for Friday at Cobo Center.
Last year, the event surpassed its attendance goal, attracting 10,600 guests and raising $2.6 million. It's on pace to sell more than 12,000 tickets this year, according to organizers.
Attendance at the preview has been climbing back up since it plummeted to about 7,000 in 2009. That was down from a high of 15,000 attendees in the late 1990s.
In past years, show organizers have brought in headliner musical acts to boost attendance at the show.
"We lost Cobo Arena this year" to construction, which really took away DADA's ability to bring in a big-name entertainer, Perkins said.
"But that doesn't mean you won't have some of the manufacturers with entertainers in their (exhibit areas)," he said. "That will start to leak out (this) week."
Detroit's Selected of God Choir, which appeared in the Chrysler Group LLC "Imported From Detroit" commercials that made headlines last year, is expected to perform at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the preview.
Tickets for the Charity Preview are $250 each, with proceeds from the event supporting several local charities.
Automakers aren't stopping at the industry and charity previews, either. General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet brand purchased 5,000 tickets for the public show days, Jan. 14-22. Buick and GMC also purchased blocks of tickets, Perkins said.
Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis at Northville-based IHS Automotive Inc., said a mood change is evident for this year's auto show events.
"We're still navigating through this recovery, and it hasn't all been positive, but by and large we're in a much different environment," he said.
"The players are investing more in the show this year, the mood is upbeat, and there's definitely going to be more glitz than in recent years."