Detroit show backers roll out red carpet to more dealers nationwide

Sherri Welch is a reporter for Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News.

The Detroit Auto Dealers Association's push to attract more U.S. auto dealers to the Detroit auto show is paying off, with as many as 800 expected next week for the event.

It took 23 years for him to figure it out, but Rod Alberts, executive director of the DADA and the Detroit auto show, said it finally occurred to him this year that the organization needed to carve out a time when dealers from around the country could walk the show floor among their peers to see the new vehicles they'd soon be selling from their lots.

After all, the DADA, which represents over 220 domestic and import new-car and truck dealers in Southeast Michigan, already had done so for automakers, suppliers and the press.

The 2013 show will offer auto dealers an exclusive look at the show by opening it to them from 8 a.m. to noon on Jan. 16 when the doors open for Industry Preview Days for suppliers and others in the industry.

"You've got 18,000 dealers in the U.S. and (55) product unveilings here in Detroit," Alberts said. "Wouldn't they want to come and see the new products they'll be selling?"

About 300-400 dealers from among 18,000 around the country have attended the show in previous years, many flown in by a handful of automakers, Alberts said. This year, he said, "we'll probably end up at 800 dealers."

The DADA encouraged the carmakers' brands to invite their dealers to the show, but the invitations went out a little late this year, Alberts said. Probably only a third or half of the dealers around the country were invited.

Taking the DADA and carmakers up on the invitation at $100 per ticket, dealers are coming from St. Louis, Kansas City, New York and Los Angeles, Alberts said.

Also coming next week even before dealer day: Peter Welch, the new president of the National Automotive Dealers Association, to shake hands with the carmakers, Alberts said.

Twenty-five years ago, the Detroit show didn't have industry preview days, he said. That idea came from the Frankfurt auto show in Germany.

With the new dealer day, Alberts said, "We've completed the circle of life from the manufacturer to the dealer to the customer."

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