DETROIT -- Pre-show repairs at Detroit's Cobo Center are complete, and auto show organizers couldn't be more pleased as the venue defends its turf in the competitive world of auto shows.
“There had been the discussion about keeping the show at its rightful home, which is of course at Cobo in Detroit, and we've been able to do that because of being able to initiate and complete the first steps of upgrading the facility to be on par with some of the folks on the circuit,” said Sam Locricchio, a spokesman for the show from John Bailey & Associates Inc. in suburban Detroit. Locricchio handles public relations for the auto show.
Six projects priced at roughly $3 million were targeted for completion before the show, said Gary Brown, chief construction officer for the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority and owner of Diversity in Design GMB LLC in Dearborn, MIch.
“Some were more the notorious items like the roof leaks and the electrical distribution, which needed to accommodate some of the differing voltages, and there were some things that were not so obvious,” Brown said.
Cobo, which is owned by the city of Detroit, was transferred to a regional authority last summer. Members are appointed by the governor, the mayor of Detroit and leaders of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The authority will oversee a long-term renovation and expansion funded through the extension of an existing tri-county liquor and hotel tax.
The work, auto show organizers said, was necessary to keep the show in Detroit.
Major pre-show repairs have been complete since mid-November, when exhibitors began setting up, Brown said.
The less-obvious work Brown described include things such as fixing a glitch in Cobo's fire system, repairs to the compressor system and fixing leaking floor boxes that provide water for the center's cooling system.
“We had to repair the compressors in the air dryers in the mechanical systems -- when you use pneumatic controls for the heating and cooling system, the air has to be dry or it damages your actuators and valves,” Brown said.
“Those air dryers were important to get back online, and we've done that. There are emergency battery lights that were dead, and we've replaced those batteries on the emergency system. We've also done a fire protection investigation and inspection that was routine anyway, but we've done it in advance of the auto show.”
With weeks to go before the auto show, Brown said, work moved on to less crucial fixes.
“We've done an investigation and repair of all the CCTVs (closed-circuit televisions) that would be monitoring to make sure all of them are operating, and we're still in the process of doing that,” Brown said. “There were some glitches with generations of software that we had to go in and tweak out. And there were some toilet room repairs,” such as broken tiles and other cosmetic damage.
“We understand that's a customer touch point,” he said.
As for the elaborate show exhibits, Brown said all must be built to code.
“I doubt there are many exhibitions that go to this level of setup, and we're working to improve response (to exhibitors' needs), seeing what we can do to make it better,” he said.
Less of a crisis
Fifty-four brands are represented at the auto show this year compared to last year's 50, said Locricchio, who expects the tone of the show this year to be much different.
“Last year, it's Thanksgiving and my phone rings and we find out a couple have pulled out. We're thinking of how to position this, wondering is this the doom and gloom of early 2009?” he said.
“This year, I was able to eat Thanksgiving dinner relatively calmly, knowing the show is on the rise. I didn't get that call, and I haven't gotten that call.”
Though the economy is still turbulent -- along with the domestic auto industry -- there's less uncertainty, he said.
“With General Motors Co. and Chrysler (Group L.L.C.), we definitely know the direction, and Ford Motor Co. is consistently doing well or better,” Locricchio said. “So we've got, if not a spirit of optimism, we've got at least a spirit of direction.”