The easy part of becoming the North American International Auto Show was for Detroit's car dealers to claim the name. The hard part was getting buy-in from international automakers, and for media to attend.
But 25 years ago, a determined cadre of Detroit-area dealers and business leaders -- along with staff from the Detroit Auto Dealers Association -- upstaged the New York International Auto Show with much fanfare and not a little relief.
"There were some people at the Big 3, especially in sales and marketing, who were kind of laughing at us," said Ken Meade, the 70-year-old CEO of Meade Lexus of Lakeside in suburban Detroit who helped put the first show together as a Detroit Auto Dealers Association trustee.
Few people would consider Detroit a January destination. Cold, gray and dreary are some of the nicer descriptions of the city, circa 1989.
But despite a fierce snowstorm that year, the North American International Auto Show made its debut -- and has been going strong ever since.
Last year's show featured:
- 71 global or North American vehicle premieres.
- Auto executives and more than 5,200 media members from around the world visiting the city.
- An estimated $365 million in economic impact to the Detroit area.
How it came together was a mixture of hard work, good fortune and realized opportunity, said Gordon Stewart, 68, who owns four Chevrolet stores in Michigan, Georgia and Florida.