DETROIT -- U.S. equity markets are soaring. Americans are splurging on the newest tech goodies with their latest crossover and SUV. The U.S. economy continues to expand. And lower personal taxes are on the horizon.
So the mood was cautiously optimistic at the invite-only Gallery showroom Saturday at Detroit's Cobo Center -- the posh annual event that formally kicks off the 2018 Detroit auto show.
Dealers and luxury brands -- while looking cautiously at potential economic changes to drive vehicle sales -- used the event to showcase and dangle ultraluxury saloons and supercars with a combined value of $10 million.
Thirty-three vehicles from 14 ultraluxury and supercar brands placed in a circle at Cobo Center. A sellout crowd of 800 people attended the 13th annual event; tickets went for $250 per person this year, half of what was charged in previous years.
The MGM Grand Detroit casino housed The Gallery in years prior, where customers and dealers in superluxury vehicles could view the next year's offerings across the hall from slot machines.
"MGM worked out fantastic for us for many years, but really credit to Cobo Center and the regional authority for the $300 million renovation in the building [here]," said Max Muncey, a spokesman for the Detroit Automobile Dealers Association, which organizes The Gallery and the auto show. "It was time to bring the cars back to the show."
Of the 33 high-end luxury sedans, coupes, SUVs and supercars on the gallery floor, 12 will move onto the main show floor.
The overall U.S. light-vehicle market peaked in 2016 and slipped slightly in 2017, but the exotic and luxury segments declined in 2017. Exotic vehicle sales in the U.S. slid 8.6 percent, compact luxury car sales dropped 10 percent and deliveries of midsize luxury vehicles declined 7.9 percent.
Sales at several ultraluxury brands, such as Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini, edged up slightly in 2017. Audi's U.S. sales climbed 7.8 percent, while Bentley volume dropped 6.8 percent last year.