DETROIT — Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, said Thursday that he expects the group's Motor Bella outdoor event in September will draw as many as 150,000 attendees and will include an unspecified number of new-vehicle reveals.
Alberts, speaking to the Automotive Press Association, also defended the decision to cancel the North American International Auto Show, planned for September of this year, because of concerns about the lingering coronavirus pandemic, noting "we did not make the wrong call" despite other shows such as Los Angeles and New York planning major showcases later this year. In addition to the six-day Motor Bella, DADA is planning a four-day "car crawl" in downtown Detroit for August.
"You just don't come out of the pandemic and flip the switch," he said. "We're having to come out of it and work our way back to what has to be done. It's going to take a little time."
Alberts vowed Thursday to have an auto show in downtown Detroit in 2022.
"That's the place it belongs," he said, noting the group could also keep Motor Bella in Pontiac, Mich., in the coming years.
"Flexibility is key here, and we're creating the flexibility to do the right thing," he said.
The Detroit auto show, which has not been held since January 2019, has changed dates multiple times. The event was supposed to move from January to June of 2020 but was canceled as a result of the pandemic and rescheduled for June 2021. Organizers later rescheduled it for fall 2021 before canceling for the second straight year.
The Motor Bella event, Sept. 21-26, will feature 1.3 million square feet of usable space at the M1 Concourse racetrack in Pontiac, about a half-hour north of Detroit. Alberts said Detroit 3 are participating, and that about 40 total automakers will be represented either through the companies themselves or through their dealers.
The event will feature a 1.5-mile track for technology and vehicle demonstrations, as well as display spaces and potential for brands or organizations to host receptions at the track's private garages.
There will be two press and industry days followed by four public days. Alberts said he'd like to see 150,000 attendees.
"The whole idea is to create involvement with all your senses," Alberts said. "Car shows we've done in the past have been more static. Actually putting people in cars: smelling, seeing, touching and experiencing the technology ... it's more than just kicking tires."