"It just seems like all we've been doing is bobbing and weaving and planning and bobbing and weaving and evolving and planning and bobbing and weaving," North said.
North, 64, spoke with Staff Reporter Jack Walsworth. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: There's been no Detroit auto show since January 2019. What does it mean for Detroit-area dealers to have some sort of show again with Motor Bella?
A: That's a question I could spend an hour on. From my perspective as a dealer, and from the other dealers I've spoken with, our business and our communities that we're all in, we love and loved the show. We love the energy and all of the wonderful conversation and dialogue and media and attention our industry gets when we have a show. We all love being around cars, talking about cars. It's been an awful long time coming, and I can't tell you how excited we are to have an event.
Something where we can get behind it and talk to consumers, talk to industry people, talk to engineers about new technology and all the things that go into a show. To say we've been chomping at the bit would probably be an understatement.
But everybody understands what's happened and what a challenging time it's been and how awkward it's been. They've seen what's happened around the world: New York canceled and Anaheim (the Orange County Auto Show) canceled. The Geneva show is bankrupt. I'm not sure Paris is going to come back. Frankfurt moved to Munich, but who knows the future of that.
Shows in general have been really dramatically affected or eliminated. We're thrilled that our team had this outdoor concept in mind before any of this ever happened and were in the process of planning an event that was going to be more indoor and outdoor. As this pandemic came, it changed our thinking and forced us to evolve. Motor Bella was originally supposed to be an addition, something that would be a wonderful add-on to our show. Given that you can only do things in a safe environment right now outside, it really looks like it was the right thing.
We're really excited to have it. We're excited about what it represents. And, most importantly, it allows dealers and car people to get together and talk about cars and where the industry is going.
This summer the Chicago Auto Show was reinvented in its own right, having moved from February. Did the Detroit dealers association look at that show for ideas given that it was outdoors and experience-heavy?
We noted what Chicago did, and we're aware of it. Our plan was well underway before Chicago ever held their show. Ford is one example — they've never done three activations in an outdoor show before, at least not domestically. We've taken some of the things that were done in Chicago, and we're expanding on it in virtually every way. And then we're doing a whole host of things that Chicago didn't do. It's not a criticism. It's just the campus we have and that 1-mile track and what it allows us to do are things that you really can't do in a downtown environment.
Motor Bella will take place when many dealership lots in the area are short on inventory. Is Motor Bella still expected to be a boost to business and consumer demand?
That's still our hope and our goal because at the end of the day, our events are really all about retail vehicles and selling cars. I don't want to say that's the only reason, but we're all dealers and we're a dealer group. Clearly, that's a business objective. I would say that we're excited about it either way.
At our Ford store, normally we would have about 425 cars in stock. Right now we have about 60. Now, that's triple what we had in July and August, so we're excited about it. But the demand is there. We are ordering more cars, customers are driving in and, if we have something that's brand new that hasn't already been sold and comes off the truck, they're buying it. So we have good demand in the market right now. It would be great if we had a lot more inventory, but we always embrace excitement and demand even if we can't always fulfill it. It's our job to try and help the customer. If we can somehow create a potential buyer — whether it's this week or next week or a month or two months — that's our goal. We always embrace having this. It's going to be a little harder today to get any kind of big numbers as a result, but we're gonna do our darndest.