For the second straight year, there will be no North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This year, though, there is an interim event called Motor Bella that will be held about 25 miles north of downtown Detroit in Pontiac, at the M1 Concourse racetrack.
Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett about the role this week's Motor Bella will play in shaping Detroit auto shows of the future. Here are edited excerpts.
On how the pandemic spurred a further rethink:
There's been an evolution in the auto industry as it comes to auto shows. But the pandemic has accelerated that. If you have a crisis that you're challenged by, you have to look at the opportunities that might be built into it. This was an open door to take a look at new opportunities that might exist to build a more experiential type of auto show, or one with more engagement activations.
On the possibilities opened up by the M1 racetrack:
We were going to do something like this back in 2020 when we were going to a different time of year [for the Detroit auto show, which had been scheduled to move from January to June]. When we had the situation with the pandemic, we thought: "Let's take a look at another venue, like M1, which is a very great asset that most metro communities don't have."
Having something right off Woodward Avenue with a mile-and-a-half track is pretty incredible. So we thought, "Why don't we take this opportunity to see what's out there and create something new and different and make it safe for people in a year that we have a bit of a challenge with the pandemic still."
On connecting consumers to new technology:
In the end, it's a great opportunity to try out something new that puts people in cars and they can kind of engage all their senses with the product.
With all the changes with technology, people have to experience the technology. We're getting orientated to new things, even with electric cars and what they're all about.