The 2022 Detroit Auto Show Was a Disappointing Ghost Town

Ford Motor Company exhibit at the 2022 North American International Auto Show.

Ford Motor Company exhibit at the 2022 North American International Auto Show.
photo, Lalita Camelo

The 2022 North American International Auto Show in Detroit opened its doors to media and industry professionals this week, with public days beginning tomorrow. NAIAS was once the pinnacle of the US auto show circuit, with spacious, over-the-top displays and displays from domestic and foreign automakers alike. But the spectacle began to fade even before the pandemic, and the 2022 show began to spin around – First Detroit Auto Show since 2019 – The incident was almost unrecognizable.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, NAIAS already felt like it was slipping. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Bugatti were nowhere to be found at the convention center – their only appearance was at a private show at a nearby casino. Porsche had also left the building. Big, detailed revelations were becoming more subtle. The vendors and collections that had previously moved to the basement are now visible on the main show floor.

In 2018, the organizers proposed a solution: starting in 2020, NAIAS will move from its traditional dates in January to January more favorable week in junearound the time of IndyCar’s Detroit Grand Prix, The show will have an outdoor component, expand performance opportunities for carmakers and vendors, and will hopefully entice more people to spend some time in downtown Detroit.

The saddest Cadillac display I've ever seen at the Detroit Auto Show.

The saddest Cadillac display I’ve ever seen at the Detroit Auto Show.
photo, Lalita Camelo

Of course, it never came out. In June 2020, the state of Michigan was emerging from the strictest phase of its pandemic shutdown. The 2020 show never happened – the event center was Converted for use as FEMA coronavirus field hospital – And this 2021 show also canceled On the concerns of covid.

So, here we are in 2022, with the show now extended till September. People are out and about, pandemic restrictions are (mostly) gone. But the show floor was in more disrepair than ever.

Ford display at the 2022 Detroit Auto Show.

Ford display at the 2022 Detroit Auto Show.
photo, Lalita Camelo

Stelantis had a large footprint at the show, showcasing Ram, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products – but most of the automaker’s space was used to drive demonstrations, jeep 4xes Climbing over artificial rough terrain and hauling the Ram 1500’s stuff.

At the opposite end of the hall was General Motors. Cadillac had a short, gloomy display against unadorned concrete walls. The Buick had an equally small presence. Chevy had the largest footprint of all the GM brands, but it was also smaller than it showed pre-pandemic.

Ford took over most of the main floor, with a dedicated display for new 2024 mustang, But more than anything, what was most notable was the emptiness—the strip of blank walls, the staggering amount of empty space between the cars.

The biggest crowd - at the 2022 North American International Auto Show - waited to enter the convention center through Secret Service security on Wednesday while President Biden was in the building.

The biggest crowd at the 2022 North American International Auto Show – President Biden was in the building while waiting to get through Secret Service security on Wednesday to enter the convention center.

In 2019 and beyond, not only was the show floor filled with cars and displays, the media days were a nightmare to navigate. Journalists struggled shoulder to shoulder to get a glimpse of any of the new vehicles.

For 2022, the biggest crowd at the show was the line for a Secret Service security scan while President Joe Biden was touring the show floor. biggest news program of 2022 show, New 7th generation Ford Mustang launchedDown the street at Hart Plaza happened after the show’s doors closed for the evening.

Honestly, coming in third on the list of most talked-about things at the Detroit Auto Show is this giant inflatable duck, right outside Jefferson’s Huntington Place.

The empty halls of the 2022 Detroit Auto Show.

The empty halls of the 2022 Detroit Auto Show.
photo, Lalita Camelo

There was a time when this place was full of demonstrations. You can get lost in the field with a show-floor map to keep your bearings. I go to NAIAS every year from the age of five. I remember the year Jeep brought in Hawaiian dancers who hung on ribbons hanging from the rafters of the convention center. I remember when Cadillac first demonstrated its new Northstar engine – and sitting on the empty show floor late at night, my dad, then an engineer at Roush, looked at the display engine for the second day of introductions. were doing repairs. , In 1999, I stood in what felt like the longest line in the world to receive micro machine miniatures of Volkswagen’s new Beetle, which toured the show circuit that year.

But that wasn’t this year’s Detroit Auto Show.

Cars from the Ken Lingenfelter collection on display in the main show hall.

Cars from the Ken Lingenfelter collection on display in the main show hall.
photo, Lalita Camelo

Instead, Ken Lingenfelter had a few cars from his vast collection on display in the middle of the convention center, in a space that was once contested by the world’s largest automakers. A huge patch of bare floor separated their cars from the Stellantis display. On the other side was a replica Ghostbusters ambulance, with Fred Flintstone’s car,

Ybba Dabba Doo!  Excited for the latest green mobility concept at NAIAS.

Ybba Dabba Doo! Excited for the latest green mobility concept at NAIAS.
photo, Lalita Camelo

So which automakers appeared? all of stellar, Payab, Lincoln, GMToyota, and subaru, i saw a single Lucid Air On a small display with smaller booths reserved for mobility-tech vendors. The Lexus display was out of place. Most of the automakers present revealed their new vehicles a few days before the show – if they had anything new to reveal.

Small booths of auto industry suppliers and mobility tech companies.

Small booths of auto industry suppliers and mobility tech companies.
photo, Lalita Camelo

In the pandemic shutdown era, with auto shows canceled, carmakers pivot – first to online livestreams for new vehicle debuts, then to privately held events. Taking a handful of journalists and influencers to an exciting location to watch the debut of a new model was more cost-effective than securing a footprint at a dozen different auto shows throughout the year—and at a private event, An automaker does not have to compete with every other brand in the market to keep an eye on the latest model.

On my drive home from the 2022 Detroit Show, I thought a lot about the future of NAIAS. What was once the most awaited show of the year has become a shadow in itself. Other than the Mustang (which debuted at a separate Ford event) and President Biden’s visit (which was a speed bump for the reporters covering the show), there was no excitement or hype. The crowd had originally moved on by Wednesday afternoon, and Thursday’s additional attendance demonstrated just how sad things have become.

The pandemic has changed a lot about life, and the NAIAS organizers cannot be blamed for this. The show’s move from January to June to September was repeatedly stalled by the unexpected changes in life under the influence of COVID-19. But coming away from the 2022 Detroit Auto Show, I’m starting to wonder if the auto show has any future.

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