No. 1000
June 12, 2019

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Since it has all but been confirmed that the Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) is moving to June in 2020 - after one last hurrah at Cobo Hall next January – I think it would be a good idea to rethink this event in its entirety. The people involved with staging the show are feverishly working on this as you read this, but as you might imagine, I have a few definitive suggestions.

Back in January I had this to say: The Detroit Auto Show needs to move from its traditional January date to June, immediately following the IndyCar weekend at Belle Isle. I am tired of hearing the media attendees at the press days complain about the weather. But I’m not tired of what they’re saying – because it’s dead accurate – I’m tired of hearing about it because it can be easily addressed with some calculated planning. And all of the naysayers who insist that it can’t be done are exactly the reason that the Detroit Auto Show is stuck in neutral. Everything associated with the Detroit show right now – the media attention, the charity preview, the positive effects on the economy – can take place in June when visitors will not only take away a much better impression of this city, they can see this city in a completely new light.

But moving the show to a new time frame on the calendar can be only the beginning, because the idea that staging anything resembling a traditional auto show is still valid has already been put to rest. The Detroit show became the canary in the coal mine a few years ago when manufacturers started dropping out of participating in our annual January slog left and right. But then it quickly became obvious that it wasn’t just the Detroit show, because manufacturers started dropping out of the major auto shows all over the world.

Old timey “major” auto shows are dead, although let’s be clear, the regional auto shows will still be valid in this country. The Internet, product-specific launch events and other forms of communication, particularly social media, have made traditional auto-focused media events obsolete. With access to information immediate and saturated, assembling the media - and the public - for a major auto show, as previously defined, is just not going to work. 

So, what then? What can Detroit auto show organizers do to redefine the show and turn it into a worthwhile event that has serious allure and a “must-see” quality to it? Well, they can begin by throwing out all the knowledge they’ve accumulated about auto shows and start over. But that’s the beauty of starting with a blank canvas - there are no bad ideas, creativity is paramount, and the show’s raison d’etre can be crafted from scratch.

With the Detroit auto experience – and that’s what it must be – moving to one of this region’s most beautiful months, the previous limitations of biting cold, icy streets, treacherous sidewalks and bitter winds are immediately things of the past. This event should take on an immersive, almost Olympic-like quality, with events staged all over the city. Manufacturers should be encouraged to carve out space for experiential displays at venues they deem appropriate (especially with the Detroit Grand Prix weekend handily kicking off the proceedings), while keeping the core show at Cobo. People should be able to drive the cars and trucks, experience major league entertainment, sample the pulse of the city, and take in music and restaurants. I am talking a full week of events and attractions for all ages.

And one more thing, an event like this needs a new name. “Detroit Auto Show” won’t cut it, because this week-long event as redefined, deserves something more. Much more. Remember, the manufacturers will have a blank canvas, too, and they’ll want to showcase advancements in mobility and technology. This will have to be a very big deal if it has a chance at all.

Back in the 50s and early 60s, the “old” GM staged a traveling road show that showcased their products, from production cars to concepts. And it was exceedingly popular. The PR impact was huge, and it captured the imagination of the press and the consumer public. That show was called General Motors Motorama, and its impact still resonates to this day.

I don’t think GM CEO Mary Barra would mind at all lending the “Motorama” moniker to the auto industry extravaganza that will unfold here in the first weeks of June 2020. As a matter of fact, there’s a certain symmetry to the idea. Especially with the “new” Detroit trying to project itself as a glimmering beacon of hope in the darkness. 

Showcasing a domestic auto industry emboldened with new products, new vision and a feisty new competitive spirit, augmented by a city that has been reborn and rejuvenated after years of being the country's punchline, one teeming with new enlightenment and perspective while pointing to a limitless future, is just what the doctor ordered.

I think Motorama Detroit has a beautiful ring to it. 

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

(GM images)
The 1953 Corvette was unveiled at the GM Motorama in New York.

The 1953 Cadillac Le Mans concept was another GM Styling project unveiled at the GM Motorama.
The 1956 Buick Centurion was a Motorama star.
GM Styling cemented its visionary reputation with the 1956 Pontiac Club de Mer concept unveiled at GM's Motorama.
The radical, gas turbine-powered Firebird III was designed in 1958 and made its Motorama debut in 1959. 
The 1954 Chevrolet Corvette "Corvair" was another concept unveiled at the Motorama.