The Detroit Auto Show — more formally known as the North American International Auto Show, or NAIAS — was supposed to happen in June of last year, before that was canceled in favor of June this year until that was canceled in favor of September. Until that was canceled too in a decision that took a few people by surprise.
Organizers said a couple of weeks ago that the show would now go on in September 2022, or over three years since the last Detroit Auto Show, in January 2019.
“We firmly believe auto shows have a place in the automotive world,” Doug North, chairman of the show, said then, convincing absolutely no one that auto shows still have a place in the automotive world.
Fast forward to yesterday, when Rod Alberts, the executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which runs the show, appeared at a board meeting of Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority, which runs the TCF Center, where the show is traditionally held.
It was the first time organizers met with the authority’s board since the cancellation. DADA had given the authority no advance warning of the cancellation, which was a bit rude since DADA has a contract with the authority to have auto shows at the TCF Center every year until 2026.
And so things got a little heated at the meeting. And awkward.
This, to begin with, via Crain’s Detroit Business, is a vicious bit of passive-aggressiveness:
“That one really hit us hard,” said Larry Alexander, chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority board. “It would have been good to have a little advance notification. But I understand why you had to keep it secret and keep it quiet, because you’ve got to go at your own pace and communicate it in your own way.”
To which Alberts offered this confusing explanation:
“I couldn’t really share it because I didn’t want to make it a political decision,” Alberts said. “I knew there was going to be some difficult parts to it in the backlash. And I knew I was maybe going to lose a couple of friends out of the deal.”
Alberts is the real victim here, you see. Then things got awkward.
Lisa Canada, a member of the authority’s board and political director for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, chastised Alberts for not informing the convention hall’s board.
Alberts asked Canada how many people should he have told in advance of the announcement.
“We can talk about that until the cows come home,” he said. “We’re a customer trying to do the best we can under uncertain conditions.”
“I just wanted to point out there was some hurt feelings,” Canada said.
“Yeah, OK,” Alberts replied. “Thank you.”
Hanging over all of this is that at the time of the announcement earlier this month, DADA also announced a replacement event for the Detroit Auto Show called Motor Bella, a gathering of cars in September. Except Motor Bella will be in Pontiac, Michigan, not Detroit, which only adds more spice to the mix.
At the very least the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority can be relieved they won’t have to deal with Alberts too much longer. He’s 64 and rumor is he might retire.
“I’ve thought about (retiring), but I’m going to stick around for a little bit longer to try to get things in the right place for the future,” Alberts said.
He suggested he may continue to run the Detroit auto show through 2025.