High-luxury carmakers take a pass on Detroit auto show – The Detroit News
The 2016 North American International Auto Show is expected to be bigger and brighter than ever, with a redesigned layout and $200 million in new exhibits. But those hoping to see a full lineup of uber-luxurious eye candy will have to look elsewhere or pay $500 for a ticket to a lavish pre-show.
Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Tesla and Rolls-Royce all have opted out of the Detroit auto show — open to the public Jan. 16-26. All had a presence on Cobo Center’s show floor in 2015. BMW’s Mini will be absent as well.
“They have to weigh that decision every time: Am I going to spend $5 million to $6 million to be in an auto show or not?” auto show vice chairman Sam Slaughter said during a recent interview with The Detroit News. “I think it’s less about whether it’s Detroit or not, and more about the economics of those particular high-end brands.”
Jaguar Land Rover has sporadically attended the show in recent years. Some expensive foreign brands have pulled out of all U.S. auto shows. Tesla and Bentley have said the show doesn’t align with their brand strategies.
“Our focus in the U.S. is on intimate and experiential events that directly reach current and prospective Bentley customers,” Bentley said in a statement to The News. “We are working closely with our U.S. dealers on many of these programs while continuing some of our traditional and successful events, such as our bespoke Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance program.”
Many high-end luxury brands will be at the “The Gallery,” the event on Saturday at MGM Grand Detroit that promises to have $7 million in expensive cars on the floor.
NAIAS officials argue that the Detroit show is more of an “international press show” rather than a “consumer show.” The difference is that automakers come to Detroit when they want to attract press attention to “launch flagship models, world debuts or make massive brand news,” according to Max Muncey, the show’s public relations manager.
“If you don’t have one of those three things, then I think you look to put your marketing dollars elsewhere,” he said.
The Detroit show annually attracts roughly 5,000 members of the news media from around the world. In addition to that in 2015, more than 800,000 people attended the show overall. That compares to the Chicago Auto Show, a consumer show that attracts more than 1 million people but gets far less media attention.
According to third-party data commissioned by auto show officials, media coverage of the Detroit auto show was more than double that of the Los Angeles Auto Show and nearly the same as the Chicago and New York auto shows combined. At its peak, NAIAS 2015 was mentioned by online media coverage more than 200,000 times in one day.
The luxury brands skipping the Detroit auto show generally are low-volume brands, and none of them had a major product story that was timed right for a January 2016 reveal, said Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst with IHS Automotive.
“Those real high-end luxury brands that are not necessarily going to be on the show floor have the opportunity of the gallery, and they can actually sell cars there,” Brinley said. “That investment for them is going to pay many more returns than being there for the consumer days of the Detroit auto show. Detroit’s not a big market for them. And if they don’t have significant product news then it’s really expensive to put on a press conference that isn’t going to say anything. It’s just not a wise use of money all the time.”
Luxury brands such as Audi, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche all will be on the show floor, and are scheduled to host press conferences introducing new or redesigned vehicles. Aston Martin will return to the show for the first time since 2009.
Brinley said the luxury brands that have opted to skip Detroit aren’t a reflection of the show’s significance.
“It’s much more a reflection on what each one of these individual brands’ strategy is,” she said. “And each of them has a different strategy.”
The $500-a-head car showcase at the MGM Grand — “The Gallery” — will feature Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and other aspirational nameplates.
“The Gallery is a great event for those high-end vehicles,” said NAIAS 2016 chairman Paul Sabatini. “You get the people that can afford those cars, they come and they buy.”
The 2015 event sold millions of dollars in new vehicles, according to officials. This year’s event also will feature high-end selection of silent-auction items such as an eight-day European river cruise and a custom-made suit. The auction is curated by the Robb Report, a magazine that showcases high-priced products.
The Robb Report — recently purchased by prominent Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans — will feature a number of uber-luxury vehicles at its display during the press and industry days. But it won’t be there during public show days.
At Cobo Center, about 1,500 union employees have been working for weeks to prepare the automakers’ elaborate displays. This year, about 75 percent of the show floor will be all-new or significantly redesigned for more than 40 expected worldwide vehicle premieres.
Organizers want to make the show more interactive. They’ll have apps that allow show-goers to check in at various booths and track where they’ve been.
This year’s show is expected to have a roughly $425 million economic impact on Metro Detroit — nearly double the $260 million the region received from hosting Super Bowl XL in 2006.
Detroit News Staff Writer Melissa Burden contributed
Auto show schedule
The Gallery: Saturday. Dinner 6:30 p.m., car salon opens 8 p.m. At MGM Grand Detroit. Tickets: $500.
Press preview: Jan. 11-12.
Industry preview: Jan. 13-14.
Charity preview: 6-9 p.m. Jan. 15. Tickets: $400.
Public days: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 16-23; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 24. Tickets: $13, adults; $7, 65 and older; $7, age 7-12; free, 6 and younger.
Show location: Cobo Center, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit