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A New Energy

NAIAS chairman highlights the new aspects of this year’s show

By Scott LaRiche

Pages 38-39

I have been faced with the greatest challenge of my professional life: How to make the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) even better. It’s been tough, but I’ve been standing shoulder to shoulder with past leaders like last year’s chairman Bob Shuman, and I’ve had the help and support of a great committee, including NAIAS Vice Chairman Paul Sabatine, committee members Sam Slaughter and Ryan LaFontaine, and NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts.

I’m confident that NAIAS 2015 will be the best ever. Why? Because of the increasing confidence of the auto industry, and the business, governmental and professional communities here in the fabulous city of Detroit. We’re excited to be able to contribute to the transformation of Detroit by creating $350 million in economic impact to support the local economy. It’s good for the industry, and it’s great for Detroit.

Look around you: The administration of the city of Detroit is rebuilding its infrastructure at an astonishing pace. Business icons like Dan Gilbert and Mike Ilitch are investing, building and rebuilding. One example is the new Red Wings arena in “District Detroit” that will include exciting entertainment venues, dining options, shopping and new urban living spaces. Major corporations like Fifth Third Bank are betting on Detroit to win by moving major portions of their businesses into the city.

There’s a new vibe, a new energy, and Detroiters, too, are confident and standing tall. Check out the apartments filling at record pace with young professionals who are supporting the growth of an urban scene that’s attracting even more visitors and permanent residents. Look at the new, hip restaurants and nightclubs, the shopping options, and riverfront development. Bankruptcy is in the rearview mirror. Detroit is in the passing lane. And none of us are looking back.

So, yes, I am supremely confident that NAIAS 2015 will be the best show ever because we are located in a city that refuses to fail. It also helps that we are located in a renovated world-class facility that keeps us on par with other great auto shows around the world like Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai. Cobo Center will be a true showplace when the curtain rises with the transformation of ballrooms and meeting rooms.

We’ll light up the night with the outdoor state-of-the-art video displays at the Congress Street and Washington Boulevard entrance. Inside, new carpeting in the concourse will greet showgoers. Finally, Hall E (formerly Michigan Hall) will be refreshed and open for additional displays and accessibility from Cobo’s crown jewel: the three-story, glass-enclosed Atrium featuring stunning views of the Detroit River and Windsor skyline.

All of this provides the framework for success at NAIAS 2015.

As for the show itself, the newest feature that will educate and entertain is the NAIAS Technology Showcase located in Hall E. The Technology Showcase will feature connected cars, an indoor track for ride demonstrations, a Hack-a-thon challenge where young code writers will create never-before-seen software programs, a variety of technology demonstrations and industry panel discussions on the Atrium stage. The NAIAS Technology Showcase will also provide a glimpse at the future of the automobile as we explore the possibility of the autonomous vehicle and the Intelligent Transportation System.

The Technology Showcase is a perfect example of the integration of the auto industry and the high-tech industry, and the growing importance of Detroit as an innovation hub that will marry these technologies. For our media guests – all 5,000-plus from 60 countries – we are excited to announce that the Michelin Media Center will be relocated to the Grand Riverview Ballroom, making the Media Center the largest in North America at 40,000 square feet.

It’s important to know that the NAIAS is the sum of many parts. We like to say that it’s five shows in one.

We start with The Gallery at MGM Grand- Detroit, which features the über-luxury vehicles that most of us (including me) salivate over. The Gallery, which in previous years has generated over $10 million in vehicle sales, will feature an estimated $6 million worth of exotic brands and vehicles in a salon setting. Then, after more than a year of planning, we open the doors to the Press Preview, so journalists from around the world can report on dozens of the most important vehicle introductions of the year, most of which are appearing for the first time anywhere.

Next up is the Industry Preview, also an international event, which attracts some 35,000 attendees from 28 countries. A mix of industry professionals and auto enthusiasts, Industry Preview is an opportunity to get up close and personal with the sheet metal and underpinnings of the world’s greatest automobiles. True auto techies and gear heads arrive armed with tape measures, micrometers and digital cameras to compare, benchmark and evaluate the guts of a vehicle – thousands of components manufactured by global suppliers.

Then comes the diamond in the NAIAS crown: the Charity Preview. The largest single-night fundraiser in the world, Charity Preview has raised more than $96 million for Southeast Michigan children’s charities since 1976 – over $45 million of which was raised in the last 10 years alone. It’s a night not to be missed. And don’t forget to hang around because when the show floor closes, the party begins in the Cobo Atrium with a legendary guest performer.

Finally, the Public Show opens, offering our guests from around the Midwest access to the vehicles that were introduced on Detroit’s world stage earlier in the week. It’s an unprecedented opportunity because no other show in North America features as many vehicles seen for the first time.

I am confident that this will be a great show. And like my father, Lou (chairman of the Detroit Auto Show in 1985), I am extremely proud to be associated with the NAIAS.

I’ll see you at the show.

Scott LaRiche is chairman of the 2015 North American International Auto Show.