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CES and NAIAS: A Tale of Two (Different) Shows and What They Mean for Michigan’s Automotive Industry

investor briefingJanuary featured two stages for cutting-edge technology in consumer products, particularly the automobile.

On Jan. 24, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) wrapped up one of its most successful years in over decade — drawing over 815,000 attendees and over 5,000 journalists, who contributed an estimated $430 million to the regional economy. With over 70 percent of the showroom floor brand new, and an array of exciting vehicles (a whopping 61 vehicle introductions), NAIAS cemented Detroit’s status as the global epicenter of the automotive industry.

Earlier in the month, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in its 48th year, featured more than 3,600 exhibitors and 170,000 attendees serving as a platform for innovators big and small in the $285 billion U.S. consumer technology industry. The show highlighted technology breakthroughs and product launches across the technology ecosystem with the presence of more than 6,000 media.

“(NAIAS) hands down visually, and from a technology display standpoint, shows that Detroit is the heartbeat of the automotive industry both nationally and internationally,” said Glenn Stevens, vice president of MICHauto and Strategic Development at the Detroit Regional Chamber, who attended both shows. “However, the convergence of the automobile with personal mobility and the rise of connected vehicle technology makes CES very relevant to today’s automotive industry landscape,” said Stevens.

Parallels Between Industries and Shows

With CES and NAIAS only weeks apart, Stevens said both shows offer unparalleled access to the ever-changing automotive landscape, but the NAIAS remains a leading show for OEMs and suppliers to showcase new technologies.

“Both shows are very different in their objective,” he said, explaining that CES focuses more on the consumer interface with vehicle technology while the NAIAS has cemented its status as the leader in finished product displays, vehicle announcements and C-suite executive presence.

“Each show has established its place,” Stevens said. “Detroit is the leading show for global OEM brands to unveil their product, while CES, through the rise of the Internet of Things intersecting with personal mobility, has gained a presence on the automotive landscape as well.”

The two shows reflect the convergence of automotive and technology. The strengths of both shows, complement each other and parallels the relationship between Michigan as the global automotive epicenter and Silicon Valley as the mecca for renowned tech-start-ups and innovators.

While there’s a growing national narrative pitting Detroit vs. Silicon Valley, both industry-leading innovators, against one another, there are opportunities for collaboration between traditional manufacturers and tech suppliers that will likely hold the key to the driverless vehicle revolution.

“Just as the two shows will continue to complement each other, there will be the opportunity for the two industries to do the same,” Stevens said. “It can be a partnership, not a rivalry that redefines mobility across the globe.”

In Race for Connected Vehicle, Michigan Must Be Leader, Not Follower

Both CES and NAIAS placed a heavy focus on connected and autonomous vehicle R&D this year, a clear sign of where the industry is heading. However, after attending both shows, Stevens said there is no doubt that OEMs and suppliers in the Detroit region remain on the cutting edge of technological innovation.

“They know what’s going on. They have to. If you look at these megatrends — hyper-urbanization, scarcity of resources and changing mobility preferences — OEMs have to make sure their business models and products are moving the way the world moves,” Stevens said. “However, with the convergence of technology you never know what might make its way into the connected vehicle.”

One thing is clear: Technology is moving at a rapid pace and Michigan must continue to set the stage for automotive success.

“Seventy percent of a vehicle, and 30 to 40 percent of R&D comes from the supplier community,” Stevens said. “With the rise in connectivity technology, whether it be V2V or V2I, and ultimately the race for the autonomous vehicle, there is a whole new world of suppliers from the tech space that are now part of the auto supply chain that weren’t there before.”

That’s where the Michigan Mobility Initiative, led by MICHauto, will play a crucial role by making sure the state has a well-defined strategy to position itself as a leader in connected and autonomous vehicle development through a combination of attracting tech companies, attracting and retaining top-notch talent and reducing barriers to regulatory regulation for testing, research and development.

“Through the Michigan Mobility Initiative we’re working collaboratively on the message that Michigan is a leader in not just automotive, but also in the development of connected and autonomous vehicles, so that we are the leading edge of the tidal wave of change, not hit by it unexpectedly,” Stevens said, adding that while Michigan leads in engineers per capita, more effort is needed to attract coders, software experts and systems engineers.

“The area of the world that can feed that pipeline will ultimately win,” Stevens added.