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Detroit Defines Driving

2013 NAIAS showcases best of Detroit

By Jim Seavitt

Pages 30-31

If you are a Detroiter, you probably hear something about the automotive industry almost every day. Whether in the news, at the workplace, or over the dinner table, this industry is pervasive and it has directly and indirectly shaped our lives. Every January, we have the opportunity to celebrate what this industry brings to the region and, really, to the world, through the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). This year’s show will run from Jan. 14 – 27, 2013 at its longtime home, Cobo Center.

Beginning January 14 with the Press Preview and continuing for two weeks, the eyes of the world will be focused on Detroit. Global automakers save their very best for this show. It’s the place where updated versions of American icons like the Chevy Corvette are revealed for the first time. It’s where technologies are launched that change the way we perceive the automobile. And it’s here, at home, where the thousands of local engineers, manufacturing workers and all of the car business feel the pride of a job well done as we view our best work – the vehicles on display for all the world to see – at the NAIAS.

And the world truly does see. During the Press Preview on Jan. 14 and 15, we host more than 5,000 journalists from around the globe reporting on everything automotive, hustling from press conference to press conference to cover worldwide unveilings, and to interview the industry’s top executives, who make it a priority to be in Detroit.

When not reporting, it is Detroit’s opportunity to shine.  Our restaurants and attractions will be overflowing to benefit the region, which enjoys some $250 million worth of economic impact by show’s end. (Greater than the economic impact of the Super Bowl.)

I am so proud to be a part of this show, and the level to which it has grown since we took the bold step to go from the “Detroit Auto Show” to the “North American International Auto Show.” In 25 years as the NAIAS, we have had some very special moments, starting with the events that helped put us on the map. Back in 1989, the first year as the NAIAS, Toyota made the world announcement of its new Lexus brand and, not to be outdone, Nissan launched its Infiniti luxury brand. We haven’t looked back since, with some of the most iconic cars in the world being launched right here in Detroit.

Those heady days of the industry will certainly stand out, as will many show “moments,” such as the year that Chrysler’s Bob Lutz, with Mayor Coleman Young in the passenger seat, drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee up the stairs in front of Cobo Center and crashed through the front. Never one to disappoint a crowd, Lutz then drove the vehicle into the hall  to rousing applause from the media. The show has had some spectacular unveilings over the years, but more recently, the automakers have become slightly more practical. The bottom line is that there is no denying the significance of each and every vehicle launch right here in Detroit.

After the Press Preview, the next phase of our show is the Industry Preview, Jan. 16-17, which allows some 23,000 automotive professionals representing almost 2,000 companies, to see the fruition of their hard work. It’s a chance to celebrate, to benchmark, to strategize.

Among all this activity is one night that stands out, and something I am personally proud to be associated with: NAIAS Charity Preview on Jan. 18. We put aside talk of cars and economics and focus on the children of Southeast Michigan.  Thousands of luminaries, VIPs, celebrities and everyday folks turn out for a common cause – to support local children’s charities. The millions raised is a testament to the generosity of this area, and is a source of pride for everyone involved in the show.

We are pleased to welcome back presenting sponsor Charter One Bank / RBS Group for the event, the proceeds of which go to support vital services for children of all ages in the Detroit metro area. Since 1976, the black tie NAIAS Charity Preview has raised over $87 million for Southeast Michigan children’s charities — over $36 million of which was raised in the last seven years. ($3 million at NAIAS 2012.)

When we finally open the doors on Jan. 19, the public will be able to see something new from inside Cobo Center: the Detroit River. As part of the transformation of Cobo Center, the river level entrance will be opened, creating a stunning, three-story glass enclosed atrium with full view of the river and our neighboring Windsor. The new atrium will be the site for many functions associated with the show, including the North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards and the Charity Preview ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The public show is the time to share the automotive industry with everyone, from the casual consumer to the gear head enthusiast. With new-vehicle introductions from nearly every one of the participating manufacturers, NAIAS 2013 promises to be a parade of sheet metal like no other. With every kind of vehicle under one roof from EVs, hybrids and pickups, to micro cars, crossovers and SUVs, consumers can “kick the tires” and enthusiasts can debate the relative benefits of turbo charged versus naturally aspirated engines to their heart’s content, and do it in a balmy 70 degrees.

Speaking of hybrids, a highlight of the NAIAS for the past three years has been our showcase of environmentally friendly vehicles in Michigan Hall. This year, we are pleased to announce that global Tier One auto supplier Aisin will be the presenting sponsor of the indoor ride and drive. The “Aisin Drive Green Experience” will provide visitors the opportunity to ride along in an electric or hybrid vehicle to learn about the latest environmentally friendly technology from professional drivers. If you haven’t driven in an EV or hybrid yet, this is your chance.

Also this year, we will feature our NAIAS Parade of Cars and Stars that became an instant hit when introduced last year.  Led by Detroit police motorcycles with flashing lights and blaring sirens, the parades will feature characters from the Parade Company, professional athletes and local celebrities.  Many other family friendly activities take place throughout the show, include coloring contests in the Cobo Center Food Court, the Detroit Tigers Winter Caravan, live musical entertainment, local radio stations broadcasting on site, and of course, Channel 7 Family Day on Friday, Jan. 25. There is something for everyone at the NAIAS 2013.

I have no doubt that many of you reading this are in some way connected to the show, through an automotive manufacturer, supplier, support industry or service business. The NAIAS showcases the best of Detroit, and everyone plays a role in that. This is your show, too, and I know that you’ll take as much pride in it as we do.

See you at the show!

Jim Seavitt is chairman of the 2013 NAIAS.