Dan Gilbert on Detroit Talent at NAIAS: ‘No Place Else Compares’

Speaking at the kickoff of the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) on Sunday, Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert said no place on the planet has more talent and drive than Detroit – a key selling point for tech and automotive companies looking to become players in the next-generation mobility space.

“The energy, cooperation and collaboration is here,” Gilbert told an audience of national and international journalists at the opening of the new Automobili-D exhibit. “You can have a great product and service but you have to have the talent … Detroit is that magnet.”

In addressing questions from Bloomberg reporter Betty Liu on what sets Detroit apart from other cities in the United States, Gilbert said he believes giving millennials the opportunity to feel like they are part of something greater than themselves is a major selling point.

Gilbert, a 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference keynote speaker, also reiterated his message of being willing to take big risks and said he is amazed at the number of businesses moving back to the city. Noting that existing real estate in the downtown area is nearing capacity, Gilbert predicted that 10 to 15 high-rise buildings will begin construction in Detroit over the next five years. View the interview here.

Other announcements throughout the day included:

  • Disney’s Pixar Animation Studio offered a sneak peak of its upcoming “Cars 3” film. Flanked by a life-size model of “Lightening McQueen,” the star of the film series, John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, discussed Detroit and the auto show’s impact on the studio’s blockbuster movie. Research and development for the first film began after Lasseter visited the auto show in 2001.
  • Chris Thomas, founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners LLC, discussed Detroit’s role in the future of mobility and encouraged public and private collaboration to keep Michigan at the forefront of transportation as a service. “Detroit has an opportunity to be a global hub for mobility but we have to act now, or it will pass us by,” he said.
  • John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, introduced the Chrysler Pacifica self-driving minivan, which will be on the roads in California and Arizona later this month. He also said Michigan built 100 Pacifica minivans that will be the first vehicles to receive Waymo’s self-driving technology. “We’re not seeking to build a better car,” Krafcik said. “We’re seeking to build a better driver.”
  • Ken Washington of Ford Motor Co., Danny Shapiro of NVIDIA, and David Strickland of the Self-Driving Coalition, participated in a State of Autonomy panel discussion for the last event of the day. The panelists discussed the latest technology, current legislation, major consumer concerns and what needs to happen to take autonomous vehicles from prototypes to mainstream. The panel was moderated by Tim Stevens of CNET’s “Roadshow.”

North American International Auto Show Celebrates Detroit’s Innovative Technology

By Rod Alberts

We are experiencing one of the most dramatic shifts in our industry I have ever experienced in my more than 25-year history leading the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). The disruption of new, mobility focused technologies and advent of autonomous vehicles is quickly changing the automotive landscape, and I believe we will see more change in the next 10 years than we have seen in the last 50.

Michigan holds leadership positions in talent development, auto R&D and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) testing. With 61 out of the top 100 global suppliers being headquartered in Michigan and 15 global automakers having R&D facilities or their headquarters in the state, more than 25 percent of all automotive patents are generated in Michigan. To put that into perspective, that is three times as many as any other state in the United States.

With all of this excitement and development happening right in our backyard, the NAIAS is well-positioned to showcase these companies and revolutionary technologies.

With that in mind, we are launching AutoMobili-D, a 120,000-square-foot exposition within NAIAS that will feature more than 120 companies, ranging from automakers and suppliers to tech startups. These industry-leading companies will demonstrate and debut technologies and innovations focused on future mobility and transportation platforms. Thought leaders and executives from participating companies will participate in symposiums and speaking opportunities from our atrium stage and adjoining Planet M hall during Industry Preview.

John Krafcik, CEO of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, will keynote the kickoff to AutoMobili-D on Sunday, Jan. 8. Including Krafcik’s address, NAIAS will have five dedicated days of content during Preview Week (Press Days and Industry Days), on everything from vehicle reveals and industry outlooks to the mobility ecosystem. In total, over 55 hours of thought-provoking, engaging content will be delivered from the global stage NAIAS provides.

NAIAS has a tremendous impact on our region, with an economic impact totaling $430 million. Our much-anticipated Charity Preview, started back in 1976 by a group of local Detroit auto dealers, is the largest annual single-night fundraiser in the world, with $5.2 million being raised for local children’s charities in 2016. In total, more than 815,000 people walked through the doors of the world-class Cobo Center and experienced the latest and greatest vehicles this world has to offer.

It is an honor to be part of our nation’s most prestigious and influential automotive showcase, and I encourage you all to visit us in January.

For more information on the show, please visit NAIAS.com.

Rod Alberts is the executive director of the North American International Auto Show.