Hello, Auto Show. Meet Summer.

Story by Cassandra Spratling

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 2020 North American International Auto Show has been canceled. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has chosen Huntington Place to become a field hospital during the COVID-19 crisis. For additional information, please visit naias.com

The North American International Auto Show comes to Detroit this June.
In the words of that great hit from Motown legends The Temptations, Get Ready.

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) drives its most interactive, innovative and expansive celebration of transportation into downtown Detroit this summer.

For the first time in its 100-year history, the Detroit-hosted international auto show will be held during Michigan’s sweeter summer days rather than in the blustering cold of January. It takes over the downtown area starting on June 5, officially opening to the public June 13-20. And the festivities before, during and after the show promise to bring as much fun as well as fanfare to the city, with everything from restaurants and art institutions to food trucks and local musical acts getting in on the auto action.

“The summer creates more of a destination opportunity not only for our local residents but for people from all over the Great Lakes, Chicago, Columbus, Cincinnati and, really, globally,” said Doug North, chairman of the 2020 NAIAS.

“Now people can not only come to see our show but also see all the great things happening in Detroit, all around downtown.”

With the summertime setup, the auto show, which typically attracts upwards of 800,000 people annually, will also offer more opportunities for people to fully experience the vehicles and the developing technology that make Detroit not only the Motor City but the center for future mobility, shared Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA), which presents the auto show.

“The North American International Auto Show is a stage for key players in mobility,” said Alberts. “Our job is to create a Disneyland of cars and mobility innovation where consumers will not just stare at static products, but they will live the dynamics of the product.”

More to See and Do

Showgoers can begin experiencing elements of automotive innovation even before they get downtown. For the first time ever, autonomous and electric vehicles will shuttle select visitors — including members of the international press — from the airport to the show and downtown destinations such as hotels and restaurants. These shuttle opportunities are the result of a statewide competition, called the NAIAS 2020 Michigan Mobility Challenge, presented by the State of Michigan and NAIAS. Automated vehicle providers partnered with state colleges and universities, philanthropic groups and other companies to develop autonomous and electric vehicles that could be put to the transportation test during the auto show. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced seven public-private projects selected through a competitive process that will offer these innovative transportation options, which include a project accessible to people with physical disabilities.

“People will not only be able to see the product at the show, they’ll be able to experience the product firsthand on the way to and from the show,” Alberts said.

Autonomous vehicles will also be available to test-drive on the rooftop of the Huntington Place and nearby roads.

Other upgrades and additions for 2020 NAIAS:

  • Motor Bella presented by PNC Bank. One of the biggest additions to the annual auto show, Motor Bella will be a European supercar street festival. The three-day fest — held June 5-7 — will showcase more than 100 Italian and British high-performance exotic cars representing 12 brands. All will be stationed along Broadway Street near the Detroit Opera House and the Shinola and Element boutique hotels. Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce are among the luxury brands that will be featured. The best in Italian cuisine from leading local restaurants, food trucks and street vendors will also be showcased.
  • Hart Plaza. Typically, NAIAS features about 750 different cars, utility vehicles and trucks — or unique models — on the showroom floor at Huntington Place. This year, with the addition of 14 acres at Hart Plaza, NAIAS expects that number could rise to 850 vehicles. Plus, there could be e-bikes, scooters and other modes of transportation as
    automakers show off technology through all methods of mobility.
  • An enhanced and expanded Charity Preview. Unofficially known as Detroit’s “Auto Prom,’’ there will be two ways to enjoy this spectacular evening gala that supports nine local charities. Both will be held June 12.
  • A kid zone: A new interactive kid zone will add exciting options for children to enjoy the show and experience new vehicles. While all the details were still under wraps at this magazine’s press time, The Parade Company’s Tony Michaels and DADA’s Alberts guaranteed family fun for all ages.
  • More interactive opportunities: NAIAS will showcase multiple ways for people to experience the vehicles, not just look at them. “We want to put people in the cars and seats of vehicles to feel, see and experience the product,” Alberts confirmed.

Industry insiders and critics are saying this major summer tune-up of the Detroit auto show takes it into the future with style, excitement and class.

“It’s a spectacle! There are few auto shows around the world designated officially as international car shows, and the Detroit auto show is one of them,” said veteran auto journalist Mark Phelan. “Leaders in automaking have decided Detroit is the place to make their biggest news, to show their best stuff and put on their most theatrical staging.”

Automotive analyst Lauren Fix couldn’t agree more, and she, along with show organizers and other automotive experts, imagines that 800,000 attendance figure attached to NAIAS will be far exceeded this year, thanks to the move to June.

“It’s going to be great, more consumer oriented,” said Fix “So you’ll get more people coming out than you have in the past.”

Show chairman North best summed up expectations earlier this year at a news conference when he said: “You can expect experiences both inside and outside that will touch every one of your senses. You’ll experience cutting-edge electric and autonomous shuttles and passenger vehicles. You’ll take ride-and-drives along Detroit’s incredible waterfront. You’ll see a showcase of the industry’s most impressive technology … You’ll hear insights from some of the most prominent voices in the mobility space … and listen to music from icons in the industry. You’ll even taste the best food Detroit has to offer. It’s going to be an exciting ride. Buckle up!”



Before and After the Auto Show

Looking for auto-themed things to do right before and after you ooh and aah at the 2020 North American International Auto Show in Detroit?

Image courtesy of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Driven to Win: Racing in America is a new permanent 24,000-square-foot exhibition at The Henry Ford in Dearborn that tells the story of American automobile racing. It’s set to open in June 2020 in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

The exhibit will include dozens of automobiles, many of them record breakers and game changers in terms of speed, innovation and design, said Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at The Henry Ford. Visitors can also enjoy interactive activities, including racing simulators and pit crew experiences, while they get a wider and deeper appreciation of the sport of racing itself. “A lot of people think racers aren’t real athletes,” said Anderson. “Our exhibit will help people appreciate what these athletes experience.”

Anderson added that the June opening of Driven to Win perfectly coincides with the many auto-related events happening in Detroit this summer, notably NAIAS and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. “Targeting a summer opening offers a real opportunity for us to be a part of all the excitement all over southeast Michigan,” he said. “We are going to have an unusual number of auto enthusiasts and racers in town. And it’s a great opportunity to be a part of it.”

Other auto-centric events at The Henry Ford in Greenfield Village that are on the calendar around the same time as NAIAS include Motor Muster over Father’s Day weekend (June 20-21). During Motor Muster, the village grounds are blanketed with more than 700 vehicles of every kind imaginable, including muscle cars, pony cars, classics, military vehicles, fire trucks, motorcycles and bicycles from the 1930s to the 1970s. This year, the event is poised to help celebrate the opening of the Driven to Win exhibit.

Image courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts

After you catch a closer look at the Diego Rivera Detroit Industry murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), search out Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020, which kicks off June 13 and runs through Jan. 10, 2021. This DIA exhibit will showcase the design of cars from sketch pad to the road, reflecting the culture of the various periods in which they were developed. As a further complement, 12 full-size vehicles — whose designs reflect the period in which they were conceived — will be
on display.

“Even if you’re not a nuts-and-bolts car person, you will appreciate the beauty and ingenuity of the designers who created them,” said Benjamin W. Colman, curator of the DIA exhibit that he believes can add context to what you see at NAIAS. “We want to celebrate what was made here in Detroit and how what happened here impacted and influenced the world,” he added. “This exhibit tells a story of American history and American art.”

Photo by Bill Bowen

And as The Henry Ford’s Anderson mentioned, Detroit is once again host to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, which returns to Belle Isle on May 29-31, just a few weeks before NAIAS opens to the public. A spectacular weekend of IndyCar racing includes the Comerica Bank Free Prix Day on Friday that opens the stands and the track to the public so spectators can get a free close-up look at the cars, their drivers and the race course. Throughout the weekend, Belle Isle will also rev up with some of America’s top race cars and drivers, including two days of IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) WeatherTech exotic sports car and Motor City muscle car racing.



Photo courtesy of North American International Auto Show

Detroit’s Auto Prom

Officially known as the Charity Preview, this annual auto show ball, which supports local charities, will feature a set of all-new ticket packages courtesy of NAIAS’s summertime dates. For example, you can purchase an all-access ticket, which gets you into the Huntington Place for an elegant evening with complimentary cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and special music entertainment, along with entry to a first-ever, more relaxed outdoor gala in the adjacent Hart Plaza.

You can also opt for outdoor-only tickets, which gets you into the gala at Hart Plaza, where there will be food trucks, beer and wine and multiple music stages for entertainment.

The Charity Preview has been rescheduled for is June 18, 2021.
For ticket information, visit naias.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 2020 North American International Auto Show has been canceled. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has chosen Huntington Place to become a field hospital during the COVID-19 crisis. For additional information, please visit naias.com.

New dates and events for 2021 can be found on the NAIAS Annual Event Page.


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Mentioned Attractions And Venues

  1. 1
    Huntington Place
    One Washington Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226
  2. 2
    Hart Plaza
    1 Hart Plaza, Jefferson Avenue at Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226
  3. 3
    Campus Martius Park
    800 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48226
  4. 4
    Ford House
    1100 Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 48236
  5. 5
  6. 6
    Antique Touring Co.
    461 Piquette St., Detroit, MI 48202
  7. 7
    The Henry Ford
    20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI 48124
  8. 8
    Detroit Institute of Arts
    5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202
  9. 9
    Fisher Mansion
    383 Lenox St, Detroit, MI 48215, USA