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Panic in Detroit?

25th November 2008

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), held each January in Detroit, has experienced growing pains over the years.  The constant complaint from the manufacturers has been that Cobo Hall is too small, that they need more space to show their cars and trucks, etc.  Government officials from all levels of government in Michigan have weighed in, from the Detroit City Council to the various mayors in and around Detroit, to county executives, to the state legislature and the governor have tried to come up with a plan to address this.  Should be relatively simple you think?  Wrong.  Michigan politics is a unique beast – one not easily tamed.  The City of Detroit owns Cobo Center, so they should be the ones to pay for an expansion? Detroit has no money, though.  Maybe Wayne County or the state?  Maybe surrounding counties, as they will surely benefit from the high-profile conventions that a new Cobo could attract?  They all have a stake in the success of NAIAS and the Detroit, but they are unwilling to help pay for more than what they deem as their fair share.  Stalemate for years has ensued.  Proposals have come and gone, but nothing has been done.

Now a short-term solution has come out of nowhere, from the same place as our new-found cheap gas.  The economic slowdown gripping the nation has made gas prices fall – and the debate over Cobo’s expansion moot.  Just announced today – Nissan will join the growing list of automakers that will not be showing their wares at NAIAS this January.  That list includes Porsche, Rolls Royce, Land Rover, Ferrari, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and now Nissan and Infiniti.  The last 3 are the ones that really start to hurt NAIAS.  They are the biggest of the dropouts, in floor space terms – especially Nissan.  Nissan also announced it will not participate in the Chicago Auto Show in February either.  Their statement said it has nothing to do with the shows themselves, but with a need to save cash.  They also stated that they showed all they needed in the LA show, which opened on November 21.  See the LA Auto Show story elsewhere on The Slandy Report.

So the silver lining inthe dark cloud of NAIAS dropouts is that it should put to bed, at least for a short time, the Panic in Detroit over Cobo’s floor space.

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