The "world's largest" rubber duck and dinosaurs are the first indication this will not be the same, century-old Detroit auto show.
Prepare yourself for a very different Detroit auto show
The new Detroit auto show is set for Sept. 14-25.
Auto show activations
For the first time, the Detroit auto show will feature a host of events not necessarily related to new car tech. Here's what's happening:
- Dinosaur encounter: Ticketed visitors can walk through a display of more than 80 dinosaurs as large as 28 feet tall and 60 feet long. There will also be T-Rex ATV rides and Dinosaur Scooters inside the Huntington Place Ballroom. The dinosaur experience will premiere on Charity Preview night, Sept. 16.
- Grand Prix circuit: Ticketed visitors can drive a Volkswagen or Chevrolet along a portion of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix circuit, which returns to downtown in 2023.
- Flintmobile: Ticketed visitors can see Fred Flintstone's original car built by George Barris for the 1994 movie "The Flintstones" and on loan from LeMay - America's Car Museum in Tacoma, Wash.
- Monster trucks: The public can see the "world's first battery-powered Monster Truck" at Hart Plaza, which will also host freestyle motocross performances.
- Air mobility experience: Six mobility companies from around the world, with products ranging from hoverboards and jet suits to amphibious sport planes, will give flight demonstrations over the Detroit River, in Hart Plaza and Huntington Place.
- Giant rubber duck: The "World Largest Rubber Duck" will be displayed in Hart Plaza. The 61-feet-tall, 30,000-pound duck will be sponsored by Jeep.
- Luxury gaming: Ticketed attendees are invited to visit a 26-foot, climate-controlled "arcade on wheels" in Hart Plaza.
The goal is to fuse the two and create an event that benefits downtown businesses and residents, and lifts up the automotive industry at the same time, said Rod Alberts, executive director of the show, produced by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association.
"The whole idea is to make all of downtown energized and exciting for people to come down," Alberts said. "There is going to be a lot going on and some things I think we will not even know until we get to the week of."
The city and state have bought into the new vision for the show, shelved since 2019. Lawmakers passed a $9 million, one-time grant for the event, and the Michigan Economic Development is subsidizing show floor space for dozens of companies.
Alberts said he expects the show to generate "hundreds of millions of dollars" in economic impact for local hotels, restaurants and stores.
He declined to provide budget figures for the event but said revenue from ticket sales will be used to sustain the annual show.
Outside the usual downtown convention center base, the city of Detroit and Downtown Detroit Partnership are renting out and activating public streets and parks.
Crews began setting up exhibition space on the sold-out 723,000-square-foot show floor at Huntington Place (formerly Cobo Hall) this week.
Around 1,000 union laborers, including electricians, carpenters, iron workers and stagehands work with the logistics team to bring the convention center to life, according to organizers. From move in to move out, the show is about a monthlong event.
For OEM involvement — traditionally the centerpiece of the show — there will be participation from Stellantis, Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Subaru. Others will have vehicles on display by dealers throughout the region. A total of 35 brands are expected to be represented.
There will be a decidedly heavier emphasis on general consumers and less on industry wonks. Indoor experiences will include Bronco Mountain, Camp Jeep, Ram Truck Territory and rides in Maseratis, Lamborghinis and other luxury cars — as well as Jurassic dinosaur encounters and the Flintmobile.
Ford will unveil its seventh generation (and likely last gasoline-powered) Mustang at the show and Stellantis will have new vehicle reveals for Jeep and Chrysler. GM also has a news conference scheduled, but details have not been released.
Some major automakers that attended the show in 2019, such as Nissan and Hyundai, are skipping it this year, The Detroit News reported. Despite the tech emphasis, EV startups such as Rivian, which has a strong presence in metro Detroit, are not scheduled to attend the show. Detroit automakers' foe Tesla is also not expected.
In 2019, there were 4,568 media members from 60 countries registered to cover 44 vehicle reveals, including 31 world debuts, said organizers, who expect this year's show to draw 1,000-2,000 journalists to cover just 8-10 reveals.
Outside of the major automakers, more than 200 companies will have a presence on the show floor and throughout the four-story hall, said Tavi Fulkerson, founder of The Fulkerson Group, which has handled sponsor activity for the auto show since 1992.
The number of sponsors is on par with 2019, which shows the pent-up demand after a three-year hiatus, Fulkerson said.
"This is a very, very unique marketing environment," she said. "It's very collaborative and forward thinking."
Many automotive suppliers will have a major presence at the show, too, either public-facing or with private hospitality deals to meet-and-greet with automaker executives and show off proprietary technology. Most of the rooms at Huntington Place have been booked — a promising indication that the auto show is serving its traditional purpose of facilitating business, Fulkerson said.
Dozens of suppliers big and small will be participating to various degrees. BorgWarner's CTO Harry Husted will be participating as a judge in the Plug and Play startup pitch event, while Bosch will conduct fuel cell classes, demonstrations at the Detroit Smart Parking Lab and a debut of a technology related to new visibility for trucks and SUVs with a tailgate, spokesman Tim Wieland said.
Magna International is among the largest participants. The Canadian supplier, which has a major presence in metro Detroit, will host a family day for its employees, buying around 4,000 tickets for public attendance, spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst said. The company will also have a display on the main floor and is helping subsidize the cost of exhibition space for universities around the state.
For the MEDC-sponsored AutoMobili-D days Sept. 14-15, there will be 140 companies participating, including 71 startups. The number of tech exhibitors is up at least 20 percent from 2019, Fulkerson said.
The MEDC is subsidizing the cost of space for startups of all sizes looking to catch the eyes of automakers and tier one executives on the hunt for technology that could aide their transition to EVs.
The cost of a booth in AutoMobili-D is $6,000 for a 10x10 space, $10,000 for a 10x20 spot and $20,000 for a 20x20, with a $2,500 upcharge to be near the front, according to show organizers. Typically, that space would cost $20,000-$40,000. Exhibitor packages range as high as $220,000.
For the first time, the show will feature a host of events not necessarily related to new car tech. The Motor Bella-inspired activations will range from amusement park-like experiences with vehicles to drone displays, with much of it being free to the public. Activities include dinosaur-themed rides, a zip around the new downtown Grand Prix circuit, air mobility experiences and luxury gaming.