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REVIEW: 735,370 people attended the 2011 North American International Auto Show for a 3-percent increase

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Thousands of people filled Cobo Center for the 2011 NAIAS on one of the public show days.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

|

DETROIT -- Auto show spokesman Sam Locricchio was right. He told me that the 2011 show would be like the "feel good film of the year in that a lot of the promises that had been eluded to in the first two years are coming to fruition." Indeed it was! A total of 735,370 people visited Cobo Center for the NAIAS during public days. If you add in the news media, the industry preview attendees, all of the construction workers and product specialists, it's safe to say that 1 million people saw the auto show from the time it was being set up until the last day it was taken down.

"We had over 5,500 media in, all our floor space is sold-out, we had close to 40 worldwides," said 2011 NAIAS Chairman Barron Meade in an exclusive interview. "It's coming back in a very positive way. Most of the stands here today are 70 percent new. That's great dollars for our local economy. Right now, we're looking at a 25,000 square foot expansion on Oakland Hall. The $80 million is already appropriated. For next year's show, we should have another 25,000 square feet."

Attendance was up for nearly every day that the auto show was open to the public. It equals to a 3 percent increase over 2010's figures. The single-day record was broken for a Friday with 75,327 this year, beating the previous record from 1993. The total economic impact for metro Detroit is between $350 million and $375 million from visitors spending money on hotels, transportation, catering and entertainment.

"Both hometown manufacturers won," Meade said about the 2011 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards winners. "Chevrolet with the Volt, built right here in Hamtramck and Ford with the Explorer. Ford's been doing great the last three years. That's all good for Michigan. Every corner of Cobo is filled with beautiful cars, beautiful displays, interactive displays that show you and teach you the latest in automotive technology. This year is been a great year with all of the positive messages. Now, I can leave the show in great hands to Mr. Perkins."

When I first walked inside Cobo Center on the first media day, I was surprised. It looked like Detroit was hosting the Academy Awards. Everything was sparkling and shiny with so many lights. The automaker displays were larger than in past year. General Motors and Volkswagen both had two-level displays. There were more automakers than in past years. The only thing that was missing was the red carpet! Mercedes-Benz even brought in pop star Colbie Caillat to sing her hit single "Bubbles" during its press conference.

"This is definitely a more upbeat show, much better than the last two years," said Jonathan Linkov, managing editor of Autos for Consumer Reports magazine. "There's actual cars that you're going to see on the road. There's not a lot of high-minded concepts that really don't have a likelihood of getting on the streets. Look at the Hyundai Sonata, that's an excellent family sedan. The BMW 3-Series is here, you have some MINI vehicles, Volkswagen CC. You can see some of the new KIA products, we're really impressed with the KIA Sorento."

Chrysler had a very large display in the center of the building, with added space for its new brands, Fiat and Ram. Dodge is now strictly a car brand while Ram is the truck brand. The automaker held two press conferences, but it wasn't the type of splash that we saw from them in the past. There were no cattle going up and down Washington Boulevard and there were no Jeeps being driven through the front window of Cobo as we've seen in previous auto shows. However, they did show the media that they are really back in business and here to stay for a long time.

"The Ford Flex, The Ford Fusion, excellent vehicles that test very well," Linkov explained. "What we found with the redesigned [Lincoln] MKX as well as the Ford Edge is that they're pretty good vehicles overall. The MyFord Touch and the MyLincoln Touch systems really drag down their scores. These are the infotainment systems. They're an evolution of the SYNC system. But they're very hard to use, they're very difficult to use. They actually take away a lot of your attention when you're driving the vehicle and make you focus on using those systems. We think they are more of a distraction than asset to the driver."

Ford Motor Co. had it's biggest display at an auto show to date. The automaker got rid of its Mercury and Mazda brands. So it only showed vehicles by Ford and Lincoln. There was some empty space in the middle so Ford decided to include a small track for test drives of its Ford Electric Focus and Ford Transit Connect Electric.

"It is an interesting absence for Nissan," the managing editor of Autos for Consumer Reports magazine added. "It doesn't really seem that the Michigan area and even this area of the country is going to be a prime area for LEAF. They're focusing on the west coast, even the east coast and the Tennessee area. It would have been nice for them to show it. It does probably hurt them a bit to keep out of the mind of everybody. I mean, this is an international show, not just for the local area. For them not to be here, it does kind of get them off of the journalists' mind."

Nissan and Infiniti did not have a booth at the NAIAS. That was an strange business decision especially with the recent launch of the LEAF electric vehicle. One LEAF was on display during the SAA Automotive Outlook Conference, however it was not during the public show days. The automaker vowed to return to the Detroit auto show in 2012.

"We'll have 99 percent of North America's volume represented at [2012] NAIAS," Meade added.

New Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) toured the auto show along with new Lt. Governor Brian Calley (R). In addition, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) also visited the 2011 NAIAS.

"There are pretty exciting things you're seeing," Calley said in an exclusive interview. "The products that are being unveiled and the reinvention of the auto industry are real similar to the type of reinvention we need here in the state. This is one of my favorite events each year. Particularly, the last four years and watching the emergence of new technologies in this industry. It's wonderful to see our domestic auto industry turn a corner. It's exciting when you think the way that they've done it. They've put forth a different business model, a customer-driven product line and the future's bright."

Most attendees were pleased by what they saw at this year's auto show.

"This was my first time at the auto show," said Tim Ham of Grand Rapids, Mich. "I've wanted to go for a number of years, but never quite made it. Last opportunity I had was probably 10 or 11 years ago. I had to look at a couple of my favorite manufacturers. Honda and Ford particularly, I'm just now making it over here to Chevrolet. I'm very, very impressed by the Chevy Volt. Right now, I'm a student at Western Michigan University. My Marine unit is looking to deploy not too long from now. Electric vehicles, hybrids, there's a lot of companies that looked to bring this stuff to market. Chevy were the first ones to get it done."

However, some said they were looking for a few of the automakers to step it up some more on their new models.

"Dreaming...I like the Jaguar XJ, that's my favorite," said Anna Hume of Ferndale, Mich. "I think it was good. BMW was alright, I was expecting a little more from them. There's a lot of hands-on activities that you can learn about the car, little games and stuff. It's great for Detroit, got to love it."

Related Story: Automotive CEO's say the industry has turned a corner

 

 

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Pop star Colbie Caillat performed during the Mercedes-Benz press conference on Jan. 10, 2011.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Porsche returned to the NAIAS for the first time in four years.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

General Hospital's Lisa LoCicero made an appearance at the auto show on Jan. 21, 2011.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

SAAB wasn't able to have a display inside Cobo Center this year. Instead, the automaker showed some of its vehicles across the street on the patio where the former Riverside Hotel is located.

 

PHOTO BY GLORIA RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Delta Airlines even had a booth at the NAIAS to give attendees the chance to win a FREE flight to the destination of their choice.

 

 

This page was last updated on Mon, February 7, 2011 2:12 PM

 

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