The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced many auto makers and even auto show organizers to scramble and rapidly adapt to an ever changing environment. In this instance, it has forced the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA) to radically rework the 2021 North American International Auto Show once again with the organization revealing that it will not only be renaming it to Motor Bella, but also moving the auto extravaganza from the TCF Center in Detroit to the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan.
A Sign Of The Times
The North American International Auto Show was trying to reinvent itself for years prior to this latest move. Before the pandemic, the show had been dealing with dwindling media attendance as well as a gradual slide in public interest. The COVID-19 pandemic forced DADA to scrap the 2020 event with the soon to be re-named TCF Center (as the result of a bank merger) being used as a field hospital. The show organizers had envisioned a grander event that would ‘ve taken place in downtown Detroit with the show having outdoor events and other displays that would have allowed it to extend its reach beyond the confines of the convention hall.
However, with the situation surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout still fluid and uncertain, show organizers were forced to fold their hand and scrub plans for this year’s NAIAS event as well. DADA revealed that an even bigger change is in store, with the show actually moving from Detroit itself to the suburban city of Pontiac. This move would be a massive blow to Detroit’s restaurants which traditionally relied on NAIAS to help create a steady stream of profits to help fund their businesses. The move would mean that these eateries will lose that key period of time especially as a way to recoup the ground taken away by both the pandemic and a withering state wide ban on indoor dining that’s still in place here in Michigan as of this writing.
New Location Comes With New Name, Motor Bella
One of the more confusing elements of this change is that the show will also ditch the long running North American International Auto Show name and instead be referred to as “Motor Bella.” Motor Bella was a part of the original plans, but back then it was supposed to be a showcase for Italian and British automobiles that would’ve taken place prior to the show in Detroit’s stadium district.
“This year will be as fluid with schedules of events as 2020, particularly as the rollout of the vaccine is slower and bumpier than desired,” Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs revealed.
Along with the main cancellation also comes the cancellation of the Charity Preview event. These events were a gathering place for many of the movers and shakers in the state and was a hot ticket event in Detroit. Show organizers revealed that there will still be a charity component intertwined into it but DADA chose to not release key details on that particular event.
“This all-outdoor venue, with adrenaline-pumping track activities and a full complement of OEM and technology exhibits, is going to offer the sights, sounds and even the smell of all that the new world of mobility has to offer,” DADA executive director Rod Alberts said.
The M1 Concourse is a remarkable venue in its own right with the facility built on ground that once housed GM’s Pontiac West Assembly plant. The highlight of the facility is its 1.5 mile road course but the space is also known for its luxury garage facilities. DADA says that the facility not only has 1.6 million feet of space for automakers to show off their newest models, but even room for them to show off the off-road capability of their more rugged models but it remains unknown where such a course would be built on the sprawling complex.
“While auto shows remain an important platform to promote new mobility innovations and to help people make major vehicle purchase decisions, the traditional auto show model is changing,” Rod Alberts said. “We cannot ignore the major disruptions caused by the pandemic and the impact it has had on budgets. As such, we will be providing an amazing experience to the media, the auto industry and the public in a cost-effective way.”
DADA even released a preliminary calendar (subject to change) which can be seen below.
- Press Preview, Tuesday, Sept. 21
- AutoMobili-D, Tuesday, Sept. 21 through a half-day Thursday, Sept. 23
- Industry Preview, Wednesday, Sept. 22 and a half-day Thursday, Sept. 23
- Public Show, Thursday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Sept. 26
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.