David N. Goodman
The world's automakers are spending big at this year's Detroit Auto Show in hopes that vehicle buyers will do the same.
The more than $200 million cost of the exhibits
- and the scores of new models on display - are designed to impress
car executives, analysts, reporters and the general public alike
and help fill auto showrooms in 2007.
"It's a great opportunity for us to get our message across,"
Timothy Peters, assistant director of auto shows for General Motors, said Tuesday.
The world's top-selling carmaker's display seeks to convey the
message of "one car corporation with eight divisions," Peters said,
standing in front of the still-rising GM exhibit area at Detroit's
downtown Cobo Center.
The smell of fresh paint and sawdust and the buzz of power tools
filled the air Tuesday, five days ahead of the start of the show's
media preview. Touring reporters dodged construction workers and
stacks of lumber as show co-chairmen Bob Thibodeau Jr. and Carl
Galeana guided them around the 67 500-square-meter show hall.
"Every year, you see the manufacturers trying to outdo one
another," Thibodeau said. "It gives these manufacturers a big
marketing push worldwide."
Among this year's display highlights are an ice-skating rink and
ice wall installed for DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes-Benz division.
LED video screens are everywhere, some stretching from floor to
near the 7.5-meter ceiling.
Auto shows are more than just a chance for carmakers to show
car-shoppers their new offerings, said Erich Merkle, director of
forecasting for the auto consulting company IRN Inc. in Grand
Merkle said the 6,000 plus journalists from 75 countries help to
"create a buzz" that extends far beyond the 750 000 or so members
of the public expected to pass through the doors January 13-21.
The show opens for media previews on Sunday and to auto suppliers on
What everyone from dealers to investors wants to see is if
carmakers, particularly the struggling US-based GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler's Group have offerings that can
compete with Japan's Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
"People ... are worried quite frankly about the health of the
Big Three," Merkle said. "What are they doing to turn their
This year's spotlight will shine on GM's new crossover sport
utility vehicles, the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook,
as well as on Chrysler's redesigned minivans, he said.
The Detroit show is marking its 100th anniversary this year
under the sponsorship of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association. It
draws the chief executives of all major automakers, as well as
about 2 100 representatives of supplier companies, Thibodeau said.
Much of the action takes place behind the scenes in the show's
88 meeting rooms, when the automakers and parts suppliers sit down
to plot strategy, he said.
"Detroit's kind of the granddaddy," Merkle said. Once the
unchallenged king of the auto shows, it now shares the spotlight
with an annual show in Geneva and shows every two years in Tokyo,
Paris, and Frankfurt, Germany.
This year, automakers plan to unveil 50 or more new vehicles in
Detroit, in addition to smaller numbers at auto shows in Los
Angeles a month ago, February 7-18 in Chicago and April 6-13 in New
The winner in all this should be the buying public, Merkle said.
"This is just a great time if your an auto critic or a
consumer," the analyst said. "The quality is there and the prices
are good. Cars have never been more affordable than now."