Detroit auto show will have more room and more technology at Cobo Center

Posted on January 11, 2013

In addition to several dozen never-before-seen cars, this year’s Detroit auto show will include a new Nissan display with a 150-foot halo, the largest Toyota display ever and a new 30,000-square-foot atrium.

For Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who toured Cobo Center on Thursday, the renovations at the convention center and the rebounding automotive industry were enough to make him long for his days as an automotive supplier.

“I’ll tell you what, I have mixed emotions,” said Bing, who owned a steel stamping company called Bing Steel before he became mayor. “There is a feeling in your gut that says, you know, I miss this.”

Bing was impressed with the new atrium with a glass entrance overlooking the Detroit River that is part of a $279-million upgrade of Cobo Center.

The new riverside entrance and atrium is part of the years-long renovations of Cobo undertaken by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority. The authority took over management of the center from the City of Detroit in 2009 after years of debate.

Bing said the authority, supported by a commitment by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association to continue to hold the auto show at Cobo Center, illustrates the potential of regional cooperation.

“I came into office in 2009, at a point when there were a lot of questions about whether or not the international auto show would remain at Cobo,” Bing said. “This is the beginning of something that needs to happen in southeast Michigan.”

Official news conferences for the 2013 North American International Auto Show begin Monday, and it opens to the public on Jan. 19. It is among the largest auto shows in the world.

On the show floor, automakers appear to be investing more money than they have in several years on stunning, bi-level displays with stadium seating for news conferences and the latest interactive technology.

On Thursday, hundreds of construction workers were still scurrying around the convention center, rushing to install the giant stages, displays and lights that will showcase the auto industry’s newest cars and trucks.

“Some of differences this year are: Toyota is in a different space this year, Cadillac is separated from General Motors, and Nissan has a brand new display,” said Bob Shuman, co-chairman of the show. “There are just new displays, new cars, and it just gets better every year.”

Nissan, borrowing a trick used by high-end luxury retailers and hotels, plans to pipe its own distinctive scent called the Vert Oriental into its display area.

A team of global executives reviewed several possible scents from several companies before deciding on the smell, said Erich Marx, Nissan’s director, social media and interactive marketing for Nissan North America.

Vert Oriental is a delicate aroma that captures the essence of green tea scent during Chinese spring harvest, according to Nissan’s scent supplier.

“At Nissan, we feel like this is an opportunity to experiment,” Marx said. “Just like high-end retailers.”

Nissan also will debut a new auto show stand with a 150-foot-long halo that appears to float over a stadium seating-style stage.

The new display, designed and constructed by Auburn Hills-based George P. Johnson, will be featured at 10 other global auto shows this year.

David Tillapaugh, Ford’s global auto show operations manager, said the Dearborn automaker is displaying an original 1948 F-1 pickup and will be emphasizing its F-Series pickups at the show.

“We continue to introduce new features, new technologies and we have plans for the future that are really exciting,” Tillapaugh said. “There are going to be some surprises at the show.”

A total of 68 vehicles will be showcased at Ford’s 60,000-square-foot exhibit this year.

Toyota and Lexus also are going big at this year’s auto show. The 35,000-square-foot exhibit eclipses all previous Toyota stands at NAIAS.

Toyota’s display will include the Tundra CrewMax, which successfully helped transport the retired space shuttle Endeavour to its new home at the California Science Center last October.

More Details: 2013 North American International Auto Show

Where: Cobo Center

Saturday – The Gallery at MGM Grand Detroit is an exclusive VIP night with high-end vehicles.

Sunday – Invitation-only pre-show events begin for the media and special guests.

Monday-Tuesday – Media days with about 55 vehicle launches.

Wednesday-Thursday – Industry days for suppliers and dealers.

Jan. 18 – Charity Preview. Tickets are $300 and can be purchased online at or by calling 888-838-7500.

Jan. 19-27 – Public days. 9 a.m.-10 p.m. except for 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Jan. 27. Cost is $12 for adults.

Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press.