The North American International Auto Show has been canceled, falling victim to the rapidly expanding coronavirus pandemic.
- This was to have been the first time the NAIAS was held in June.
- TCF Center, Detroit’s convention hall, now will be converted into a hospital to assist the city’s already struggling medical centers.
- The decision to cancel the annual show is the latest hit to an already hard-pressed auto industry.
This was to have been a big year for the North American International Auto Show which was switching from its traditional January schedule to June, allowing organizers to spread out along the riverfront surrounding Detroit’s TCF Center. Instead, the show will have to wait until 2021 to complete that move.
This was to have been the first time NAIAS was held in June and would have allowed the use of space outside the convention center. (Image: NAIAS)
NAIAS is the latest in a growing list of automotive events to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic which, as of Saturday, had killed more than 2,000 people worldwide. That includes the cancelation of the Geneva International Motor Show originally scheduled for earlier this month. The Beijing Auto Show has been indefinitely postponed, as has the New York International Auto Show scheduled for early next month.
The Big Apple show could yet take place later this year but that’s becoming increasingly unlikely because New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center is being transformed into an emergency medical center to relieve pressure on the city’s hospitals. The same is happening in Detroit which is rapidly becoming one of the country’s COVID-19 epicenters. The TCF Center convention facility has been requisitioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency which expects to use it as a hospital to treat coronavirus patients for the next six months.
“The health and welfare of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan is paramount,” said Rod Alberts, the executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which sponsors the annual show.
“TCF Center is the ideal location for this important function at this critical and unprecedented time,” Alberts told auto show sponsors in an e-mail.
The sign on TCF Center Saturday afternoon reflects the state’s stay-at-home order. (Photo: Paul Eisenstein/TheDetroitBureau.com)
Detroit has been one of the cities hardest hit by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, with 1,381 local residents known to be infected as of midday Saturday and 31 deaths. Across Michigan, the total had reached 4,650 cases and 111 deaths.
The auto industry itself has been hammered by the pandemic. Virtually all North American automotive operations are currently shut down. New vehicle sales, meanwhile, are expected to show a roughly 40% decline for March and anywhere from 50 to 60% in April, according to J.D. Power. All told, the outbreak could impact several million Americans employed either directly or indirectly by the industry, according to automotive analysts.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The North American International Auto Show has traditionally been one of the most important events on the automotive calendar. This year was to be significant because the show was moving from January to June. Its cancelation not only delays the debut of numerous new vehicles but delivers another punch to an industry already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.