The North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the biggest and most important trade show for America's automakers, will not have its much-hyped June debut after all. The show and its surrounding events have been canceled so that its venue can be transformed into a field hospital designed to treat patients of the growing coronavirus pandemic.
Though the event is three months away, the TCF Center—formerly known as Cobo Hall—will be used as a makeshift hospital for at least the next six months, according to The Detroit Free Press and Detroit's WXYZ. The outlets cite a news release that has not yet been seen by The Drive. Ford has also released a statement confirming the move.
"The health and welfare of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan is paramount. TCF Center is the ideal location for this important function at this critical and unprecedented time,” NAIAS executive director Rod Alberts said in a statement sent to the newspaper.
The cancellations include related events, including Motor Bella, "a street fair of English and Italian cars and food," the tech-centric AutoMobili-D, the press preview and the public show days. The Freep reports the show will happen again in June 2021.
Though New York City is currently Ground Zero for the coronavirus epidemic in the United States, Detroit is quickly emerging as a new "hot spot" for the virus that has disrupted nearly every facet of life globally. The Motor City accounts for the overwhelming majority of cases identified in Michigan.
The virus is yet another blow to the global auto show circuit and the car industry. Earlier this year, the Geneva and New York shows were both canceled—and the latter's venue is also being used as a makeshift hospital to ease the growing burden on the city's medical system.
The Detroit show has traditionally been held in January, but 2020 was supposed to be its first year in June instead. Organizers decided on the move in 2018 in an attempt to add outdoor and external events in warmer weather and to attract more attendees and out-of-town visitors. The auto show being scuttled completely will likely be a huge hit to the region's economy, and to automakers scrambling to find new ways to make product announcements amid the outbreak.