When ESL teachers first land in a new place, their students immediately start asking all sorts of questions about where the new teachers are from. What is it like there? What do you eat there? What do you do for fun there? How many people are there?
In my case, there’s one thing that people always circle around to. Once all the “Isn’t Detroit having money troubles?” and “Isn’t that where the Red Wings play?” type questions are out of the way, there’s inevitably one person in the back of the class who pipes up: “Don’t they have cars there?”
Why, yes. Yes we do.
Detroit is home to the world headquarters for three major auto companies, the Big Three: Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler (technically, Detroit is now only the American headquarters for Chrysler, since they merged with Fiat, but we still count it). While the Big Three have most of their offices and plants in metro Detroit, their success is integral to the economy and security of the rest of the state of Michigan. As such, Michiganders are all very interested in what they’re all up to, and are very excited when they come out with something new. This vested interest needed an outlet. An organized event where the car companies could show off their new stuff. Pull out all the stops. Make people proud to work for the Big Three and want to buy cars.
In 1899, a man by the name of William E. Metzger organized an auto show in Detroit. It was successful for the people who worked in the companies and aficionados, and in the following years it grew in importance and fanfare. In 1987, the Detroit Auto Dealers Association decided to make the event even bigger and better (and hopefully boost sales). They went overseas to talk to auto companies around the world – Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, the UK – and convinced them to coordinate the unveilings of their new models with the show in Detroit. Once upon a time, Detroit was prominent enough to make that very desirable.
Since then, the North American International Auto Show has been one of the biggest automotive events in the world. It’s held annually in January, and typically opens with press nights, a charity gala, and an evening for industry workers. Once all that is done, it opens to the public.
For as long as I can remember, the auto show has been a big deal. There are people who attend the auto show every single year, and it’s a family affair. The news outlets cover the black-tie events that the common folk can’t get into, and also the new releases from every day of the public show. People come from all over the world to see what is debuted at the Detroit auto show. The city puts out a spread, puts its best foot forward, and puts on all sorts of other fun events to coincide with the auto show. In short, it’s a bit deal.
This year, Chevy engaged show-goers with a virtual reality segment, in which participants wore virtual reality goggles and strapped into car seats which took them on a ride through several different proving courses. Ford not only located the car which was driven by Steve McQueen in filming Bullitt, but also debuted its limited-edition, updated version of the car. Dodge used television hookups to let visitors race on a track à la Indy 500. Hyundai showed off a three-doored…sedan? Coop? Not really sure, but it was an interesting design.
The North American International Auto Show may be concluded for this year, but we’re already waiting (im)patiently for next year.
Check out the North American International Auto Show website in preparation for next year.