Motor Bella could spell Ciao at traditional auto shows

The sky looked angry, breezes shook the marked flags, and a tent field depicting geometry’s greatest hits was surrounded by vehicles of all kinds while squeaky tires negotiating high-speed turns on the adjacent track provided the strip. -its appropriate.

What else can you say besides “Motor Bella!” It’s a hybrid of the Motor City and the Italian word “bella” which means “pretty”. So, pretty cars on display near Detroit, the automotive city. Motor Bella is actually a placeholder for the North American International Auto Show which has been canceled twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 981 days since we last had an auto show. While we weren’t able to host the North American International Auto Show, we knew there was an opportunity to create something different and dynamic. Something that would be outdoors and safe for everyone and put people in cars, ”said Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which organizes the NAIAS.

Oh it’s different and on the outside and a little on the inside and puts people in cars and it’s also another sign that the pre-pandemic days of the traditional auto shows that were being held entirely indoors and where fair attendees could sit in vehicles but not drive in any can be completed.

Indeed, Motor Bella is not in a convention center or a showroom but on the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan, north of Detroit. The facility includes a 1.5 mile track that can be rented, event venues and over 250 private garages.

Car manufacturers and suppliers put up all kinds of tents that turned the race course into a kind of four-wheeled Woodstock. Vehicles are statically displayed inside and outside the tents while participants can mark trips in a Ford Bronco or Jeep vehicle on performance courses.

Those willing to sacrifice recent meals might also experience high G-forces in fast cars making the turns of the track at high speed, doing hot laps with professional drivers behind the wheel or experiencing races on high speed. performance course.

Where automakers have often spent a million dollars or more on glitzy product reveals in the past, Ford showcased its new version of the Expedition SUV in the event center with just the help of a video. The vehicles did not drive on stage and did not appear behind a high-tech setting. Two models simply stood on either side of the stage and the fabrics covering them were removed at the right time.

A member of the media was not impressed. “It’s nothing without the buzz! ” he told me. I hate to be a buzz kill, but automakers can still get used to saving all that money. In addition, the trend has been strengthening for more than a decade and automakers have realized that they can use the technology to avoid the noise of competing products revealed at auto shows and simply unveil their new models virtually via a webcast or social media.

True story. While I was leading the digital communications team at the old Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, we led what may be the first product reveal online in 2006. It was the new version of the Chrysler Sebring. It wasn’t at an auto show, but via a live webcast during the company’s annual What’s New media program at its Chelsea, Michigan Proving Grounds.

Shortly thereafter, we live-streamed all of our auto show reveals so consumers can see the shows live, in context, or on-demand at their leisure. That was then, now this is the strategy most automakers use to increase onsite coverage and speak directly to consumers.

While the use of technology to introduce new products has changed the ‘media preview days’, the Covid-19 pandemic has also changed the way auto shows attract audiences. Interior capacity and spacing restrictions have forced show producers to think outside the box of convention halls in favor of displays, test drives and entertainment outside their walls.

Normally held in early February during the freezing winter, Chicago has moved its show to July with a plethora of exhibits, rides and other attractions outside of its McCormick Place base.

“There is so much to do in Chicago in the summer that usually doesn’t overlap with our February show,” Chicago Auto Show general manager Dave Sloan said in a statement. “We had to be creative in order to capture the attention of our attendees at a completely different time of the calendar year. It was not easy, especially when talking about a seven-decade tradition of the Salon de l Chicago Auto Show held in February. “

Sloan says the show could revert to its traditional February, but could incorporate some of the features of last summer’s race by saying, “We will continue to carefully assess all of the results of this show and decide what aspects of it. this event we could implement in our show in the future. ”

The four-day Motor Bella is not meant to be a complete substitute for the North American International Auto Show, but simply a way to keep the lights on for dealers and the public until the expected return of the larger one. event in 2022 at the Detroit Convention Center. However, the NAIAS is expected to transition from its traditional January run to warmer weather with smaller indoor exhibits and a wide range of outdoor activities stretching from the building to various locations in downtown Detroit.

The weather forecast for Motor Bella is risky. Rain is expected from time to time during its race. Rod Alberts of DADA says the show will run rain or shine. It would be difficult to put that pent-up demand back into the bottle, although if it spills, onlookers can quickly find refuge in an automaker’s tent. Nothing like glamping among the new glitz of cars.

Author’s note: I worked at FCA and its predecessors as digital communications manager from 2005 to 2016.

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