Encyclopedia Of Detroit

North American International Auto Show

At the dawn of the automobile age in 1899, two electric and two steam-powered cars were exhibited in Detroit, as part of a show of sporting goods, fishing gear and big game trophies. William Metzger, the only automobile dealer in Detroit at the time, was an organizer of the sponsoring group, the Tri-State Automobile and Sporting Goods Association. The event was held in the Light Guard Armory and continued under these auspices until 1907 when the newly formed Detroit Automobile Dealers Association (DADA) held their own show.

The DADA event in December 1907 took place at a beer garden near the Belle Isle Bridge. The Tri-State association bowed out after one more show, in February 1908. As the DADA show grew over the years, it moved locations, including the Wayne Hotel, Convention Hall, the Detroit Artillery Armory and the Michigan State Fairgrounds. With the opening of Cobo Hall in 1965, the auto show acquired its permanent home. Reflecting its growing worldwide prestige, in 1989 it became the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

This two-week event brings the world’s attention to Detroit and southeastern Michigan, as more than 6,000 journalists from more than 60 countries flock to the show. Annually, the NAIAS now attracts more than 800,000 visitors during its nine-day run. Since 1976, the event’s black-tie charity preview has raised more than $112 million for local children’s charities, making it the most successful one-night annual fundraiser in the nation.

Today, two floors in the expanded Cobo Center are used to showcase more than 700 vehicles from around the world as automakers vie to introduce new models, promote current vehicles and show off their unique concept cars. The show itself is a massive undertaking; it takes roughly 10 weeks to construct the elaborate multi-level display areas and install the 75,000 yards of carpet used at the show. During the show’s run, enough electrical power to light 180 homes for one year is consumed.

Always held in the winter months, the DADA has agreed to move the show to the spring, starting in 2020, in the hopes of increasing attendance and availing itself of outside space for more exhibits and activities.



North American International Auto Show in Cobo Hall, 1960s - 2012.022.026

Al Capone's car at the Detroit Auto Show, 1975 - 2012.032.052

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