2017 Detroit Auto Show Takes New Approach to Tech

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【Summary】The 2017 Detroit Auto Show is adding an exhibition dedicated to tech.

Timothy Healey    Dec 14, 2016 9:38 PM PT
2017 Detroit Auto Show Takes New Approach to Tech

Car tech is big news, and it follows that industry observers will be seeing plenty of tech on display at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit next month.

A new showcase, called "Automobili-D," will be part of the show, as a sign that the industry is shifting its focus towards tech. The NAIAS is perhaps the industry's most important show globally, and it certainly is domestically.

There's an element of trade-show competition here, as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas takes place just before the Detroit Auto Show. CES has had more and more of automotive focus in recent years.

Former Hyundai executive John Krafcik, who is now in charge of Google's autonomous-vehicle project, will give a keynote address on Sunday, January 8.

"This was born, internally, from realizing there's so much changing so fast with cars and driving," Sam Slaughter, chairman of the 2017 Detroit Auto Show and CEO of Sellers Auto Group, told Automotive News. "The future of this business is not known, whether it's car-sharing or autonomous or more, but it is all transportation. How we all fit in that picture is completely relevant to the auto show and what's happening in Michigan."

Even so, Fiat Chrysler, one of Detroit's "hometown" automakers, will be launching a key vehicle, the electric version of its Pacifica minivan, at CES.

"As with any international auto show, sometimes product cycle launches do not coincide with show dates," Rod Alberts, the Detroit show's executive director, said in a statement emailed to Automotive News. "In total, NAIAS will have nearly 60 hours of presentation content from OEMs, suppliers, technology companies and startups that will be delivered from our global stage here in Detroit."

Fiat Chrysler will have a brand presence in Detroit.

In fact, about 120 companies will have a presence at Automobili-D. The exhibition will run alongside the auto show's press and industry preview days, which run from January 9-12, 2017. It will take up about 120,000 square feet in the atrium at the Cobo Center. The speaker list includes executives from both the automotive and tech industries.

Ted Serbinksi, who runs a Detroit-area startup accelerator, has arranged for about 50 startups to attend.

"A lot of innovation is coming from all over the world, not just Silicon Valley. Let's flip the model," Serbinski said. "I want to stay in Detroit. I don't want to go to CES to see these technologies. The idea is to change the perception of Detroit as a place for innovation."

The Detroit Automobile Dealers Association (DADA) will also see some financial gain. While the credentialed media attends for free, engineers must pay for tickets to industry preview days. The DADA hopes that the tech exhibition will draw more engineers and other industry types.

"Typically, the show was limited to the mechanical and electrical engineers looking to benchmark," Slaughter said. "Now, with these symposiums, we'll be attracting software engineers and others that are growing within the business."

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