NAIAS – My Friend Wore Black

I attended the NAIAS Auto Show this week with a friend and he wore black. I should have. The pallor of death hung over Cobo Hall, a demise in the form of empty spaces where manufacturers like Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, and Land Rover once hawked rolling art. These companies haven’t died, the show has. Vacant square footage isn’t a positive vital sign.

Sure, the organizers will gather the bones and drive the casket down the calendar to June 2020. A summer setting in the energized D promises a sun and fun renaissance for everything automobilia. The show’s internal combustion heart should recover just fine.

Will it? How relevant is a car show today? As kids we went to the show with our parents. So cool to sit in a Corvette or Porsche. So different from Mom’s Oldsmobile or Dad’s Monza. Does anyone remember the Monza? The NAIAS could end up with the same rusty fate. “We’re going electric.” “Autonomous is the fashion.” “Driving is so twentieth century.” “VR is our future. Experience the world, no, the universe, without leaving the bedroom.”

Wait! Hold those electric motors, robotic chauffeurs, and uncomfortable goggles for a moment. All the hype may be true, but perhaps the show will never die. Why can’t it survive in an altered reality? An event where one can go to experience style, the latest people pod designs, modular seating concepts, and entertainment gizmos. A place showcasing performance, in the form of distance traveled versus dollars spent, and flashed on giant tablet displays. A one stop venue for studying prices and deciding which ride share is worth a cut of some Google or Apple employee’s pay.

Ok, we get it. The show will change and is liable to shrink. Those vacant square feet will grow, replaced by summer grass instead of indoor carpet. But the Auto show will remain. It’ll be different, but it’ll conquer computing and stay-at-home VR, because people enjoy real events. People enjoy interacting with each other. They take satisfaction in comparing this against that. And people love to buy things and brag to their friends.

We could drop the word Auto and just call it “The Show.” Does anyone know when tickets go on sale? I plan to buy the first one and not wear black.

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