2020 Detroit auto show canceled after venue chosen for coronavirus field hospital

People look and take photos of Lexus' new LF-30 electric vehicle concept car as it is unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, in Tokyo, Japan October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

DETROIT, Mar 29, 2020, CNBC. The 2020 Detroit auto show has been canceled as its venue will be used as a field hospital for the Federal Emergency Management Administration, according to two sources familiar with the plans, CNBC reported.

The event is the third large-scale auto show to be canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. The Geneva auto show was canceled last month, followed by a postponement of the New York International Auto Show, which was scheduled to begin next month, to late-August.

The next Detroit show, officially known as the North American International Auto Show, will take place at the TCF Center in June 2021, according to the sources who did not want to be identified because the news wasn’t public. The show typically takes months to set up due to large, multimillion dollar displays and massive video screens from dozens of auto brands.

Show officials confirmed the plans Saturday night: “Although we are disappointed, there is nothing more important to us than the health, safety and well-being of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan, and we will do what we can to support our community’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak,” said Rod Alberts, executive director of the show, in a release.

Michigan is becoming one of the major epicenters in the U.S. for coronavirus cases.

The cancellation of the show comes at a precarious time for the auto industry, which has been dealing with vehicle production and supplier disruption issues as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak for months. It also adds to challenging times for auto shows, many of which have been losing momentum and automaker attendees in recent years.

This was the first year the Detroit show was set to take place during the summer instead of winter, a move event organizers hoped would draw more attention, attendance and vehicle debuts to the show.

The Detroit show is one of the industry’s premier annual events, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to the Motor City to see the fastest and latest new vehicles. It’s also known for a place the Detroit automakers specifically release their most important products.

Ford Motor, in a statement, said officials “fully support NAIAS organizers in their postponement. The health and safety of our community and those working throughout the industry is our top priority. We look forward to seeing the show’s return in 2021.”

A spokesman for Fiat Chrysler said the company understands and supports the decision, at this difficult time. General Motors did not immediately respond for comment.

Similar actions were recently taken with the Jacob K. Javits Center, home of the New York auto show. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the construction of a temporary hospital at the venue had been completed with the help of FEMA and the National Guard.

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