Once again, a number of automakers will skip the Detroit auto show, which opens to the press on Monday and to the public on Jan. 15.
The stated explanations for nonattendance are diplomatic in nature, but if one were to postulate underlying reasons, they might include Detroit’s negative imagery, the growth of the Los Angeles Auto Show — held about two months before the Detroit event — and, of course, the weather. California in November or Detroit in January?
The good news for Motown is that the stay-aways include only one top-rung manufacturer, Nissan. Other absentees will include Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and the electric-vehicle manufacturer Fisker. Another bit of good news is that Porsche, which has skipped the show since 2007, will open this year’s festivities before dawn on Monday with a press breakfast and product introductions.
When asked why Nissan was skipping the event, Brian Brockman, a brand spokesman, said, “It goes back to a marketing decision made when planning for the fiscal year. We made some tough decisions to allocate resources. That’s not to say we’ll never come back.”
Maurice Daniel, a Mitsubishi spokesman, was asked the same question. “Our focus is more on L.A. and New York,” he said. “Our message and product line are better suited to those markets.”
Yet given the thousands of journalists covering the Detroit show, would a brand’s message not be best served by showing up? In response, Mr. Daniel said that Mitsubishi’s nonattendance was also a matter of timing when its new products would be available.
“We are in Chicago,” he added. “Detroit is the only major one we’re not in.”
By any standard, Detroit is a major show. First held in 1907, it remained a local event until the late ’80s, when its promoters resolved to expand the show’s reach, renaming it the North American International Auto Show. Since 1992, it has been sanctioned by the Paris-based Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles. The New York auto show, by comparison, was first sanctioned in 2008.
Asked to comment on the nonattendance of some manufacturers, Barron K. Meade, the show’s 2011 chairman, said, “We’re optimistic that the merits of the N.A.I.A.S. will increase demand for our floor space and attract additional manufacturers in coming years.” He also called Porsche’s return a validation of the Detroit show’s enduring power as “the best place to get the word out in North America.”