Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 5, 2009
The Detroit Auto Show (or more exactly, the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall in Detroit) is traditionally the social highlight of the year for Michigan. It’s glitz, it’s glam, it’s ostentatious, it’s conspicuous, it’s over-the-top and out-the-door. Which is to say, it’s what Detroit is very much not. But several years ago after our engineering forefathers developed the mechanics and refined the production of the horseless carriage, they discovered what others had discovered about cigarettes and soap and beer and power tools: sex sell ’em.
So every year for a couple of weeks in otherwise dowdy January, Detroiters spiff up the joint to sell their shiny metal boxes. Beautiful autos, beautiful displays, beautiful people (who must be imported because they never seem to be at Red Wings games) — it’s just a huge party!
Well, up until this year anyway. With the current state of affairs, the posh life is not quite the image the auto industry wants to project. So as the champagne is left uncorked and the crème brulee in cold storage, we look to the Amish for a simpler approach. Which may be a mistake because I don’t think they buy cars….