My second trip to the Detroit auto show was in 1999, and I’ll never forget it, if only for its spectacular horror.
A dusting of snow was scheduled for this Saturday, but instead the Motor City found itself covered with about a foot and a half of “white stuff” that quickly turned gray, mushy, heavy … stuff.
After I flew in from Lexington, Ky. I paid $ 50 to be one of six passengers stuck in a cab for a ride into town and checked in at the Ramada, not too glamorous.
It looked like the implosion of the old Hudson department store building had gotten a little too enthusiastic, so the People Mover was shut down for its most important week of the year, when hardly anyone could drive in. the city center.
And yet the show continued.
My luggage was never unloaded in Detroit, so I had to wear the same clothes every day and wash my underwear in the sink every night. But I managed to get through knee-deep snow to the Cobo Center every day, covering press conferences, doing a few interviews, and writing a few stories. Then cross the sleet to Lindell AC for burgers and beers.
It wasn’t easy, but the job was done. Sadly, auto shows are not like that anymore.
There is no show in Detroit proper this year. And the local dealer replacement event – which was scheduled to take place outdoors in Michigan glory in late summer and early fall – was hit by a cold, rousing rainstorm and potentially dangerous which resulted in the cancellation of the second day activities.
In the glorious days of the International Auto Show, nothing could derail. Now an event is washed away by the rain.
I don’t want to stress this too much, but it looks like there is a metaphor here.
Like Motor Bella in suburban Detroit, the auto industry in 2021 saw its second-half hopes dashed by forces it couldn’t control.
Rather than chip supplies recovering after the summer and factories spring up to make up for lost production, shortages persist, projections are down and the outlook for a recovery is bleak at best.
I was supposed to host a panel discussion for the Society of Automotive Analysts at Motor Bella, where one of the speakers was to be Jeff Schuster, president of operations for the Americas and global vehicle forecasts for LMC Automotive.
He originally predicted the industry would rebound to full production this year – or even a little beyond with overtime to make up for last year’s collapsed COVID-19 results. But instead of light-duty vehicle sales in the United States soaring to 17.5 million, he doesn’t even see them reaching 15 million anymore.
Week after week, he said, LMC adjusted its expectations for the year downward and increasingly downward.
“As we speak, I wonder if I should lower my forecast even further,” he joked before recording a “Daily Drive” podcast.