2020 Detroit auto show canceled due to coronavirus

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The Ford Motor Co. Mustang Shelby GT500 vehicle is displayed during the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan,.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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.

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 isn’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.

Michigan is becoming one of the major epicenters in the U.S. for coronavirus cases. As of Saturday, state officials had reported 4,650 cases, including 111 deaths, in Michigan.

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.

The cancellation of the show was communicated in a message to sponsors Saturday, according to the sources.

A spokesman for the auto show declined to comment on the plans Saturday night. Show officials previously said they were in “daily contact with all of our partners as well as state and local officials and health experts as we continue to carefully evaluate the situation.”

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.