North American International Auto Show

The North American International Auto Show, previously called the Detroit Auto Show, began in December 1907 when the Detroit Area Dealer Association (DADA) held the event in Detroit’s Riverview Park with 17 exhibitors. The Show grew from a regional event to one of the world’s most important automobile expositions.

During World War II, the U.S. Government banned sales and delivery of passenger cars and trucks, so the Auto Show was not held between 1941 and 1953. Soon after starting up again, the Auto Show garnered international clout when in 1957 foreign car manufacturers displayed their cars alongside the Big Three automobiles for the first time.

As it grew, the Auto Show moved around Detroit, being held at the Light Guard Armory on Eight Mile Road, the Wayne Gardens Pavilion, and the Michigan State Fairgrounds, before finding its current home in downtown’s Cobo Center in 1960. In 1987, when Cobo Hall began its expansion, DADA decided to expand the Auto Show and began negotiations to insure that the newly expanded venue would serve the Auto Show well. DADA gained support from General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, as well as from foreign auto makers like Toyota and Nissan. With this support and a newly expanded venue, today’s incarnation of the NAIAS was born. The recently opened Detroit Renaissance Records discuss the Cobo Hall expansion, among other important development projects in downtown Detroit and the region.

Today, the Detroit auto show is not just a way for automotive companies to exhibit their newest car models. The Charity Preview, which takes place the evening before the show opens to the public, serves as a means for the automotive community to give back to the city of Detroit. Since it started in 1976, the Charity Preview has raised millions of dollars for children’s charities throughout Metro Detroit. The black-tie gala event draws Detroit’s movers and shakers, who come for an advanced look at the cars while enjoying an evening of fun, socializing, and entertainment from nationally known artists. Past Charity Preview events have featured such entertainers as Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Kid Rock, Jay Leno, and the Bare Naked Ladies.

This year’s show is open to the general public January 16-24, 2016.

The image below shows the Detroit Auto Show in 1960.

Johanna Russ was the Archivist for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) from 2008 until 2013.