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Detroit Auto Show 2022: Empty halls bring test drives inside

The 2022 Detroit Auto Show has moved from winter to summer to make North America’s largest auto show more attractive to visitors and overseas auto giants. But then COVID-19 arrived, and the crowds and big brands have yet to return.


Detroit’s first auto show in three years ended up being a shadow of its former self, though event organizers moved the date from winter to summer in a bid to attract larger crowds and increased attendance by foreign automakers.

The 2022 Detroit Auto Show – North America’s largest auto show – reopened after COVID-19 canceled the 2020 and 2021 events. The last one was in 2019.

The giant Cobo Hall exhibition center – in the heart of downtown Detroit, now renamed Huntington Place – had serious representation only from the three big American companies: General Motors, Ford and the joint brands Jeep and Ram (which has also displayed the latest Chrysler 300 nearby).



The world’s largest automaker, Toyota, was present. But rather than put up a lavish display, he parked a handful of cars on the carpet and erected a billboard behind them.

Even the concept cars were outdated. Vehicles designed to showcase the future of motoring had actually been revealed months before, but have been released again to add a bit of polish to the event.



The Lincoln Star SUV – from Ford’s luxury subsidiary – was unveiled in April 2022, the Buick Wildcat electric car was unveiled in June 2022 and the daring Lincoln L100 “spaceship” made its first public outing at the show. motoring from Pebble Beach on the California coast. in August 2022.

Sections of the show floor were so empty that it looks like organizers allowed some brands to park a handful of their shiny new models without any signs.

There was a silver lining: the extra space meant there was plenty of room for Ford and Jeep to build their own indoor test tracks.



Jeep created an obstacle course that included tricky angles to demonstrate the off-road suspension, and a steep climb and descent to highlight the traction and “hill hold” systems.

Ford had an off-road course similar to Jeep but, in the middle of it, created a miniature drag race track.

Depending on the luck of the draw, spectators either took a spin in a Ford Bronco during an off-road demonstration or a ride in a Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup. With a claimed 0-60 mph time of around 4.5 seconds, it was clear most bettors were stunned by the performance of the F-150 Lightning.



The F-150 Lightnings on hand probably only reached about 50 km/h – all within the confines of a barricaded auto show booth – before professional drivers slammed on the brakes to turn around in the queue of eager attendees.

Passenger reactions told the story. Their minds were blown away by the acceleration. For many, this would have been their first glimpse of an electric car.

The live vehicle demonstrations were a real highlight. After all, it’s better to experience a car than to stand there and watch it.



Not everyone can have the auto show almost to themselves, as US President Joe Biden did on opening day.

As Conduct reported at the time, the car enthusiast and Corvette owner had originally planned to visit the show for about an hour, but ended up staying for several hours, causing traffic jams in nearby streets (which had been closed for his visit) and long queues in the foyer (where industry guests waited up to 90 minutes in a tight security environment).

Hopefully, the Detroit auto show will make a good comeback next year and attract a full lineup of foreign auto brands, to maintain its international credentials.

We also hope that there will still be enough room for indoor rides – and more.

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for over 20 years, spending most of his time working for the Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and an early member of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice/Drive in 2018 and was a World Car of the Year judge for over 10 years.

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