Blog: Simon WarburtonCity of Detroit cites auto fightback

Simon Warburton | 14 January 2013

In Michigan for the latest installment of the Auto Show, with the downtown Cobo Center apparently benefiting from a US$300m makeover, so it'll be interesting to see how they've spruced up the cavernous building.

The mayor of Detroit has been making some interesting comments on how his city - plagued by net emigration during the past few years that has seen the population shrink alarmingly by 25% in just a decade - can use the car biz as a template for rejuvenating Motown's fortunes and bounce back from seemingly insurmountable odds.

To back that up - in stark contrast to European travails - the US automakers and the motor state that is home to so many suppliers -are posting some seriously good numbers that can only benefit the metropolis of Detroit.

Confidence is everywhere - so much so that vehicle ads around American football in Troy where I am writing this - come taglined 'Imported from Detroit' - a phrase few would have thought possible to be associated as a badge of honour just a few years ago.

Getting here came replete with an interesting airborne experience mind. Just east of Newfoundland we flew straight into some of the heaviest turbulence I have ever experienced and were being thrown about like a cork in water.

Not to be outdone by that - and a bit of a breezy 110mph headwind - the Delta Boeing 767 crew pushed the throttles forward in a fairly hefty right bank and we powered up 6,000ft in rapid order - something I know as my eyes were fixed resolutely on the seat-back moving map display. 

I picked up my car at Detroit airport - a vehicle so large I practically needed a ladder to get into it - and drove to the northern suburb of Troy - motto - 'The City of Tomorrow - Today' where just-auto generally stays when in town [not when in RenCen on Chevrolet's dime - ed] and in some of the balmiest temperatures I have experienced at this time of year - around 60F.

Just like the Cobo, I also needed a bit of a wash and brush up so went for an American haircut - "Can I have it square at the back please? You betcha" -in nearby Birmingham. US hairdressers - apparently this is common - have you sitting facing outwards not inwards - with the unnerving sensation of the assembled patrons all looking at you as the clippers and scissors are wielded.

The show starts tomorrow - 50% chance of snow said the forecast - with a-crack-of-sparrows press conference with Johnson Controls and I've been invited by the powerful UAW union to a briefing on Nissan in Mississippi just across the road from the Cobo. Intriguing.

I've got a succession of press conferences and interviews tomorrow and Tuesday morning, before the Automotive News World Congress later this week and some supplier visits afterwards.

I managed to catch the Premier League game between Arsenal and Man City this morning at a favourite just-auto haunt, Bailey's, across the road and it's fair to say I was in a minority of one as the other patrons remained firmly fixed on the NFL play-offs.

Bailey's - 'The Year of Beer' -  has a mightily impressive array of 36 brews - many of them the craft variety that America has embraced so enthusiastically - although I stopped short of embracing some of the 9% and 10% abv varieties.



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