The Greatest Show On Four Wheels


From where I'm standing right now there must be 150 workers pounding or moving or sawing something. It is a symphony of construction that has been over 100 days in the making. The fate of some presidencies is settled in less time that it takes to build this thing.

"We do 65 shows in the U.S., plus 12 shows internationally, and this is the single biggest event for us. It really is our Super Bowl."

Tim Peters, GM's assistant director of auto shows, is explaining this all to me while we're surrounded by guys in work boots and grim looks. There's a deadline for the "Greatest Show on Four Wheels" as some wag has called it, or as it's better known, the North American International Auto Show. It opens to the press on Sunday, and to the general public six days later.

"The Auto Show is all about the international press. If you're the international press and you're looking for a story to tell that has to do with the global economy and the automotive industry, you're going to do it at this show." Carl Galeana is the Co-Chairman of the show, and a Detroit area auto dealer. We step over a couple of tool chests and he goes on, "Twenty years ago the dealers in this city made a decision to come through and make this show international. They did it, and that's why this is the number one show in the world."

Auto shows got their start here in Detroit in 1907, and grew in prominence to their heyday in the 50's and early 60's. Ladies in ball gowns and bikinis showing off Detroit's latest models. It was the Motor City and the car was king. We all know what's happened since. But even in a down Detroit economy, the NAIAS shines. It pumps 500 million dollars into local coffers, and creates 13,000 jobs.

Every manufacturer of any size is here, and almost everyone will unveil something new. There is a literal feeding frenzy on the part of the 7,000 members of the press that show up. Not only are they fed with information about cars, but they're fed, and man do these press boys like free food. In fact, free anything, you should see the bruises I got when I found myself in-between a bunch of French journalists and the free poster table. Mon Dieu.

The kicker to all this is that while it takes 100 days plus to set it all up, and over the course of the show over a million people will be cycled through, it all has to come down in a week. 7 days. Maybe they can get the press to stay afterward and help tear it down. Offer them something free.

'Mike On America' will be in Detroit at the first of the week, then off to Pennsylvania and New York. You can catch our reports from the auto show on "Power Lunch" from noon till 2 pm Eastern.

Oh look, free hot dogs in the Dodge booth!

Questions? Comments?