MICHauto > Blog > Detroit Auto Show > Detroit Auto Show Gives the World’s Business Leaders a Chance to Talk Shop

Detroit Auto Show Gives the World’s Business Leaders a Chance to Talk Shop

September 23, 2023

Detroit Free Press
Sept. 23, 2023
Carol Cain

The 2023 North American International Detroit Auto Show will close Sunday night after its nearly two-week long run at Huntington Place, where it dazzled thousands of visitors who flocked to the Motor City to see glitzy new vehicles and the latest in EVs, as well as flying cars and technology that will be game changers for this industry in the midst of a powering revolution.

Also resonating from the event staged by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association: Lots of networking and potential business opportunities as companies and municipalities from across the globe came to hear panels on these changes, talk about the need for inclusion and workforce development, and participate in quiet sidebar conversations about economic development prospects, which is increasingly becoming an important part of this auto/mobility confab.

It’s played out exactly as show sponsors intended as they, too, have adjusted as auto shows are going through a revolution.
“This event is about new and upcoming vehicles, the latest mobility technology and our energy future,” said Rod Alberts, executive director of DADA. “We added panels and forums with influencers and top experts, too, which continues to help draw entrepreneurs and leaders from across the globe. Amid that backdrop, it’s been an amazing place for networking and start of business opportunities, too.”

Maureen Donohue Krauss, president and Chief Executive Officer of Detroit Regional Partnership, was part of a panel there and participated in conversations with leaders about economic opportunities.

“We met with dozens of national and international companies from OEMs to raw materials suppliers to hydrogen tech startups,” Krauss said. “We also connected with delegations from leading markets such as Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden, and the UK, to discuss opportunities. There’s no doubt in my mind there will be companies visiting for these shows that are going to locate here — our region’s mobility innovation was on full display.”

She added, “With EVs and AVs, there’s robust industry growth and the largest volume of projects in the past 50 years. This is driving major interest in the Detroit region, but also fierce competition. With federal stimulus such as the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS Act, more states than ever before are trying to attract mobility companies.”

Also revealed at the show: Vitesco Technologies is considering Michigan for an electric vehicle parts factory that could bring thousands of new jobs. The German automotive supplier, which has its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, is also looking at sites across North America, Sandy Stojkovski, Chief Executive Officer of the company’s North American operations, said during a panel.

Vitesco has a factory in Seguin, Texas, with 1,700 workers. The new facility would be similar in size, she said. Company executives met with leaders including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Quentin Messer Jr., who runs Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“Just as it’s important within our company to meet periodically in person even while working in flexible hybrid modes, it’s also important to come together as an industry to shake hands, see physical products and engage in dialogue,” said Stojkovski.

Messer also added about the event and its role as a catalyst for the region: “‘I continue to be amazed by the ingenuity, creativity, and brilliance of the automakers, innovators and engineers at this year’s show. This gathering is an incredible opportunity for the world to see Detroit in a new light and witness, first-hand, the next revolution of the automotive and mobility industry.”

I moderated a panel Sept. 14 about preparing more people from diverse backgrounds to become electricians to work on EV charging stations. It was sparked by Siemens Foundation’s recent announcement of a $30 million, 10-year initiative to train people for EV charging station needs, beginning with Michigan and North Carolina.

David Etzwiler, Chief Executive Officer of Siemens Foundation, was part of that panel, along with Jennifer Mefford of the IBEW, who is also national co-chair of the electric vehicle infrastructure training program, and Greg Sowder, president of Qmerit Network.

“We have to make sure we include everyone in the emerging economy or we won’t achieve our economic and climate objectives,” Etzwiler said. “The EV charging sector is a great example of that and it’s just the first of many in the rollout of the economy for the next 100 years.”

Etzwiler added the $1.5 trillion investment in infrastructure from the Biden administration is presenting, “an unprecedented opportunity for the U.S. to reclaim and maintain a leadership role in manufacturing while growing the clean energy economy.”

 In Detroit, Siemens Foundation funding will support EVITP (Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program) training and certification scholarships for IBEW-affiliated electricians that will provide paid, work-based learning experiences for individuals interested in exploring careers as an electricians. It will include 100 residents.

Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto, has attended the auto show since he was a college student. His organization is part of the Detroit Regional Chamber and he’s focused on talent needs and has a new program to keep more young Michiganders here called You Drive.

“Our primary focus is to help develop and provide career opportunities for the people who grow up in Michigan and to retain them to our state,” Stevens said.

MICHauto and the chamber were involved in off-the-record meetings with leaders about economic development, as well, Stevens said.

Also at the show: some rising stars in the industry who took center stage on panels.

Deeana Ahmed, chief strategy officer at ONE (Our Next Energy) a Michigan-based EV battery maker and energy storage company, took part in two panels and focused on inclusion and breaking down barriers.

“In order to scale the battery production required, we will need to grow our workforce and that at ONE we are working to develop policies to support and retain our employees by addressing the barriers that people have entering the workforce,” Ahmed said. “This includes paying 34% above the Alice Wage threshold, offering flexible shifts and partnering with the state to offer better access to childcare.”

She was joined on one panel by Justine Johnson, Michigan chief mobility officer; Natalie King, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dunamis Clean Energy Partners and Dunamis Charge; Pina Bennett, director of electric marketing at DTE Energy; and Stefan Tongur, vice president of business development at Electreon.

Bennett talked about meeting the needs of the energy marketplace.

“From DTE’s perspective, our key guiding principles are to reduce barriers to EV adoption, help enable equitable access to EVs, modernize the grid to enable the addition of EV load, encourage off-peak charging to maintain customer affordability and pilot new technologies to prepare for the widespread adoption of EVs. Collaboration is key in this growing industry,” Bennett said.

Also heard at the show: lots of talk about designing cars of the future, which has been a staple of this event since it was first held over 100 years ago. Silvio Angori, Chief Executive Officer of Italian company Pininfarina, which created some of the most iconic Ferraris, spoke about technology and its impact on design in a keynote address.

And talk of that future, from design to evolving technology to buttressing the state’s position in this mobility revolution, is what will resonate from this event long after the lights are turned out at Huntington Place on the 2023 Detroit auto show.