NAIAS organizers reassured automakers about its finances image

Organizers of the North American International Auto Show had to soothe overseas manufacturers’ anxiety over Detroit’s bankruptcy and its impact on security and other services.

“The initial reaction of the import manufacturers was ‘Oh, my goodness, there will be no police, no fire, there will be no anything,’ ” said Bob Shuman, chairman of the 2014 NAIAS, which opens to the media on Jan. 13.

For about 10 days after Detroit’s July 18 bankruptcy filing, Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA), Shuman and others scrambled to explain that it didn’t mean the city was paralyzed or in some lawless limbo. Shuman told automotive manufacturers that under U.S. law, Chapter 9 bankruptcy gives a municipality or a corporation a chance to restructure.

“This is almost on a subconscious level, but do you want to be the manufacturer that abandoned Detroit?” Shuman said. “This is the year you better come strong to Detroit, because you don’t want to be the guy who ran out on us.”

Finally, organizers reminded manufacturers that Cobo Center is now managed by the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority — not the city — and is in the final stages of a $279-million expansion that includes the renovated Grand Riverview Ballroom and a new atrium.

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary with an international theme, the auto show expects about 40 all-new or redesigned vehicles will be unveiled next month, a number that could grow in the coming weeks, said DADA head Alberts.

That would be fewer than last year, but more global debuts than in 2009 and 2010 during the depths of the Great Recession, when the automotive industry was reeling.