by Jeff Gilbert
WWJ AutoBeat Reporter

Those who run the North American International Auto Show say their long awaited expansion will be in place in time for the 2012 show.

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“We want to keep this as the home of the North American International Auto Show, said c-chair Bill Perkins.  “Now, the authority has bought into this.  They realize that they have a gem here.”

Barron Meade and Bill Perkins

Barron Meade and Bill Perkins

Perkins saying the extra 25 thousand feet will be added by taking down a wall in the back of Cobo Center, near the Toyota display.  He said that the steel for the expansion has already been ordered, and the construction work will begin shortly after this year’s auto show ends.

“As we get more space at the NAIAS, we’ll be able to make sure that NAIAS is the premiere auto show in the world,” said senior chair Barron Meade.

Press previews for the auto show begin on Monday.  Show organizers took reporters on a tour of the show floor today.  The exhibits were clearly more elaborate than those seen the past two years, with more big screens, more double decks and interesting lighting.

A large Porsche display was under construction.  That brand pulled out of the show two years ago, but plans a big product announcement.

Ninety per cent of exhibitors are spending more money on their displays this year, say the co-chairs, who estimate the economic impact on the Detroit area at $400 million.

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There’s also an impact on local charities, as the black-tie Charity Preview is one of the year’s biggest fund raisers.

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“We look to raise over two million dollars this year, and close to three,” said Meade of the Charity Preview, which will be held Friday, November 14th.   

“Our ticket sales are up slightly,” said Bill Perkins.  “We’re ahead of last year.  We’re anticipating a bigger crowd.”

The North America International Auto Show opens to the public the following morning, Saturday, January 15th.  The show will run through January 23rd.

While much of the attention has been placed on the show’s need for more space, they’ve also been looking for improvements in behind-the-scenes items that aren’t often noticed by those who attend the show.  Perkins says more work has been done in the last year, than in the previous decade.

“Cobo is old,” he said. “So they are upgrading the infrastructure, electrical roofing infrastructure and things like that.  Then they will go into the cosmetic things and the expansion.”

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Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter @jefferygilbert.