As part of a multifaceted sponsorship this year between Wayne State University and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), a group of nine students from the WSU Department of Sociology, School of Social Work and Mike Ilitch School of Business will conduct this week the first-ever demographic survey of visitors to the auto show to offer the car industry a better idea of consumers’ desires when purchasing a vehicle.
In addition, the business school and the College of Engineering will offer a variety of business- and STEM-related presentations. The auto show, which will be held downtown at the Huntington Place convention center (formerly Cobo Hall), kicks off on Sept. 14 and will be open to the public from Sept. 17 to Sept. 25. For the first time, some of the auto show’s events will be free and held outside at Hart Plaza.
“Wayne State University is proud to partner with one of Detroit's leading events to engage our students in a hands-on and meaningful way that gives them a real-world application of their studies,” said WSU President M. Roy Wilson.
As part of the student demographic project, students will be at the convention center on Sept. 15 and Sept. 18 to provide NAIAS visitors with a digital QR code that, when scanned with a smartphone, takes participants to online survey questions. Survey questions can be answered any time up to Sept. 25. The WSU students will compile a report about the responses after the auto show and present their findings to the Detroit Auto Dealers Association.
The idea for the survey stemmed from several meetings over the summer between WSU students and NAIAS representatives, said David Merolla, Ph.D., an associate professor and chairperson of the sociology department, who is overseeing the survey. “The auto show reached out to us to conduct the survey,” Merolla said, “and I thought this would be a great opportunity and great fit for our students to work with them.”
WSU students involved in the survey project are Lisa Aldape, Morgan Burt, Thor Person, Ibarre Araojo, Kenneth Gourlay, Frodet Elia, Amber Anderson, Emmanuel Blevins and Kearabetswe Mokoene.
As an incentive to answer the survey questions, attendees who complete the survey will have the chance to win two round-trip plane tickets to any destination in the continental U.S. or a $500 VISA gift card.
“I love getting involved and working with this great community,” Aldape, a Detroit native, said. “The project seemed like an amazing opportunity to learn more about what people are looking for at the auto show. It is also a great way to connect with so many people who are not only from metro Detroit but are coming in from all over the globe.”
Burt said that the student team crafted the survey based on auto dealers’ request for specific information about potential car buyers who visit the auto show: “These meetings gave us an idea of what they wanted to get out of the survey — demographics, how often people visit both Detroit and the auto show, if they’re planning on buying a vehicle, thoughts on electric vehicles, brand preference and more. They also want to know who is planning to buy vehicles, as they want to expand their demographic reach, whether it be women, young people, or the African American and Hispanic communities.”
Meanwhile, the university's Mike Ilitch School of Business will host an executive speaker series in its Lear Auditorium that emphasizes recruiting diverse talent in the automotive industry. Representatives from the College of Engineering will be on hand at the convention center for technology presentations, including a robotics display.
"Our partnership with Wayne State University is a great example of the community outreach we are undertaking this fall as a part of the auto show," said Rod Alberts, executive director of the show.
Alberts noted that “this year’s auto show plays a vitally important role in promoting emerging technologies, particularly in the EV space. And, as the first auto show of the season and with the release of new models in the fall, we expect the show to be a pivotal player in consumers’ vehicle shopping and purchase decisions.”
This year marks the return of the NAIAS after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.