DETROIT – Carl Galeana is waking up at 4:30 a.m., working until after 11 p.m. and expecting the unexpected in between those long hours.

Such is the hectic schedule for the co-chairman of the North American International Auto Show here, which kicked off Sunday with three days of press previews, to be followed by two suppliers days and a charity preview before the doors open to the public Saturday. Jan. 13.

“You never know what might be required of you during the show,” from interviews to handling various logistics, Galeana says of his co-chairmanship.

He is a 5-franchise auto dealer (Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Saturn and Kia) and past president of the Detroit Auto Dealers Assn., owners of the Motor City’s 100-year-old auto show that began in a beer garden, sharing space with a gun and knife show.

“A lot of big auto shows around the world are not dealer run, but we are, and it is one of our strengths,” he says. “Some representatives from Germany said this show is what it is because it is run by dealers.”

Dealers are good at spotting industry trends, Galeana says, and can figure out a way to make things happen, such as accommodating Mercedes-Benz wanting to install an ice rink on the show floor to highlight all-wheel-drive vehicles.

“Another show might not have done that. But we did, because we recognize the importance of selling cars,” he says.

Galeana, a second-generation dealer with stores in Detroit; Columbus, SC; and Fort Meyers, FL, says the Detroit show has become one of the world’s premier auto extravaganzas. He and his DADA colleagues want to keep it that way.

One way to ensure that is to increase the size of the exhibit space at the Cobo Convention Center, a proposal that long has been discussed.

But regional governmental agencies have yet to agree on how to finance such a multi-million dollar project. Galeana thinks they ultimately will, as federal, state and local entities finally seem poised to partake in the cooperative effort.

“We need to meet the needs of the industry, and everyone has more product, so we would like more space,” he says. “We’d like a bigger venue for the greatest auto show in North America, and possibly the world.”

Some show organizers have alluded to “losing” the show to another city. But Galeana says that’s not going to happen. The worry is that auto makers will shift major debuts to other auto shows. The Los Angeles event, for instance, has been trying to increase its standing.

“Nothing happens overnight, and no one has threatened us,” says Galeana. “But we want to make sure this is the place for the industry to showcase its vehicles without any auto maker feeling shorted.

“We have a Chinese auto company displaying this year, and we had no where to put them but downstairs. We’d like to get up to 1-million sq.-ft (92,900 sq.-m) of exhibit space, which is what the Geneva show is.”

Detroit is the home of the Big Three auto makers, and consequently the city in general harbors a certain degree of apprehension towards import auto companies. The DADA is careful not to let that xenophobia permeate the auto show, Galeana says.

“What makes this show special is that we’re here in Detroit, the center of the American auto industry, but it is a neutral venue. Just look at the large presence of Toyota (Motor Corp.), Audi (AG) and others.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com