More stories related to 2005 NAIAS When visitors arrive at Detroit’s Cobo Hall in January for the 2005 North American International Auto Show, they will be greeted by a significantly redesigned General Motors Corp. exhibit, Ward’s learns.

Called “The GM Experience,” the 164,456-sq.-ft., (15,278-sq.-m) 2-level display has dominated the convention center floor since debuting at the 2000 NAIAS. (See related story: GM Unveils Colossal Auto Show Exhibit)

But GM has considerably altered and scaled back The GM Experience in order to allow the setup to remain standing inside Cobo year-round, a GM spokesman tells Ward’s.

“The setting is considerably different,” he says.

The ’05 Corvette debuted at the NAIAS in 2004.

Besides saving GM the cost of constructing and disassembling The GM Experience every year, the display will be used by other conventions and events at Cobo, including the Detroit Boat Show, the Society of Automotive Engineers Congress and Exposition and the 2006 Super Bowl.

“Cost was a factor,” says the spokesman, without providing a precise savings figure. “We don’t have to tear it down and rebuild it every year. It saves some money. But in order to leave it up year-round, we had to shrink the size.”

For the last five Detroit auto shows, The GM Experience – the largest showcase ever presented by a North American manufacturer – lived up to its name by incorporating an 800-seat theater, a café and corporate safety, environmental and technology displays, as well as several private rooms with stunning views of the show floor where company executives conducted interviews with the media.

The GM Experience in 2005, however, has eliminated the corporate displays and the cafe. “Upstairs access will be limited,” the spokesman says. “There’s no need for the masses to be up there.”

The theater-in-the-round setting has been replaced by an amphitheater seating arrangement. Temporary bleachers and risers will be built for GM’s press conferences to replace the vantage points many observers had from the second floor. Overall seating has been increased, the spokesman says.

GM’s press conferences often have had standing-room-only attendance.

The arrangement of GM’s brands on the convention center floor also is changing. Previously, some division’s spots were located far off the center aisle leading to The GM Experience. “Now, all divisions will touch the center aisle,” the GM spokesman says. “So you can go off to the right or left and directly into a GM brand’s area. It will be easier to navigate the GM display.”

Hungry show-goers can take heart, however. Plans call for the popular Coney Island stand that has been serving French fries and chili dogs on The GM Experience’s second-level to be moved – not eliminated.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com