Using just about every inch of 2.4 million square feet in its current home at the Detroit COBO Center, the North American International Auto Show (or “Detroit Auto Show”) presents one of the world’s largest stages for new vehicle launches, four floors of meeting rooms and corporate suites, and now an entire level devoted to future mobility concepts, known as AutoMobili-D.

With the broadest thermoplastic materials portfolio in an industry facing various trends from large truck and SUV growth to increased electrification and autonomous driving, the Celanese marketing team  faced the challenge of how to focus our message. Where do we start? Well, we stopped trying to figure out exciting ways to tell our customers about us. Instead, we used the Detroit Auto Show to listen to our customers talk about themselves.

In January 2018, Celanese delivered what we call the “Art of Material Selection” to automotive manufacturers and parts suppliers by leveraging our global expertise to locally address their critical material challenges. We brought executive business leaders and technical experts from around the world to spend two days at the Detroit Auto Show having one-on-one meetings with customers mapping out how we could collaborate with them over the upcoming year to craft technical workshops and initiatives to address their most pressing needs.

Of course, they came to see the Auto Show floor during the Industry Preview. So we built an “Innovation Walk” map that demonstrated to 300-plus customers who joined us for individual and group tours how our engineered materials deliver on the performance that the rigors of the road demand. Of hundreds of parts with Celanese materials, we highlighted selected component innovations as conversation drivers for discussing the challenges our customers had shared with us in surveys we conducted in preparation for the Auto Show.

But even with that laser-focused, customer-centric approach, we still did a little bragging about our award-winning commercialized successes, including the SPE Automotive Grand Award winner of 2017 for the Active Grill Shutter on the Ford Expedition.

The AutoMobili-D exhibit hall provided tech start-ups and major component suppliers the opportunity to spotlight their electric vehicle and autonomous technology, expanded significantly in 2018. The AutoMobili-D exhibits and atrium panel discussions provided the perfect platform for Celanese to engage existing customers and to reach new contacts from a variety of emerging players. With touchscreens illustrating how autonomous driving will evolve cars and transform their material needs, as well as interactive demonstrations of plastic innovations like thermally conductive polymers, we used the space to invite questions around how Celanese could answer our customer’s most pressing challenges.

As we look back on NAIAS 2018, I am convinced that Celanese proudly demonstrated “The Art of Material Selection” through our evolving participation in the Auto Show and that we will continue to consider the show as one of many platforms for driving further collaboration with customers.