MotorCities National Heritage Area
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Browse destinations, activities or interests to plan your automotive heritage trip! With arts and entertainment, parks, gardens, cemeteries, libraries, archives, museums, historic homes, motor sports and roadside auto culture, there is truly something for everyone. Pick your places, pack up the car, put the pedal to the metal and explore the MotorCities! Explore MotorCities Button


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Top 20 Automotive Stories

Here are the Top 20 Automotive Stories since 1998, compiled in conjunction with our partners at the Society of Automotive Historians and voted on by MotorCities' weekly e-newsletter subscribers and followers on social media. See the newest entries in the countdown every day on MotorCities' Facebook page or on Twitter @MotorCities.

20. Consumers are keeping their cars longer, or buying used cars rather than new ones, while auto company executives and designers begin pushing more radical innovations to attract sales.

19. Leasing vehicles becomes more popular as a national law was passed regulating the practice.

18. Foreign automakers, notably Mercedes-Benz and BMW have invested more of their efforts and money into U.S.-based operations. 

17. Beginning in 1998, personal GPS devices are sold, greatly increasing navigational abilities for drivers and aiding emergency efforts such as rescues. 

16. As gas prices begin to rise, gas-guzzling brands such as Hummer lose popularity and eventually cease production.

15. Car hobbyists witness a surge in parts costs as demand increases, and manufacturers push expensive OEM parts.

14. In 2001, Satellite radio, powered mostly by Sirius and XM (who eventually merge), provides commercial-free, static-free radio with more programming variety than terrestrial radio.

13. In February 2014, GM issues a recall for faulty ignition switches, which have been linked to over 120 deaths.

12. The stick-shift begins fading away, as less than half of all new vehicle models in 2006 offer manual and automatic transmissions. Today, less than 3% of vehicle sales involve manual transmissions.

11. Bluetooth in vehicles starts becoming standard, also leading to the introduction of USB ports and other amenities in vehicles.

10. Ride sharing companies like Uber, the utility of drones, delivery services and other innovations cause radical changes in the mobility industry.

9.  Globalization, a major influence over business for centuries, really takes off over the last 20 years, as auto companies become increasingly integrated with the rest of the world and find new markets to reach.

8. November 2008: The first of many recalls of Takata airbags is announced after multiple deaths. 

7. In 2009, Google begins testing autonomous vehicles, sparking the interest of other companies such as Tesla, and putting autonomous vehicles at the forefront of innovation.

6. Firestone officials found that their Ford Explorer tires had treads and belts falling apart, resulting in their tires being tied to nearly 150 deaths and severing their century-long partnership with Ford.

5. In April 2004, Oldsmobile, one of the oldest surviving car brands of all time, is discontinued by General Motors.

4. Consumers started buying pickup trucks, like the Ford F-series, as personal vehicles, rather than work vehicles.

3. Between 1998 and 2009, Chrysler migrated through a series of owners, including Daimler-Benz in 1998, Cerberus Capital Management in 2007 and ultimately Fiat in 2009.

2. In the 2000s, several iconic brands, including Pontiac, Plymouth, Mercury and many others, are discontinued for various reasons, primarily lackluster sales.

1. In June 2009, General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

20 MotorCities Champions

John Dingell

In his 60 years of service in the U.S. Congress, Mr. Dingell championed influential legislation to support all sectors. He authored and co-sponsored the Automobile National Heritage Act in 1998 to create what is now the MotorCities National Heritage Area. Dingell retired in 2014, and in 2015, he was the inaugural recipient of the MotorCities Milestone Award, recognizing all of his contributions. Since the creation of the heritage area, Dingell has been its most vocal advocate imploring the organization to work to tell the story of the region and its people.

Donn Werling

Automotive pioneers like Ford, Chrysler, Buick, Durant and the Dodge brothers were central to the concept of recognizing automotive history across the region. Donn Werling, former director of the Henry Ford Estate – Fair Lane, saw the importance of intertwining the story of Henry and Clara Ford’s home with other institutions like The Henry Ford, Meadow Brook Hall and the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. It was that collaboration that brought light to the concept that the story of the region's auto history is shared across many communities and all of these icons of the past have a role in that story. Werling took that concept and helped lead the efforts to establish the Henry Ford Heritage Trail, which expanded to the establishing MotorCities. When Werling retired in 2002, he was honored with a MotorCities Cornerstone Award, having been so instrumental in jump-starting the National Heritage Area. 


20 at 20 Content to Come:

  • 20 MotorCities Programs (Coming September 2018)
  • Top 20 Auto Industry Influencers, compiled in conjunction with the Society of Automotive Historians (Coming October 2018)
  • Top 20 Domestic Production Vehicles Since 1998, compiled in conjunction with the Society of Automotive Historians (Coming November 2018)

MotorCities National Heritage Area offers a broad array of programs across its 10,000 square miles. Follow our current programming below.


MotorCities National Heritage Area deploys programming which preserves and promotes the automotive and labor heritage of our 10,000 square miles.

Program Missions:

To develop partnerships that support the preservation and revitalization of our auto heritage sites, neighborhoods, and communities, fostering pride and economic development around these resources.

Education & Interpretation
To create passion for and awareness of the connections between the automobile, the workers and the history of the industry in this region through educational partnerships and interpretive presentation.

Heritage Tourism
To package and promote the auto and labor heritage experiences presented across this region via the identification and development of partnerships that expand the heritage story.


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