Attendees walk past Alfa Romeo vehicles at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan

The annual auto tradeshows may be back after the COVID pandemic forced the cancellation of the high-profile events three years in a row. But they're significantly scaled down from past shows, featuring fewer major model launches and a larger focus on consumers.

Many COVID-inspired changes may become permanent fixtures of the tradeshows, including increased online activity.

In past years, automakers used the 12-day Detroit auto show to launch their newest offerings. Then the pandemic forced automakers to find alternative promotions. They discovered that the auto shows may not be the best way to launch. Instead, they have replaced the shows with online events that draw larger audiences and live on virtually.

Flashy tradeshow vehicle introductions are now waning and automakers see more profitable and cost-effective alternative ways to unveil their new autos, including their latest electric vehicles creations. GM, for example, debuted its electric Chevy Equinox SUV six days ago instead of launching at the Detroit auto show.

Organizers of this year's North American International Auto Show hope to attract at least 500,000 attendees to event that drew as many as 800,000 participants in past years, the Associated Press reported.

The changing nature of the tradeshows also benefits consumers, who are the focus of more attention _ they can actually kick the tires and test drive the newest models.

"The industry has changed — the world has changed," Karl Zimmermann, vice president of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which oversees the show, told the AP. "Do I think it's going to be the same as it was before? No. It's a much different format. We're using indoors. We're using outdoors."

Automakers seek to capitalized on the event's ability to show off _ rather than introduce _ their vehicles. Ford's Mustang is expected to be the sole major launch, according to the news outlet.

But even in scaled back form, President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg still see the North American International Auto Show as a good opportunity for exposure. Biden and Buttigieg are expected to tout the new $7,500 tax credit for consumer who purchase electric vehicles.