While the 2012 Detroit Auto Show seems to indicate that the industry (and, hopefully, the U.S. economy) has turned a corner, the Detroit show has always been more about mainstream brands than about premium luxury brands and exotic sports cars.

Automakers like Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini know their client base, and they know that likely customers won’t want to mingle with thousands of others at the Detroit Auto Show. That’s why you won’t seen a Ferrari 458 Italia, or an Aston Martin One-77 on the floor of the main Detroit show; to see cars like this requires a visit to the Gallery.

As The New York Times explains, admission to the Gallery is by invitation, although 100 tickets are printed for the general public, priced at $500 each. Your money buys you access to the MGM Grand Detroit, where this year’s show featured some 28 cars from 15 manufacturers.

The Gallery was created by Rod Alberts, the executive director of the (other) Detroit Auto Show. It became necessary after high-end brands began to exit the main Detroit Show, after years of diminished returns from exhibiting there.

By targeting likely potential customers, the Gallery increases the likelihood of a sale for premium brands, while minimizing the risk of vehicle damage from careless show attendees.

Roughly half of the well-heeled attendees are from out of town, but still see Detroit as “The Motor City.” While only a handful of vehicles are sold each year, the lower cost of exhibiting at the Gallery makes more financial sense to the premium brands.

It makes more sense to Gallery attendees, too. Time is money, so spending a little more cash to view you next potential ride up close and personal is a reasonable investment to justify.

Want more coverage from the main event? You’ll find our comprehensive 2012 Detroit Auto Show coverage here.