2013 CHICAGO AUTO SHOW WRAP-UP
2013 Chicago Auto Show
SEE ALSO: Complete Press Pass Coverage 2013 Chicago Auto Show
By Steve Purdy, Thom Cannell and Larry Nutson
The Auto Channel's intrepid Chicago Auto Show coverage team
The Chicago Auto Show claims the distinction of being the oldest new
car show (this is the 105th), and the largest in square footage and numbers
of attendees. We certainly can’t dispute either. We enjoy covering
the show because it is so laid back and unhurried compared to the intense
Detroit show of a few weeks earlier.
Here are a few a few highlights:
The Midwest Automotive Media Association traditionally begins press
day with a breakfast featuring a guest speaker and presentation of
MAMA’s Family Vehicle of the Year Award. Andy Goss, president of
Jaguar/Land Rover of North America, gave us a glowing update of their
performance since India’s industrial magnate; Ratan Tata purchased
both brands in early 2008, just before the bottom fell out of the U.S. car
market. The F-Type Jaguar they are showing here in Chicago is the spiritual
successor to the fabled E-Type of the 1960s. And, he said, look for Jaguar
to have 4-cylinder engines added to the already-introduced all-wheel drive
as they challenge the traditional luxury brands on this side of the pond.
Not surprisingly, MAMA’s Family Vehicle of the Year is the
universally acclaimed 2013 Ford Fusion, a car that has gathered accolades
like Green Car of the Year, IIHS Top Safety Pick, Most Connected Car and a
few more since its introduction.
Toyota used their bully pulpit at the Chicago show to present an
updated, Texas-built Tundra pickup to the world. A mild redesign and some
performance upgrades bring it up to date with the competition, according to
What they do not have is a heavy-duty model and that limits the
brand in the work truck field. What they do have, according to Toyota truck
boss Bill Faye, is the highest level of North American content of any
pickup. The styling is considerably freshened with a higher hood and
different grill for each of the five trim levels.
A difference comparing the Chicago Auto Show to the others is its
emphasis on commercial vehicles. Ram, having completely renewed and
redesigned their pickup trucks last year to nearly universal applause,
showed a new line of heavy-duty trucks and chassis cabs boasting
substantially improved fuel
economy and towing capacities. They also offer
a factory-equipped CNG-fueled option. Their most awaited announcement in
Chicago was their entry into the hotly contested and expanding large van
space occupied by the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the Nissan NV 300, and
January-announced Ford Transit.
Their new large van is based on the third
generation Fiat Ducato. Bucking the trend, this cargo van is front-wheel
drive and can be had with gasoline or diesel power. It’s available in
13 configurations with three wheelbases and four body styles. They offer a
standard sliding door on the passenger side and an optional slider for the
driver’s side - both said to be loadable with standard pallets and a
fork lift. Ram also bragged that the ProMaster will have the lowest total
cost of ownership in the segment, enormously important to fleet owners.
Speaking of diesel power, we were pleased to see three new diesel
announcements in Chicago.
Arguably the most significant is the offering of
a diesel engine in Chevy’s compact, bread-and-butter Cruze. Pre-rated
at 42 mpg, Chevrolet says Cruze diesel will surpass the already popular
Volkswagen engine, also a 2.0 liter mill. Perhaps efficient diesel power
will begin to get some traction here as U.S. Mazda announced diesel options
for their new Mazda6 sedan and the popular small crossover CX-5 this fall.
Jeep will soon, or again be offering V-6 diesel power in the Grand
A bit of excitement greeted us at the Nissan stand where two NISMO
(Nissan Motor Sports) models, a Juke and a 370Z, both coming this summer,
punctuated the otherwise staid string of press conferences touting
practical cars and trucks.
Volkswagen gave us something to hoot about announcing the
resurrection, or perhaps we should say the recreation, of a special Beetle
of the past, the rare, extra-sporty “Yellow and Black Racer”
also known as GSR (in German, Gelb-Schwartz-Renner). Powering the new GSR
is a 210-hp, 2-liter turbo that will power the updated Jetta GLI later this
Traditionally integrated into the press conference schedule is the
Economic Club of Chicago’s luncheon. This year it featured Heinrich
Fisker as guest speaker, a remarkably talented designer and creator of one
of a handful of car companies started entirely from scratch in the past
half century. To call that a challenge is a vast understatement, as Fisker
says it required an investment of well over $1billion. Everyone knows the
company is struggling financially but the product has great potential.
While presenting a positive and confident front it is clear he would love
to hear from some deep-pocketed backers.
Displaying a unique sense of youthful cool Kia offered the most
entertaining and artful presentation featuring a colorful comic book theme
– Superman and his compatriots.
Flowing from the creative sounds Sing
Off stars The Pentatonix, Kia’s marketing and communications VP
Michael Sprague introduced a deeply sculpted three-box-no-corners concept
CUV called Cross GT Concept, plus a practical 5-door variant of the small
Forte guaranteed to be a hit in the highly popular hatchback segment. Why?
The TGDI badge on the back (turbocharged direct injected gasoline engine)
should deliver economy with plenty of snap.
Another element of the Chicago Auto Show, not part of the other
major shows, is the plethora of non-OEM displays – wheel sellers,
military recruiters, aftermarket car stuff, car museums, car club displays,
etc. Because the venue is so large there is room for everyone.
At the other end of press day at the Chicago Auto Show we always get
to hang out with John Davis, creator and host of the longest running
automotive TV show in history – MotorWeek – with that
show’s Drivers’ Choice Awards. They spend considerable effort
trying to assess and identify the best products in a variety of categories.
Here in Chicago Davis presents the award for the best of the best –
in this case the new Cadillac ATS, winner of many other Car of the Year
Awards. Davis called it surprisingly nimble, quick and fun.
We mentioned that the Chicago Auto Show is the largest and attracts
the most attendance. Noteworthy is that Chicago attracts more Gen-Y
visitors than any other show, as a percentage of total population. Auto
manufacturers are trying their darndest to sell cars to the young future of
the industry who today seem in no hurry to get a drivers license and
content to communicate with electronic devices.
The 2013 Chicago Auto Show runs from February 9th to the 18th 10
a.m. to 10 p.m. (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the 18th only) at McCormick Place
hosted by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association.
Don’t miss it.