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2020 Chicago Auto Show - Vehicles On Display - Purdy and Cannell Report


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2020 CHICAGO AUTO SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

By Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell
Senior Editors
The Auto Channel Team
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Photos by Thom Cannell

Chicago February 7, 2020; It’s Auto Show Season!! With the North American International (Detroit) Auto Show moving to June, Chicago, with classic braggadocio, consider theirs the first of the season.

Organizers of the early February Chicago Auto Show claim distinctions of being the longest-running and largest auto show of the season. We agree. In terms of number of visitors and the physical footprint, Chicago is easily the largest. But we’ve never considered the auto season to be based on a calendar year. Rather, most of us in the business would agree the season begins with the Los Angeles show in November followed by the huge Consumer Electronics Show in January. The latter has become as important an automotive venue as a traditional auto show because technology has so rapidly become as essential a part of our vehicles as is design, styling and powertrain.

Overshadowing the show is the worldwide trend of traditional motor shows becoming less and less relevant. So many other venues exist in this electronic age and media environment, that automakers have more cost-effective ways of tooting their respective horns. This year’s show here in the Windy City reflects that trend with no few model introductions and little real product news made. We did, however, find plenty of cool stuff to cover.

The media preview at the Chicago Auto Show traditionally opens with an inclusive breakfast event hosted by the Midwest Auto Media Association. The keynote address was by Toyota’s entertaining marketing guy, Edward Laukes, who talked about his company’s plans for the summer Olympics where they’ll put into service a fleet of autonomous shuttles. Chinese virus worries threaten to affect the games but Toyota will be there with banners flying.

The Automotive Hall of Fame provided a preview of their five-member induction class of 2020 including famous collector and enthusiast, Jay Leno, and Helene Rother, the first and one of the most successful auto designers. Their induction dinner will be July 23rd in Detroit.

The MAMA group presented its prestigious Family Vehicle of the Year Award to the Kia Telluride midsize crossover and the Luxury Family Vehicle Award to the Lincoln Aviator. The selections are made by MAMA’s entire membership of journalists and industry professionals.


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Certainly, the most thrilling reveal here in Chicago was Ford’s “Liquid Carbon” version of the exotic Ford GT. An homage to the Le Mans-winning cars of the late 1960s, made more famous with the recent Ford vs Ferrari film, Ford GT deliveries are scheduled to end in 2022. This special edition‘s carbon fiber body, each one made from a dedicated sheet of woven carbon fiber, gets a rich glaze and polish resulting in an ephemeral glow. You can also now have your Ford GT finished in the classic Gulf Oil orange and soft blue livery, like the original GT40. They’ll only build about a dozen Liquid Carbon versions and those are already sold to Ford’s approved buyers. (Our friend Ken Lingenfelter is one, so you’ll see that in his collection sometime.)


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So, what else did we see here at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show? Well, here is a synopsis:

· Nissan just couldn’t wait for the reveal the long-overdue revamp of their trusty mid-size Frontier pickup later this year to introduce the new powertrain, an all-new 3.8-liter Direct Injected V6 with 310-hp and all-new 9-speed automatic, so they put it in the current Frontier and trotted it out. Not only more power, but substantially improved efficiency as well.


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· Chrysler showed a new, loaded “Pinnacle” trim level for Pacifica minivan with black, 20-inch wheels, more entertainment capabilities and other trim along with a new “on-demand” all-wheel drive system that does not encroach on the popular in-floor storage bins. It also has cameras to keep an eye on the little miscreants in the rear seats.


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· Hyundai touted their “eco-focused” philosophy with freshened Ionic styling and a new Sonata Hybrid with solar panels for a roof and an expected 52-mpg combined with a 686-mile range.


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· Honda presented the refreshed version of the hot little Civic Type-R in a lovely, crisp, bright blue – for the enthusiast who wants to go fast and look good doing it.


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· Toyota showed us lot of new trim packages for trucks and crossovers: “Nightshade Edition” for Tundra, Sequoia and Tacoma; new “Trail Editions” for Tacoma, Tundra an d4Runner; and a sportier XSE version of the new Highlander.


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· Kia brought out a freshened version of their full-size sedan, Cadenza, upgraded visually, technologically and in terms of performance. While many manufacturers are moving away from sedans, some Japanese and Korean companies continue to invest in them.

· Chevy’s popular Equinox gets a modest facelift and a sportier RS trim level and the new Chevrolet Trailblazer turned heads.


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· Volkswagen brought the refreshed version of their Atlas three-row crossover built in the Chattanooga plant and reiterated their future focus on electric vehicles. In fact, the new ID-Cross battery-electric small crossover be built in the Tennessee plant as well.


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· Jeep trotted out two fresh versions of the just-introduced Gladiator pickup: the “Mojave” for sand-and-dune off-roaders and the “High Altitude” focused on comfort and style. Of course, Gladiator is based on Wrangler and that means serious off-road competence. Both get to the market later this year.
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· Jaguar showed updates to their iconic modern F-Type sports car, announced the setting of a Guinness World Record for a Hot Wheels loop track and offered up some big scholarship money for college kids who beat that record. That was a surprise.


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When we reference cars and trucks getting updated it is usually about adding the latest in infotainment, driver assist systems, powertrain and chassis updates. We found no new vehicles and no concept vehicles. Notwithstanding that lack of big product news, there are more than enough vehicles to keep the motorhead or anyone else busy and happy for the day.

Chicago is one of the four most important auto shows in the country along with Detroit, LA and New York. With hundreds of lesser shows, it is at its core a consumer show hosted by local and regional dealers as a way to connect with potential customers. Here is where you can see and touch and sit in just about every new car you can buy, and they are all in one place. Though you can’t actually buy a car at the show, you can shop, shop, shop and, like any big marketplace, sellers will compete intensely for your attention. Two-thirds of show-goers report to surveyors they are likely car buyers over the next year. While the grand showmanship of past decades is mostly gone it has been replaced by interactive experiences, from a ride through Jeep’s indoor obstacle course, to racing simulators, to conversations with a robot. Fun for the whole family, indeed.

The Chicago Auto Show is open to the public February 8th to the 17th at McCormick Place – including a Family Day, Hispanic Day, Food Drive Day, and an indoor fun run, a Women’s Day, Sports Team Pride Day . . . and the list goes on. Details at: www.chicagoautoshow.com.

©2020 Shunpiker Productions and Cannell & Associates