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2020 Chicago Auto Show Impressions From Larry Nutson Chicago's Car Guy


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2020’s First Big Auto Show
The 112th Chicago Auto Show

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The 2020 Chicago Auto Show has the distinction of being the first big auto show of the new year and also of this new decade. It’s the largest auto show in North America with more than 1 million square feet of floor space.


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Nearly 1,000 different vehicles are on display for the news media and most importantly for customers and potential customers. The show is the best attended in the U.S. First staged in 1901, the Chicago Auto Show has been held more times than any other auto exposition on the continent.

The two-day media preview opened with the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) breakfast before more than 400 journalists and corporate executives. The Kia Telluride was announced as the 2020 MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year and the Lincoln Aviator as the 2020 MAMA Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year. Media previews are covered by around 3,500 journalists and influencers from 1,500 global outlets.

The Automotive Hall of Fame located in Dearborn, Michigan announced its 2020 inductees at this kick-off breakfast, an announcement that in the past was made at the Detroit auto show.


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At this year’s Chicago show we saw the global introduction of the newly refreshed 2021 Chrysler Pacifica that will now be offered with all-wheel drive. Ford wowed everyone with the reveal of the $750,000 Ford GT Liquid Carbon as well as an up-close look at the new Mustang Mach-E all-electric SUV that will be on sale later this year.


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The refreshed 2021 Chevrolet Equinox, the first Desert Rated Jeep Wrangler and the Mopar-equipped Jeep Wrangler JPP20, the refreshed 2020 Honda Civic Type R, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the freshened 2021 Jaguar F-Type, the new 2021 Volkswagen Atlas, the first-ever Toyota Highlander XSE as well as Toyota Trail Special Edition Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner, and the Mercedes-Benz Weekender Pop-up Camper all were shown to the media for the first time.
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It’s the first auto show appearances of the all-new Genesis GV80 SUV, the refreshed Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban as well as the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL.

The MotorWeek TV series' annual Drivers' Choice Award winners were announced at the Chicago Auto Show with the 2020 “Best of the Year” going to the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

Test tracks and driving experiences for customers continue to drive change at auto shows. The 2020 Chicago Auto Show continues, as in the past, with indoor test tracks from Toyota, Jeep, Dodge and Ram. This year Volkswagen has added a desert-themed indoor test track featuring the Atlas Cross Sport. Outdoor test drives are available from Ford, Hyundai, Honda and Subaru.


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Two automakers announced contests, a way to attract younger buyers. Jaguar & Hot Wheels teamed up for an Ultimate Track Challenge scholarship contest to reward a $50,000 scholarship donation to the school team that builds the most challenging Hot Wheels track at a Jaguar retailer and sets a new Guinness World Records title in the fastest time. The contest is specifically targeting college automotive engineering programs.

Volkswagen announced a contest to design the competition livery for its Atlas Cross Sport R race car. The web-based contest is open to eligible artists, designers and enthusiasts of all skill levels and backgrounds.

And, as has been the trend, some auto makers are not exhibiting at the Chicago show this year. BMW, MINI, Mercedes-Benz cars, Mitsubishi and Volvo chose to sit this one out. Auto show participation does vary by region of the country. Some automakers are rethinking how they reach buyers and evaluating if the expense of an auto show in a particular market delivers the right ROI (return on investment). Yes, change is happening.

February continues to be the best time of the year to hold the Chicago auto show. Consumers are looking for indoor entertainment as well as the comfort of low-stress new vehicle shopping. Auto shows are for selling cars to consumers, and not for entertaining the press. More new-purchase buyer leads are developed from the Chicago Auto Show than at any other show in the country.

A bit over a year ago I attended the media previews and wrote about the final January Detroit Auto Show. The concept cars and dramatic reveals of twenty or thirty years ago were not to be found. About a dozen car brands didn’t have an exhibit. Now the Detroit show will be held in the early part of June. Experiential and interactive displays located outdoors in various nearby locations will give consumers the opportunity to take demonstration rides in new vehicles. There’s lots of talk and speculation on how it will be. I’ll just have to go to find out for myself.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Auto Show now has the lead to kick off each new year.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy