2022 Chicago Auto Show Highlights – Dead of Winter 2022
By Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell
THE AUTO CHANNEL
The oldest and largest auto show in North America returned in 2022, albeit in somewhat smaller scale. The amount of floor space dedicated to cars and trucks from OEMs is reduced and the total footprint of the show went from resembling a farmer’s boot to a maiden’s slipper.
But, be assured, it’s well worth a visit.
Not only are there still plenty of cars to see and more experiential opportunities than ever. This year there are six indoor test tracks: Camp Jeep, Ford Built Wild, Ford Built to Electrify, Ram Truck Territory, Toyota Proving Grounds and the Electric Vehicle Track with rides in BMW i4 and six, plus the Kia EV6.
With the automotive landscape changing so rapidly, you’ll want to keep up whether you’re a mainstream consumer or an enthusiast. If you are passionate about mobility, or you’re planning to buy or lease one anytime soon, even if you just want a fun day with the kids, you can’t beat the Chicago Auto Show.
Our press preview provided fodder enough for a few good stories, although there were few big-news announcements. Most manufacturers displayed iterations of existing models. We counted one concept vehicle, several creative displays and one space dedicated to exotics. Venders and non-profits attended and the IBEW (electrical workers’ union) was present to recruit workers. There was a Bloodmobile poised to draw a pint, and believe it or not, an Illinois Secretary of State branch office prepared to do your business.
We traditionally begin with a keynote breakfast hosted by the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Words of wisdom on the state of both new and used vehicles came from industry leader Alec Vetter, CEO at Cars.com. The presentation was moderated by MAMA president and award-winning author, Harvey Briggs, descendent of auto industry pioneer Walter Briggs.
Also, along with our bacon and eggs, we learned the results of the annual MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year Awards. Kia’s Carnival beat out runners-up Jeep Cherokee L and Hyundai Tucson for Family Vehicle of the year. Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year had the Genesis GV 70 stepping ahead of rivals Acura MDX and Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer.
Many European and Asian automakers were absent as were newcomers like Rivian and Lucid. The distilled trend throughout the show, not surprisingly, was heavily about electric and electrified vehicles. Despite stiff headwinds in the industry and a downsized motor show, we encountered naught but optimism. If not for the chip shortage, some contend, we’d be seeing record auto sales.
Chevy touted the first battery-electric Silverado to a few oaths and aaahs. First seen (virtually) at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show, it shares nothing with the traditional Silverado, some with the new HUMMER EV, and it’s Ultium battery structure with soon-arriving Cadillac LYRIQ. With up to a 400-mile range, Silverado EV will be costly, but the company reports already having plenty of hand-raisers. We’ll see it in customers hands, they say, in the spring of 2023.
Over at the RAM booth news was of a new series of trim packages for the RAM 1500 called “Built to Serve” honoring first responders - this one for fire fighters. The RAM brand honored all of the armed service with previous packages and decided it was time to enlarge the tent. Prices start at about 48-grand, and we’ll begin seeing them in the second quarter of 2022.
News came just as we were finishing breakfast, that Hyundai and Kia again topped the Initial Quality Survey conducted by J.D. Power. As important for us in Michigan was the announcement of a planned Safety Test and Investigation Lab next door to the Hyundai/Kia R&D center in Superior Township near Ann Arbor, MI. We understand the STIL (as it will be known) is being developed in collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Both Korean brands used their allotted time at the show to reintroduce cars we’ve already seen, including electrics and hybrids with stunning design. At Hyundai the central theme is vehicle and family safety.
We again owe Nissan a pat on the back and hearty thanks for hosting the media here at the show. They also used an off-site event to show us three design exercises created from the recently introduced midsize 2022 Frontier pickup. The most off-road-competent is called “Project Adventure” and sports a body wrap emulating a map of the U.S., and a carbon fiber snorkel attached to the A-Pilar in case you need it to cross the continent. The “Project 72X” pays homage to the original, economical Frontier by keeping costs down including the use of painted, stamped-steel wheels, the same utility wheel used to mount the spare.
By far, the most spectacular display is Subaru’s uncrowded forest and garden. There, complete with live trees and flowers, within which a sheltered stage along a winding walkway, is their first EV crossover, Solera Touring. It arrives on a turntable surrounded by a screen glowing with natural scenes. An accompanying narrative is underpinned by fine mists of evocative scents from hidden sources within the display. This is not a new idea for Subaru. At one of their earliest Detroit Auto Shows, when they were still a little-known brand, they used that lovely, multi-sensual forest theme.
Ford celebrated its wildly popular new full-sized Bronco, introducing the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades with enhanced water fording capability, 10,000-pound winch, standard Sasquatch Package and Ford-designed quick-swap snorkel. Everglades is available only to existing Bronco reservation holders and, despite a heavy up-charge, should encourage many to retain their spot in line. Visitors may experience a Bronco on an adjacent test track that’s replete with a two-story Hillclimb and other simulated off-road events.
And, across the aisle, Toyota’s full-size display showed off the both the 2022 Tundra in a special trim edition and the new three-row 2023 Sequoia SUV, so big it comes with its own zip code.
So, the auto show season is in full swing. We expect New York to come off as usual in April, and what was the January Detroit show—the North American International Auto Show—is promised in September, with an expanded format that will include multiple venues around downtown Detroit.
Until then, if there is an auto show near you, go enjoy it. The auto industry has never had as many exciting, efficient and significant products as they have today.
© Shunpiker Productions and Cannell & Associates