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Window Shopping at the Chicago Auto Show


By Larry Nutson
Chicago Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

The 116th edition of the nation's largest auto show opened its doors to the public on Saturday, Feb. 10. Stradling two weekends, as well as Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, the show runs for 10 days giving shoppers plenty of time to “window shop” for a new car purchase this coming Spring.

Preceded by news media previews and a charity preview, the show has been held more times than any other auto exposition on the continent.

Yes, the show was a bit different this year with no participation by the Stellantis brands—Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and Ram. However, there were four concept cars, 32 vehicle debuts, and 156 production vehicles on display. Lucid and Tesla, including the Cybertruck, are exhibiting for the first time.

During the media preview opening, auto show General Manager Jennifer Morand noted in her remarks that “the Chicago Auto Show is THE February Tradition for Chicagoans and those from the surrounding area.” I might add, with the next Detroit Auto Show not scheduled until January 2025, I might say the Chicago show is the “Best in the Midwest.”

The number one focus of the Chicago auto show is the consumer. The show is about allowing car shoppers to see, touch, experience and compare what’s new in the car market in a relaxed and yet fun and entertaining atmosphere. There’s something for everyone.

There have been various media stories about auto shows not being what they once were. Some of this has come about due to incorrect comparisons to industry conventions and trade shows like CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) that are not open to the public.

Just as the auto industry is experiencing a generational change in the transition from internal combustion vehicles to electrified vehicles, auto shows are also going through a generational change. In part, this has come about due to the internet we now all use in our daily lives. The same internet that has facilitated the existence of automotive influencers, bloggers and YouTubers has allowed auto makers to use this digital tool to “Zoom” their product news directly to our desktops.

Ultimately, a vehicle buyer needs to see and drive any potential purchase. The Chicago Drives Electric indoor test track for EVs at the Chicago auto show this year features nine different brand vehicles for driving. The industry publication Automotive News touted EV test tracks as a great way for consumers to become educated and informed about EVs. They give drivers a chance to get behind the wheel of an EV. In the end, EV sales would benefit from increased auto show exposure. Chicago auto show data says 85% of attendees improved their opinion about EV ownership. And, 71% commented they are more likely to purchase an EV.

The Chicago Auto Show remains true to its brand heritage as the nation’s largest customer-focused auto show. After all, it is about the customer and that’s the point of an auto show.

© 2024 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy