Why you should attend the Chicago Auto Show

By Allen Penticoff

I have been attending the Chicago Auto Show for years. Mostly one day trips, but more recently with press credentials as Mr. Green Car I get the privilege of attending conferences, hearing industry keynote speakers and inspecting the cars on more or less deserted floors. I have been reporting back to my readers things I find interesting and environmentally related at the show.

The Chicago Auto Show has been going on for 115 years and is the largest auto show in the nation. It fills two absolutely huge halls in Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center (over 1 million square feet). Acres and acres of carpet covered with everything automotive – from RVs to racecars. Nobody is left out. Looking for a simple family sedan or an exotic sports car – they are all there. And you can get in most and check them out. There are usually even some displays where you can drive the vehicles a little – indoors. No going out in the cold. In fact, the whole thing is a nice warm getaway once inside. Check your coat – you won’t need it. Over a million people of every age and walk of life attend the show over the nine days it is open to the public.

While the manufacturers introduce new and updated models that are often quite interesting, some of the most attention lands on concept car introductions. These vary from the absolutely wild to those you really find sleek and attractive and hope go into production. The manufacturers are watching you to gauge the public’s reaction to these design proposals. They often include the opportunity for you to interact with them via social media as well to make comments and suggestions. With enough positive feedback about a design, they may decide to move forward and spend millions of dollars in bringing the concept to the market. This alone makes it worth your trip to the show.

The show starts with a “First Look for Charity” on Friday February 12, so if you want a less crowded floor to explore and enjoy some other perks during this black tie event from 7-11 p.m., including a chance on winning a new car, pony up for the $250 tickets to help $2 million go to 18 Chicago area organizations. Not that well-heeled? No fear, general admission is a reasonable $12 for adults; $7 for seniors 62+; $7 for children and those 6 years old and under are free. Parking is usually in the $20-$30 range, so a car full going in spreads that cost a bit. Don’t like Chicago traffic? It is possible to get there via public transportation. Visit their website ChicagoAutoShow.com for these and other details on how to get there. Open to the public February 13-21.

Unless you attend for more than one day, it is difficult to see it all. I have two days to roam around and I don’t see it all. I often skip the areas where there are vendors and car clubs, but you should not. There are interesting displays there, as well as food at the Tailgate Cafe (behind the Toyota test track this year). When you arrive – study the map of the halls and decide what you want to see most. You’ll see plenty more on your way there. It is a family friendly event – long gone are the days of attractive models in skimpy bathing suits to draw your attention. There are still models and attractive women promoting the cars – just dressed more modestly. There are always representatives or displays around to answer your questions. But you won’t be pressured to buy a car. Nonetheless, all area dealers see a spike in sales following the auto show.

There are few things on such a grand scale that are open to the public at such a reasonable cost. And why I’d like you to go is to hunt down the new electric and plug-in electric cars and hybrids. There are many. I look forward to seeing the new 200+ mile range Chevy Bolt EV. You may be more interested in the new plug-in Chrysler Pacifica with 30 miles of electric range – making it the first plug-in minivan for sale in the U.S. This is mostly what I do. I hunt for these new models. Vehicles that don’t usually make it to Rockford for a while. But your interest in them is being watched and that in turn will bring more of these vehicles to us. If nothing else, you and your family and friends will have a great time exploring the halls of the Chicago Auto Show – you don’t even have to care about cars to have a good time – it is a spectacle to behold.

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