Well, it’s over. The fanfare is done, the lights are dimmed, and the stages have been dismantled. McCormick Place is whisper quiet now except for the occasional echoes from passing workers and equipment. The room is still filled with the residue of excitement from the 105th Annual Chicago Auto Show. This was my first show as a journalist and I learned quite a bit. Some things I learned from tutelage, some through trial-and-error, and all from experiencing one of the premier exhibitions of this nation. We now reflect and recover.
What makes any Auto Show worthwhile and fulfilling are the people? From those who work behind the scenes, to the ticket takers, to the execs, these are the people who make The Chicago Auto Show pleasurable.
The evening before the actual press preview, Nissan hosted a wonderful cocktail and dinner at Chicago’s Embeya Restaurant. Around 200 members of the automotive press enjoyed a great meal and great atmosphere. The room was filled with some of the best and brightest in journalism. Imagine me being beckoned over to sit at a table early on where, to my surprise was Donald Buffamanti from (Autospies.com) reciting his mantra: “spy before you buy, my friend…”, Roman Mica and Nathan Adlen (from TFL Car.com) and Aaron Cole (from the Media News group). Later on, Steven Lang, an Editor from TheTruthAboutCars.com joined us for lively and enlightening conversation. My eyes never lost the rapid fire conversation with topics ranging from the new Corvette Stingray to the real prices of cars at auction. In Journalism, how many times are you graced to be in the presence of giants? Frank Aukofer, a reporter from the era of running to the pay phone as a “cub reporter” stopped by our table. I could go on about the conversationon, some is free to share, some is not, but I can say that as a young journalist, I was not only enjoying sharing my passion with others who were like-mindedd, I was also getting a lesson in writing and informationn media that my college years could never have given.
The next day was filled with premiers. RAM Commercial vehicles was where I sat next to one of my heroes: Tony Swan (Car and Driver) and met the President of Ram Commercial Vehicles, Fred Diaz. Mr. Diaz was not the only ingratiating executive. The designer of the Kia Optima, Peter Schreyer was on hand to unveil the newest models and was more than approachable. The guys from the History Channel hit show, Fast ‘n Loud were on hand for the first weekend of the show and were as cool and laid back as they seem on television. They answered questions, took pictures and laughed it up with the crowd. It had been rumored that Danica Patrick would stop through the show, but we could never find out who she would be connected with. It turned out to be just a rumor. What wasn’t a rumor was the surprise appearance of MotoringExposure’s favorite auto exec: Ralph Gilles who I could only get a glimpse of from a distance. He seemed to talk to everyone that came to him and I watched him listen attentively to each conversation – even remembering events where people had spoken to him and their names. This guy is as cool as he is talented. As long as he re-tweets the works of yours truly, I’m sure we’ll meet soon.
Those are the big names, the names we will remember or read in print. However, there were so many people who became memorable despite not being names that everyone can remember. These are the people that helped shape the experience for thousands of attendees. What about Kelly, a beautiful and vibrant hostess from Cadillac who took us on our demonstration for the new Cadillac XTS or Beth, an 18-year veteran of Cadillac whose motherly charms made our ride-a-long homey and comfortable? Cadillac also took top honors for having one of the friendliest teams on hand for Media Days and for the show. There was a group that I referred to as “The Caddy Cuties” who wore pristine vests, and prepared you for your ride-a-long. Then, downstairs, you would be in the hands of “The Cadillac Crew” who could give a few pointers to the Secret Service for their execution, stealth communication and professionalism. Kia also had a demonstration crew on hand with an interesting girl named Sheila and her friend, Charlie, a kindly old uncle-type who was full of hilarious stories and quick wit. Chevy had what I call a “happy stand”, making buttons for those who passed their way. You could make your own or choose from one already made. Each button was given with a smile and a “have a great day”. Having the 2014 Stingray in the background didn’t hurt either.
Almost every stand had a simulator. Ford went down memory lane with slot cars drawing lines of men back to their childhood days. I’ve not been invited with so many smiles anywhere in my life and the people who attended (Media Days, at least) were polite and respectful of each other. The cars may have been the draw, but the people were the real attraction. I would wish that the climate of this show went beyond the walls of the building.
2013 Chicago Auto Show Gallery