In 1906, no one could have imagined that the Chicago Auto Show would move from the brand new Chicago Expo Center to the immense McCormick Place. Surely, there was no hint that one day there would be Driving Simulators, Test Tracks or Product Replicators. In 106 years, the Chicago Auto Show has grown to become one of the world’s premier shows and a major player for car makers in the U.S.
Our two days of coverage began with a case of the blues; Chicago Blues. Kia never fails to draw attention with their beautiful stages and amazing graphic screens. They began with Honey and the 45’s giving us soulful live music, Orthodox Hedrick, VP of Product Planning and Kia’s Executive VP of Marketing, Michael Sprague. The Optima Hybrid, Niro Concept and Seoul EV would command the stage for the next 18 minutes.
After that, it was Subaru’s turn to amaze us — and that they did. Their expansive but conservative stand had a single element monopolizing it; The Product Replicator. In one of the best reveals I have ever seen, Michael McHale (Subaru Director of Corporate Communications) would give remarks and suddenly the Replicator would produce a 2D image of a new car being carved from nothing. The end result would be an image of the new car on the screen, the screen lifting and behind it was the all new Subaru Legacy. An amazing presentation befitting 25 years of the Legacy’s existence.
Subaru Product Replicator
Chevrolet Corvette and Silverado
I always go to the Volkswagen stand, even when I don’t expect any newsworthy vehicles. This hunch never fails me. Volkswagen Marketing VP, Vinay Shahani, spoke about the improvements to the New Beetle and the Beetle GSR’s August run at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The big news was that the Red Bull Global Rallycross Series will be graced with Volkswagen vehicles. Not only that, they have teamed up with Andretti Autosport. That’s right – Andretti, one of the famous names in racing has joined forces with the Volkswagen juggernaut. Two RBGRS vehicles would roar onto the stage, one filled with former F1 and NASCAR driver, Scott Speed. The other piloted by Top Gear U.S host and Rally driver, Tanner Foust, who rose from the driver’s seat. A few moments later Michael Andretti (this article has too many Michaels, doesn’t it) would emerge from the passengers’ seat of the yellow Foust vehicle. This was big news for the company as well as a pleasant surprise for press members who got a great photo op.
Volvo touted their all-new S60 and V60 models in regular flavor, R flavor and spicy Polestar. President and CEO, Volvo Cars of North America, Tony Nicolosi and Polestar President, Hanz Vout hosted a rather reserved presentation. Hey, when you have two hot Polestars behind you, you don’t need much else.
Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar
Honda was rather quiet at the show this year with the drawing card being the FCEV Concept. A striking and impressive look into how far the design team at Honda can go. It also gave me a more ravenous hunger for the new NS-X. Ironically, I got a taste for ’57 Cadillac when I got to the rear of the car. The FCEV has Fuel – Cell technology with a 300 mile range. This technology is expected to hit Japan and America in 2015 and Europe, thereafter.
Honda FCEV Concept
Speaking of alternative technologies, Cadillac’s ELR was present and accounted for. I don’t think that Hollywood will have to settle for a Prius much longer. They will be able to be pampered in the way then are accustomed and declare their help to the environment at cocktail parties.
Mazda did a presentation that I did not attend. I was under the impression that they would unveil the new MX-5 Miata. Why did I not attend, because I walked to their stand and the car was sitting right there in all its glory. Fitted with a larger engine and better suspension, deliveries begin in the spring in most places according to a Mazda representative.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Ford F150 comes in so many variations; I could barely take them all in. There’s a Ford F150 for every station in life and maybe even the life after.
I will conclude this piece by stating that the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator (which was unveiled at the show on Day 2) are more formidable competitors in person than in pictures. While they are familiar, they are also refreshed and improved in a myriad number of ways.
The show is open from February 8th – February 17th and I haven’t covered half of the sights and sounds packed therein. Stay tuned.