Chicago Auto Show 2011

?Chicago’s 103rd Auto Show?

The ?Windy City? recently hosted the 103rd Chicago Auto Show ? unquestionably the largest consumer oriented auto show in the country. The renowned show has made the McCormick Place complex on Lake Shore Drive its home since 1961. The McCormick Place complex is the largest exhibition and meeting facility in North America ? an ideal site for the biggest auto show in the country.

Each year two days prior to opening to the public, the show opens to the international automotive press and media for a behind the scenes look, featuring major vehicle unveilings and specialized industry press conferences. For the past few years, Bridgestone/Firestone has hosted auto journalists in attending the premiere event. This year Nissan North America took over the reins as the show host for attending press February 8th through Feb. 10th.

For the past 20 years, the Chicago Auto Show?s annual black-tie gala even ?First Look for Charity? The event takes place the night before the show?s public opening and admission benefits 18 worthy Chicago charities, while allowing guests to enjoy what the show has to offer, but in a highly sophisticated social atmosphere.

Wednesday?s keynote speakers for this year?s show included: Jim Farley, Ford Motor Company?s Group Vice President of Global Marketing and Sales who kicked off the press program, addressing journalists at a breakfast hosted by the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Farley?s speech focused on Ford?s position and philosophy regarding today?s social media and its impact on the automotive industry. The Breakfast was followed by major product announcements by Chevrolet, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Acura and Dodge. Johnathan Browning, CEO VW North America was the second keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted by the Economic Club of Chicago. The luncheon was followed by press conferences by Suzuki, Ram, Shelby Cars, Continental Tires and Motorweek?s Driver Choice Awards and reception. Introductions without news conferences included the Audi TT RS, Lexus Five Axis Project CT, Mercedes-Benz, Kia, Porsche, Ford and a Mazda MX5 Special Edition.

BMW held technical briefings with a sneak peek and an in-depth look at their M1 Series Coupe and 6 Series convertible. Ford offered Explorer rides on a specially prepared indoor off-road track, as did Jeep, and rides in Chevrolet?s new Volt were staged over a special track as well.

Thursday turned out to be an unstructured experiment in social media and its importance in the marketing and coverage of the auto industry.

Thirty-four marques in all were represented at the highly successful show, with the impressive presentations involving Chevrolet?s 550 horsepower ZL1 Camaro Coupe, Hyundai?s 429 horsepower Genesis 5.0 R Spec Coupe. Other spectacular eye candy included: the Infiniti Essence concept, the Lexus LFA and Porsche?s new Speedster.

The most impressive conference by far, however involved Chrysler?s noteworthy product turnaround in a virtual full-line introspective offered by Ralph Gilles, president and design chief for Dodge and Chrysler. Introduced were the Dodge Grand Caravan ?Man Van?, the Durango R/T and the 465 horsepower Dodge SRT8.

In a final analysis of this year?s show, electric propulsion was prominently featured and proved highly popular. That having been said, big horsepower is back, but with an added emphasis on heightened fuel economy to go along with it. Social media seems to be here to stay, but in this writer?s opinion, so is traditional automotive journalism ? I guess that might make some of anti-social media. In any case, if your travel plans take you to Chicago during the biggest and best-attended auto show around, be sure to take it in. It?s also one of the most enjoyable auto shows in existence.