Chicago goes back to basics as it gears up for 102nd Auto Show

Organizers of the Chicago Auto Show are aiming to get consumers buying again at this year's show, advocating a return to the basics of the auto show.

This particular event should have a good grasp of what the basics are. At the first-ever show in 1901, exhibits in the center of the arena were surrounded by a 20-foot (6 meter) wide indoor wooden track used for the 'horseless carriage' demonstrations.

Today the show is held in the massive McCormick Place complex, and is still groundbreaking. Almost unparalleled in terms of size, it will take up over a whopping 1.2 million square feet (111,500 square meters) of floor space. In comparison to the cramped conditions of Detroit's Cobo Center, for example, the show is a breath of fresh air for manufacturers who want to show off their vehicles with large displays, something that show organizers are well aware of.

"There's no single element or event considered to be the most effective sales tool in the automotive purchasing process," said John Phelan, chairman of the 2010 edition of the nation's biggest automotive exposition. "But the concept of the auto show has proven itself to be one of the best."

Chicago focuses on appealing to everyday Americans with real-life models and advocates comparison shopping for attendees. Over 1,000 vehicles are expected to be on display during the show's ten-day run, some 300 more than at Detroit. Of these, only 18 will be concept vehicles, most already shown at either Los Angeles or Detroit, although Kia and Honda are both known to be debuting new concepts.

In another sign of its appeal to the American household, the show will also host the inaugural Hermance Vehicle Efficiency Award on February 10. Founded in honor of Toyota's hybrid guru David Hermance, the award recognizes the most efficient new car with the greatest consumer appeal.

Organizers believe that in today's world where everything is virtual, the auto show remains a powerful tool for consumers - nothing can beat the "visual, tactile and social components of massive displays that assault the senses," they say.

Nevertheless, for those unable to attend, an online 3D walkthrough of the show is available at the website, complete with clickable "hotspots" to provide further product information through video, audio, high resolution images or other embedded media.

The show is open to the public from February 12 - 21. Tickets for the show are $11 (€7.80) for adults; $7 (€4.92) for children 7-12, children 6 and under go free and senior citizens aged 62 and older, $7 (€4.92).


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