The big star of the Chicago Auto Show is ... the minivan?
While Ford's electric Mustang Mach-E and Toyota's 2021 Highlander XSE SUV sucked up a lot of oxygen at the Chicago Auto Show's media preview Thursday, a few unlikely stars shone.
Dear to the hearts of suburbanites but scorned as unhip, the humble minivan took center stage when Chrysler debuted its 2021 all-wheel drive Pacifica.
"This new Pacifica is going to shake things up," said Tim Kuniskis, the Fiat Chrysler executive in charge of passenger cars in North America.
That reveal was followed by Hyundai executives touting a "sensuous" Sonata Hybrid with solar panels and Honda unveiling a "radical," shocking blue Civic Type R hatchback.
"As passenger preferences migrate from passenger cars to crossovers to SUVs, we haven't lost sight of the fact the vehicle many people want for daily driving and road trips is -- a sedan," Hyundai Marketing Director Angela Zepeda said.
This year, a "lot of high-sales, bread-and-butter cars" with mass appeal are being emphasized, said Don Hillebrand, an engineer and chief of the Energy Systems Division at Argonne National Laboratory in Darien.
The Chicago Auto Show, which runs from Saturday through Feb. 17 at McCormick Place, opened with a bit more swagger this year.
That's largely thanks to Detroit, which moved its North American Auto Show from January to June, giving the Second City greater prominence.
"Automakers keen to still introduce cars at this time of the year will absolutely place more focus on Chicago," said Andrew Krok, who grew up in Elk Grove Village and blogs about cars on consumer website CNET.com. "It's already the busiest show in terms of foot traffic, so whether or not it needs more buzz is arguable, but I think that it will give Chicago a bit more prominence in the eyes of automakers."
Manufacturers took note.
"This is also now the very first big show of the 2020 season," Toyota Group Vice President Edward Laukes said to applause.
This year's show features a robust lineup of electric cars.
Choices range from Porsche's first electric car -- the Taycan priced at $103,800 to $185,000 with a range of up to 279 miles -- to Hyundai's new Ioniq electric sedan, from $22,000 to $37,000 with a range of 124 miles.
One showstopper is Ford's sleek Mustang Mach-E, but it had competition from the crowd-pleasing Chevrolet Corvette, with the engine in the middle of the sports car.
Consumers can also benefit by advances in autonomous and self-driving features, Hillebrand said.
"Crash avoidance and features to keep you in your lane or keep you from rear-ending other cars -- all these safe, self-driving features have become mainstream now," he said.
Chicago Auto Show tickets are $13 for adults, and $8 for children ages 7 to 12 and those age 62 and older. For more information, go to chicagoautoshow.com.
Chicago Auto Show• Feb. 8-17
• 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day
• Only until 8 p.m. on Feb. 17
• McCormick Place, 2301 S. King Dr, Chicago
• $13 adults, $8 ages 7-12 and 62+, free under age 6