With supply low and demand high, Chicago Auto Show is the place to be for car buyers
Combine a meager supply of vehicles with pumped-up consumer demand, and the Chicago Auto Show is more relevant than ever, organizers think.
"Inventory is still tight, and that's what makes the auto show an interesting proposition this year, because it's the place where you can see the biggest variety of vehicles on display," show General Manager Dave Sloan said.
The Chicago Auto Show vrooms back into town from Saturday through Feb. 21, at McCormick Place. It's a winter tradition, but COVID-19 postponed the 2021 show until July when an outdoor event inspired some innovations.
Last summer, "40% of the people who came took a test drive," Sloan said. "So we're trying to bring the outside in. We've always had indoor test tracks, but we've never had this many."
Inside test tracks include Camp Jeep, Ford Built Wild featuring a Bronco lineup, Ram Truck Territory, Toyota Proving Grounds with Tundra trucks, and Ford Built to Electrify with electric F-150 and Mustang Mach E models.
The Chicago Auto Show also is sponsoring its own Electric Vehicle Track with BMW and Kia models, because surveys show many consumers have never ridden in or driven an EV, Sloan said.
Outside, Ford, Kia and Subaru test tracks await.
Argonne National Lab car expert Don Hillebrand predicts that "2022 is the year of the electric truck. Deliveries of electric trucks should commence this year, and the auto shows will have production-ready products for us to look at."
Two EV trucks "that matter" for Hillebrand on display at McCormick Place are the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado EV and the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning.
"The Silverado looks pretty interesting. It has 660 horsepower and almost 800 pounds of torque. DC fast charging up to 350 kilowatts, and 60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds. This will be a solid vehicle," said Hillebrand, director of Argonne's Energy Systems Division.
But "I think the real game changer might be the Ford F-150 Lightning. Electrifying the best-selling truck in the world is a major step, and Ford never messes with their F-150, the literal goose that keeps laying golden eggs and even bitcoin eggs."
Sloan's eager to see the Hummer EV making its debut in Chicago. "It can crab-walk and it's really cool," he said.
Can't-miss cars include the compact Kia EV6, the sporty Nissan Z, and Toyota's bZ4X and Subaru's Solterra EV, both crossovers, experts said.
"Subaru entering the electric space is interesting, because they have a special niche with the all-wheel drive, backwoods, camping situations" depicted in ads, Hillebrand said. "You usually don't tie that in with electric vehicles."
The auto industry has been pounded with a shortage of computer chips linked to the pandemic and supply chain disruptions delaying delivery of essential items to manufacturing plants.
"They're not producing cars if they don't have the parts to produce them," Sloan said. The domino effect means some major players -- including Acura, Honda, Mazda and Volvo -- won't be at McCormick Place.
"It will be a smaller show, but the ones that are here are coming in big," Sloan said.
Consumers should also prepare for some sticker shock or sticker ambiguity.
"I've noticed a lot of pricing yet to be determined," Hillebrand said. "You usually don't see that, and I guess it's because auto prices are spiraling up so quickly. There's all this uncertainty tied to the chip shortage and the supply chain problems ... . They don't even know what they're going to charge for the cars."
One sure bet: Demand is high.
"People are in the market, they have money in their pockets and they're looking for a vehicle," Sloan said. "It is not going to ebb. The average age of cars on the road today is over 12 years old."
You should know
The Chicago Auto Show returns to McCormick Place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 12-20 and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 21. Advance tickets are recommended and cost $15 for adults, $10 for kids and seniors, with children 3 and younger admitted free.
COVID-19 protocols require masks for everyone age 2 and older. Proof of vaccination status is not needed to attend the show and enjoy the displays. But you must have proof of vaccination to enter designated areas to purchase food and beverages. Outside food and beverages are not allowed.
For more information, go to chicagoautoshow.com/about-the-show.