by Chris Mulvihill
The 110th Chicago Auto Show was held at McCormick Place from Saturday February 10th through Monday, February 19th. There were close to 1,000 vehicles on display from 36 automakers. This is the largest and longest running auto show in North America. It was interesting to attend as Toyota launched their new Tundra TRD Pro truck, Ford debuted the Transit Connect ‘truck’ (announced by Chicago native, actor Jim Belushi) and Subaru unveiled their 50th Anniversary editions-all 8 of them!
With the price of gas continuing to remain relatively low, most auto manufacturers are focusing on selling trucks and SUV’s. These vehicles deliver more profit to the manufacturers as well as the dealers. Vehicle sales in the US have topped 17 million annually the past three years. In 2016, the average household owned 1.97 vehicles, down from the 2006 high of 2.05. Cars sales continue to decline as consumers switch out of cars to SUV’s and light trucks.
Slumping cars sales shouldn’t stop some from displaying concept and high performance models. Cadillac’s concept Escala reinforced their tradition of a sleek, classy 4 door sedan. Doubtful this will become a model as displayed, however history dictates some styling features will end up on a production model. Chevrolet featured a special edition Hot Wheels Camaro and a 755 horsepower supercharged ZR1 Corvette. The cost and ride comfort may prohibit most from purchasing as a ‘daily driver.’ On the other hand, the thought of speeding down a long stretch of highway on a sunny day in one of these is very appealing.
An interesting trend may be emerging: Premium station wagons. Yes the ‘minivan’ of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is making a quiet comeback. Volvo, Mercedes and to some extent Subaru have always offered wagons. The trend of premium station wagons started quietly in 2010 with the Cadillac CTS-V. This wagon offered 0-60 MPH in 4 seconds, +550 Horsepower V-8 and an optional manual transmission! Although the model was short lived (2010 to 2014) these are becoming niche collectible. Now Jaguar has jumped in the wagon arena. The 2018 XF Sportbrake all-wheel drive is a streamlined wagon powered by a 380 Horsepower V-6 delivering 0-60 MPH in 5.1 seconds. This Cat’s Drivetrain has Land Rover DNA and with only 700 slated for the US market are sure to become future collectibles.
The Chicago Auto Show provides the opportunity to view (almost) all the cars offered in the market today. It is easily accessible with plenty of parking options and runs for ten consecutive days. Although I’ve attended this show for many years, this year was special. It is hard for me to believe 40 years ago this month I attended this show for the first time. As a car focused high school senior living in South Bend, Indiana the Chicago Auto Show was car ‘mecca.’
On a whim with friends Mike Voll and Paul Regan, we jumped in my family’s pea green 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and headed to The City. In retrospect not the smartest move for three kids from a small town but a car experience was before us! The day was spent walking McCormick Place in awe. Although the whereabouts of the Delta 88 and my friends are unknown, the memory of that day remains. If you haven’t already, take some friends and make some auto show memories.