CHICAGO — The massive 2019 Chicago Auto Show wows the competing North American shows with its ginormous exhibition space and public-days attendance (probably) topping 1 million. New-car introductions were as likely to be mid-life refreshes as all-new models. All that changes next year when the Detroit show follows, and not precedes, Chicago.
There were significant introductions, led by the turbocharged 2020 Subaru Legacy sedan with a 12-inch center stack touch screen, the Land Rover Evoque, Ram pickups with a multi-open tailgate, and the performance version of the VW Jetta. Here’s our take on the best cars of the 111th Chicago Auto Show.
After two media days Thursday and Friday, the Chicago Auto Show opens to the public Saturday, Feb. 9 through Sunday, Feb. 18 at McCormick Place in the North and South Halls separated only by a wide hallway/concourse — no upstairs and downstairs as at New York, or endless connector concourse as at Los Angeles. Those two McCormick halls have 1 million feet of exhibition space and — in your face, Detroit-New York-LA — it has another 1.7 million in reserve if needed.
The Detroit show (North American International Auto Show) lost virtually all European automakers except Volkswagen. Many of them came back for the Chicago show. Not all, though, and that’s what the Detroit News crowed about in the lead to its story this week, Chicago Auto Show Picks Up Where Detroit Left Off:
Mercedes and BMW are stiffing the Chicago Auto Show this year, just as they did with the Detroit show. Beginning Thursday, the Windy City will open to single-digit temperatures and 20 mph gusts off frigid Lake Michigan. There will be few show-stopping reveals from any of the major automakers.
And show organizers are just fine with that. While the Detroit auto show is undergoing a major overhaul from January to June 2020 to re-energize automakers and rebrand itself as a summer show, Chicago is content with its lot in life as a winter showcase.
The absence from Chicago of Europe’s two mightiest luxury brands was a puzzler. In Detroit, staying away made business sense since Michigan is the state with the fewest foreign-flag cars purchased. Illinois buyers may be less concerned about where on Planet Earth the headquarters flag flies and/or more knowledgeable that virtually every automaker has plants in the US, that America’s largest auto exporter is BMW, not Ford or GM, and that a bunch of “American cars” are made in Mexico and Canada.
Still, the bypass-Chicago decision gives pause to auto show organizers: If omitting Chicago doesn’t come from an innate dislike of deep-dish pizza, does this mean automakers are finding car shows an inefficient way to reach buyers? The Chicagoland BMW or Mercedes dealers could rent the floor space on their own. But they’re happier when the car company arranges the space, sets it up, and then turns the space over to dealers for the public days.
- Detroit Downfall: Why the Second-Oldest Auto Show Gave Up Its Prime Date
- Best Cars of the 2019 Detroit Auto Show
- Oddball Cars and Car Tech of CES 2019: Some of Them Make Sense