Randy Stern: Chicago Auto Show

By the time you read this, the Chicago Auto Show will be open to the public for its week-long run inside McCormick Place.

Randy Stern

Every year since 2011, I attended the Media Days in Chicago. Part of my obligation is my membership with the Midwest Automotive Media Association, who hosts the opening breakfast of Media Days. I already fulfilled my other obligation, which was to award Victory & Reseda’s Vehicle of The Year Award. That was done in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It would also be the final time I would present that award due to changes at V&R and my other outlets.

Chicago is where I catch up with auto show debuts I may have missed. This year, I was credentialed for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Unfortunately, travel plans fell through and I ended up skipping what looked like a great show with its important debuts. At L.A., I did miss a couple of debuts due to conflicts. These are usually rectified by doing some catching up in Chicago.

If you have been to an auto show, you would be fighting the crowds to get a closer look at these hot new cars, listening to the presentations by the spokesmodels and collecting some of the swag that still exists at each booth. Not to mention a lot of vendor booths where you can renew your driver’s license, buy die-cast models, talk about your auto insurance and other fun stuff.

Then, there’s the interactive areas. Camp Jeep is one of the fun ones, where a set track,  including a steep grade that gives you the best view of the convention center. It is not just a fun ride, it is an educational piece demonstrating Jeep’s four wheel drive capabilities.

Media Days are slightly different. We attend press conferences – about short of a half-hour each – with updates on the brand, the company, sales and the run-up to what they will present. Sometimes, it’s an all-new car. Perhaps, a concept of a future product, design language or a piece of upcoming engineering or technology. It could either be a revised model or a cool new variant that should keep customers coming onto the car lot.

Once the press conference is over, the fun begins. Like any good journalist, we want to be the first with the image of the new product or the first words from key executives to broadcast to our audience. What really takes place is a scrum. If you think everyone will get out of the way to get that awesome photograph of the new vehicle – forget it. There are tens, if not hundreds of us trying to do the same thing.

You can always get the photo or the quotes later. As long as the key people are not tied up in interviews – and they usually are – you can always get a quick byte that would help the story.

At Chicago, I usually have a set of things I need to see and people I need to talk to. Press conferences are not my thing. There may be one that I will need to attend, but that’s about it. Otherwise, I’m off to the other booths to “catch up,” do photos and make notes on initial impressions. If I have a vehicle coming in and is not familiar with the vehicle, it would be my chance to do a walk around, touch/fell and fitting.

Fitting is important. I’m not average-sized, not your average Bear. If an OEM wants to send a car for me to review so badly, I need to make sure I can feel competent in driving I for the week. In the back of my mind, I will always remember that not everyone that is interested in this car is not my size. You will see that a lot from me.

When the doors open for the public, you might not be able to get inside some of the cars on the floor. But, these shows do provide a service where you can compare vehicles you are interested in and see for yourself which ones would satisfy your needs and wants before you go to a dealership. However, you could buy a car from the show – make sure you have a good rapport with the salesperson you encounter at the booth before signing anything. Better still, wait until after the show and make that purchase.

If you are attending the Chicago Auto Show, doors open on Saturday, February 14th at 9:00AM inside McCormick Place. It will run through Sunday, February 22nd. Tickets are $12.00 and can be purchased through their website: http://www.chicagoautoshow.com

Also, watch for other local auto shows coming to a convention center near you! I usually work as media the Twin Cities Auto Show in Minneapolis – you might see me there.

Enjoy the show!

Randy Stern is a past managing editor of the GLD predecessor Midwest Ursine and an automotive journalist. His work is published at Victory & Reseda and Why This Ride You can contact him at randy@randystern.net.