Chicago Auto Show celebrates 101st edition

Today's automotive industry showcases tomorrow's transportation
2009-02-24T00:00:00Z Chicago Auto Show celebrates 101st editionJIM JACKSON
Times Auto Writer
February 24, 2009 12:00 am  • 

A small advertisement posted in a 1901 Chicago Tribune newspaper entertainment section promoted the first official Chicago Auto Show.

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The event filled the Chicago Coliseum, which was located on Wabash Avenue between 15th and 16th Street, with 65 fledgling auto manufacturers that displayed roughly 200 vehicles to an anxious crowd estimated to be more than 2,000 people on opening day.

Though the attendance numbers and place has changed, the excitement still remains as Chicago's McCormick Place hosts the 101st edition of the Chicago Auto Show, today through Feb. 22.

But when we fast forward to 2009, the numbers don't seem to add up.

That's because the Chicago Auto Show, albeit 108 years in the making, has not had a continuous run.

"A healthy dose of history got in the way of simple math. During the World War II years, there were simply no auto shows being staged in the United States," Paul Brian, director of communications for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, said. "America was too busy producing tanks and trucks to worry about family transportation."

This year, nearly 1,000 vehicles from 44 worldwide auto brands will showcase their product lines to visitors interested in the hands-on experience of automakers' world introduction, first-run concepts and new model-year production vehicles.

For 2009, exhibits place attendees behind the wheel of today's real world vehicles and those staged for tomorrow.

"This is the year when the auto industry and auto shows need to move in concert with one another," 2009 Chicago Auto Show Chairman Mark Scarpelli said. "It helps create a confident sustained momentum. So when customers are motivated to walk into a showroom, they are going to find the vehicles they want at affordable prices."

For local consumers, the Chicago Auto Show is an venue that allows visitors to stroll through the spacious exhibits at their leisure and closely examine scores of vehicle models and to compare their features and qualities with other brands.

To that end, the board of directors of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association has chosen to keep the ticket cost for 2009 the same as last year's admission.

"The public will see a fully dressed, extravagant, eye-popping Chicago Auto Show with appeal for every aspect of the family as they've always come to expect," said the show's general manager, Jerry Cizek. "We will present not only the nation's biggest automotive exposition, but do so as one of the best values for a family's entertainment dollar."

View into the future

This year more than ever, consumers are looking to the Chicago Auto Show to discover new automotive technologies and learn what personal transportation is coming down the road.

Vehicles on display at the Chicago show offer a first-hand look into future as next-generation hybrids and electric-powered vehicles take their place on American roadways and into consumers' garages.

To satisfy the curious and to get an advanced glimpse, show organizers have added new virtual features to the show Web site.

Visiting brings viewers to a site where Webcams and an interactive show-floor map give an enhanced look at the show. There's even a show blog.

One of the most popular areas of the site is its "Vehicles on Display" section, which hosts images and descriptive text of every vehicle seen on the show floor.

The site also vividly recounts the storied past of the Windy City extravaganza in a detailed historic section -- from century-old archives through the decades of chrome, fins and muscle cars.

But nothing takes the place of experiencing the Hollywood-style glitz and glamour of the 2009 Chicago Auto Show from the exhibit floor, where today's automotive industry showcases tomorrow's transportation.

For more information visit

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