If it's February, it must be time for McCormick Place to yield more than 1 million square feet of space to the Chicago Auto Show, the 111th edition of the event.
Besides 1,000 or so vehicles on display, the show will offer six outdoor tracks and four indoor tracks.
"It’s the only show that can provide visitors with the ability to shop, compare, and test drive every model they’re interested in," said Mark Bilek, senior director of communications & technology for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, which puts on the show. “With 10 test tracks, visitors can drive many of the cars that they check out. Our research tells us that 30 percent of the visitors are actively shopping right now, and 60 percent are planning to make a purchase this year. Attendees use the CAS as their litmus test.”
The auto show kicks off its 10-day run Feb. 9. The dates include two weekends, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day. “We will have specials such as Women’s Day, Hispanic Day, Family Day, Food Drive Days, Team Pride for wearing you favorite Chicago sports team gear, and Friday Night Flight, a craft beer extravaganza,” Bilek said.
Feb. 12, is Women’s Day, when admission for women is $7 and they will be will receive a half-price discount on tickets purchased. There will be special seminars and perks geared to women.
“The Chicago Auto Show has the highest percentage of women visitors among all of the U.S. shows,” Bilek said, putting it at a little less than 50 percent.
Bilek said that there’s a concerted effort to incorporate women into the consumer part of the automotive buying experience. “Women want the information needed to make a decision on a vehicle presented the same way, and we want to make sure that criteria are available,” he said. Research shows that women account for up to 80 percent car-buying decisions.
Team Pride on Feb. 11 is a new concept to combine the love of sports and cars. Representatives from the White Sox, Wolves, Fire, and Blackhawks will be on hand to snap a selfie with fans decked out in their gear. Lots of goodies will be distributed.
The Friday Night Flight on Feb. 15 is a new event with local craft brewers on hand for visitors — those 21 and older — to try.
The Chicago Auto Show Food Drive is an annual event to benefit A Safe Haven Foundation. Visitors who donate three cans of food will receive a coupon for a $7 adult admission. This years’ food drive is scheduled Feb. 13-15. “We have visitors who bring food donations even if they come a different date,” Bilek said. “Last year we filled two semi-trucks with donations.”
The auto show offers a no-pressure experience, Bilek added. “Visitors can relax a little and ask all of the questions they want,” he said. “The Chicago market is very cosmopolitan, meaning there’s a wide variety of makes and models on the road. Whether you’re interested in an electric vehicle or a large SUV, you can learn all about them here and avoid the stress that some of us experience in a showroom.”
Technology also expands the interest in the auto show, according to Bilek. “Not only do serious shoppers attend, but there is a tremendous entertainment value in your visit. We have Virtual Reality, simulators, and side-by-side virtual drag races. The show is very family friendly and has something for everyone.”
With the average car being more than 11 years old, Bilek explained that many car owners haven’t experienced the changes auto technology.
“Every year, we meet people who don’t realize the new safety features such as lane departure warnings and emergency braking,” he said. “They don’t know about the Blutooth technology and Wi-Fi options, and rear cameras.”